A Game of Thrones LCG: There is my Claim Chapter Pack (2nd Edition)
Conan: The board Game
Istanbul: Letters & Seals Expansion
Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport
Star Wars: Destiny – Kylo Ren Starter Set
Star Wars: Destiny – Rey Starter Set
Star Wars: Destiny – Awakenings Booster Pack
The Blood of an Englishman
The Lord of the Rings LCG: Sands of Harad Deluxe Expansion
A Game of Thrones LCG: There is my Claim Chapter Pack (2nd Edition)
Castle Panic: Engines of War Expansion
Dungeons and Dragons RPG: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
Doctor Who – Time Clash Starter Set
Guild Ball: Kick Off
Great Western Trail
Guilds of London
Mage Wars: Arena – The Lost Grimoire Volume 1
Jim Henson`s Labyrinth: The Board Game
Magic the Gathering 2016: Commander – Box of All 5 Decks
Shadows of Brimstone: Frontier Town Expansion
The Mysterious Forest
7 Wonders: Duel – Pantheon
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
Bloodborne: The Card Game
Burger Up: Burgers of the World Expansion
Dice City: By Royal Decree
Munchkin: Marvel Edition 3 – Cosmic Chaos
Nightmare Forest: Dead Run
Shadowrift (2nd Edition)
Shadowrift: Eve of the Sickle Moon
The Princess Bride: A Battle of Wits
The Daedalus Sentence
Thunderbirds: The Hood
Thunderbirds: Above & Beyond
Ultra Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Vinhos Deluxe with all Kickstarter Goals
A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
Arkham Horror LCG: Core Set
Escape Room: The Game
Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala Expansion
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Villain Codex
Star Wars LCG: Meditation and Mastery Force Pack
Space Dandy: Galactic Deck-Building Game Deluxe Limited Edition
Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails
Unspeakable Words (Restock)
Unspeakable Words Deluxe Edition
7th Sea: Second Edition (Core Rulebook Hardcover)
7th Sea: Second Edition (Limited Edition Core Rulebook Hardcover)
A Game of Thrones LCG: Lions of Casterly Rock (2nd Edition)
Android: Netrunner LCG – Intervention Data Pack
Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne
Kingdom Builder: Marshlands
Om Nom Nom (Qui Bouffe Qui)
Undying RPG (Softcover)
Undying RPG (Hardcover)
Star Trek: Frontiers
Around the World in 80 Days
Battle for Sularia: Blood, Profit and Glory
Codex: Starter Set
Codex: Flagstone vs Blackhand
Dropfleet Commander: 2 Player Starter Set
Escape from Colditz: 75th Anniversary Edition
Love Letter: Premium Edition
King of New York: Power Up Expansion
Munchkin Zombies Guest Artist Edition
Star Trek: Ascendancy
The Guardians: Explore
Zombicide Black Plague: Special Guest – Neal Adams
Zombicide Black Plague: Special Guest – Gipi
Winds of Fortune
A day after we did our post about distribution challenges in the gaming industry, we receive news that PSI has now informed their US distributors not to sell to online only physical stores. If you don’t know, PSI does the distribution for nearly 30% of the industry (most everyone who isn’t gobbled up by Asmodee like Steve Jackson Games, Arcane Wonders, Catalyst Games, Stronghold Games, Indie Boards & Cards and more). This is the same day that a post on Reddit titled “My local game store smells so bad that I don’t want to go in” hits 852 upvotes and generates a ton of conversations.
PSI (potentially at the pushing of it’s publishers, potentially by themselves) decided that game stores that reek so bad that potential customers refuse to go in are better ambassadors for the game trade than we are.
Hyperbolic much? Maybe, but since we seem to be tarred with the same brush, why don’t I use it on all B&M stores? No fair, but then who is being fair or reasonable here anyway?
Let’s be clear – there is an issue in the industry where board game prices in particular have hit a point where many B&M stores are reducing or even removing their support of the category beyond fast-selling staples. There are a lot of reasons bandied around but the reasons that get spoken about are:
- Alpha gamers picking up the ‘hottest new games’ from Kickstarter releases direct
- Online discounts on average at 30-40% off MSRP.
- Mass market businesses poaching gateway gamers from B&M stores (who now can’t / don’t have the chance to convert these customers like they used to).
Here’s the thing. If you look at the above issues, 2 of 3 of those problems are created / supported by publishers because it works very well for them. Kickstarter allows them to launch more games with less capital and make more money. Mass Market sales allows them to generate more sales with a much, much bigger footprint than probably the entire B&M store industry.
That means online discounts (and online discounters) are the only people they will go after to look like they are doing something. There are numerous policies coming into play to stop this. In the US, ANA decided to just restrict sales to a few online stores. In Canada, some have gone with a MAP program (even if it is technically illegal).
PSI’s strategy is to restrict it to B&M stores only. However, that’s not going to work. Most of the large players in the online world are B&M and online, so it wouldn’t stop them from purchasing. Worst, half (at least!) of the problems come direct from B&M stores who find themselves with too much product and are just dumping the product. Solutions like this are more PR than actual solutions, intended to appease than fix the real issues. Mostly because the real issues are either extremely expensive to fix or because, perhaps, they aren’t fixable.
My initial title for this post was ‘market failures’ but I realised that that wasn’t entirely accurate, even if it is a better sounding title. What I wanted to talk about was the increasing fragmentation of the market and the complicating of the supply chain that we are seeing.
Exclusive Distribution & Monopolies
Exclusive distribution agreements aren’t new, I’ve written about them previously. Right now, the vast majority of our products (a good 70% of game sales I’d say) are under exclusive distribution agreements. Our biggest problem with exclusive agreements is the fact that it can be often difficult to locate who has the exclusive agreement in a country and just as importantly, be able to purchase the product in sufficient quantity to make it worthwhile. A few great examples?
- Qwirkle is the only game that sells for us from their distributor in Canada.
- Celestia and Haru Ichiban are carried by Le Valet who at least have some other ‘good’ games, albeit at a higher markup
As many of you know, shipping in Canada is expensive. Most places cost us at least $30-40 to ship a parcel at any ‘size’, sometimes much more. Excluding any minimum’s that a publisher might have (and some sell by case quantities only!), that means to keep shipping cost at only 5% of an order, we’d need to put a $600 order with the publisher. However, many of these publishers have maybe 5 to 6 items (sometimes even less!) which would sell in our business. When this happens, we often end up deciding to either / or /and :
- restock very, very slowly
- not carry the product / product line
- increase the price of the product to save on our margin
Geographic boundary restrictions (essentially stopping us from purchasing from the USA) is another extremely frustrating restriction. It used to be that we could purchase almost our entire catalog from the US. Over the years, it’s now slipped to about 30% of the gaming catalog. This can often lead to some extremely frustrating instances such as:
- Monikers which signed an exclusive agreement with On the Right Track. Who don’t carry the expansion but we can’t purchase the expansion as the publisher can’t sell it to us due to geographic restrictions.
- Forbidden Island whose US MSRP is $19. The lowest Canadian price we can get from a wholesaler? CAD$18.
This one amuses me and frustrates me. For a while, CV was only purchasable from Pierre Belvedere as they had an exclsusive agreement for it in Canada. Their main business? Selling calendars from what I recall and various kitchen ware items. They were a distributor, but there was literally nothing else that was worth buying from them.
We recently had a request from Raincoast Books to buy Osprey Games from them. At least, in this case, they are in Vancouver so we’d save on shipping; but really? Again, see above about hitting minimums and shipping costs for why we generally try to stay away from this. When a game ends up with a non-gaming distributor, it often becomes dead to us because there’s no way to hit a minimum threshold.
Direct from Publisher
I don’t categorise direct from publisher sales as onerous just by existing, mostly because in many cases, these publishers might not have a choice. Unable to get into ‘normal’ distribution, they’ve decided to sell direct to retailers who are interested. What I do find frustrating are publishers who don’t understand the normal discount thresholds for sales. A recent trend has been for publishers to offer discounts of 25-30% off MSRP and charge for shipping. At those levels, not surprisingly, most retailers would not bother carrying these products. If a game is selling at $30, then a 30% discount indicates a gross profit of $9. Add in shipping cost, our gateway processing fees and the time taken to handle the order and we barely make anything on such an order. No surprise that in those cases, we often decide to not carry those products at all.
The current discount rates seem to vary between 45-50% with some particularly aggressive groups as low as 40%. Not surprisingly, most retailers don’t even both with those at 40% so if you are offering discount rates at 30%, expect that we won’t be purchasing from you at all unless you hold an extremely, extremely in-demand game (see Cards Against Humanity).
Direct to Consumer Sales
Firstly, let’s be clear – a publisher has the right to decide who to sell to or not. If a publisher decides to go direct to consumer (via Amazon and their own sites) or Kickstarter only, that’s their choice. It’s not our area to decide their business model. In fact, when you have a product that is in such demand, it makes sense to keep more of the profit for yourselves.
However, there are numerous publishers who don’t just sell direct to consumers exclusively, they also sell it at a discount from their own MSRP. Tasty Minstrel Games is an example of a publisher whose games we have had to cut back on significantly due to regular periods of them running regular sales on their own products. Kickstarter’s that roll previous games into the current promotion fall into the same annoyance area if they provide a discount on those games. If they don’t, it’s not a huge problem normally.
Big Box Store Exclusives
I doubt I have to expand on this much. The major issue about such exclusives is the perception that it creates that we aren’t ‘real’ stores because we don’t carry X. When the question becomes ‘Why don’t you have X’, and our answer is ‘because they won’t sell it to us’, it rarely ends up being a good conversation.
Over the years, we’ve grown the number of distributors we’ve had to work with from a small 4 distributors to now, over 12+ major distributors who we order from once a quarter. That’s not including the occasionally publishers who we order a single game from. This business has grown in complexity significantly it seems and I sometimes wonder how someone who is new to the business keeps up. At least we’ve had a few years worth of experience to help us.
Krosmaster Arena 2.0
Legends of Andor: Journey to the North
Let Them Eat Cake
Odin’s Ravens (Revised)
The Others: 7 Sins
Star Wars X-Wing: Heroes of the Resistance Expansion
The Lord of the Rings LCG: City of Corsairs Adventure Pack
The King is Dead
Tome of Beasts (5th Edition)
Welcome Back to the Dungeon
Yeti Board Game
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Widow’s Walk
Drinking Quest: Journey into Draught
Lord of the Rings LCG Nightmare Deck: Escape from Mount Gram Nightmare Deck
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Summoner Class Deck
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask – Character Add-On Deck
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask Base Set
The Lord of the Rings LCG: Treason of Saruman Nightmare Deck
The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Waste of Eriador Nightmare Deck