New Releases: November 27th, 2013

The Capitals
The Duke: Arthurian Legends Expansion
The Duke: Musketeers Expansion
Dust Tactics: SSU Steel Guards Assault Squad – Red Tornado
Dust Tactics: Allies Fortification – Field Phaser Bunker/Strongpoint
Dust Tactics: Axis Fortification – Heavy Laser Bunker/Strongpoint
Dust Tactics: SSU Fortification – Heavy Tesla Bunker/Strongpoint
Dust Tactics: SSU Steel Guard Sniper Team – Silent Death
Eldritch Horror
Expedition: Northwest Passage
A Game of Thrones LCG: The Horn That Wakes
The Guns of Gettysburg
Infamy
Kingdom Builder: Crossroads
New Amsterdam
Speculation
Thebes: The Tomb Raiders

Survey Results (Part 3 – On Videos)

So, one of our questions on our survey is how we can develop our videos.  It’s likely to be the last year we are going to ask that question as the answers we receive are generally not that useful.  It’s not that respondents aren’t trying – many of the suggestions are useful, just impractical.  Let’s tackle most of the comments in order:

Do more videos

As Kaja posted when we crowdfunded some of 2013’s videos, our paid-cost of generating a video is around $300 a video.  That’s not including pre-play time or the time cost of actually writing and memorising the scripts.  All in, I’d guess at around $500 – 600 in cost (salary, etc.) to develop a video.  So if we shot double the number (i.e. one video a week); we’d be looking at another $13,000 minimum.  That’s a lot of funds for something that has had limited revenue generation.

While the videos are part marketing for us, in the 2 years we’d done the videos it’s pretty clear that we have not generated additional revenue to cover the additional cost of doing the videos.  We still plan on shooting them next year, but 26 videos a year is our maximum.

Shoot a Tabletop / Play-Through Video

We shot one this September.  It’s still not released because, between all his other projects and the sheer amount of work a shoot like this requires, Rob has not yet finished editing it.  Along with working on this, he’s also got to release all the other videos we’ve produced since then. It was a fun project, and we’re looking forward to releasing it before the end of the year, but the work involved (and subsequent cost) is just too high.  We aren’t being funded by Google, after all.

Do More Up-to-Date Videos

Okay, this one is more in our control and we’ll actually be focusing on more up-to-date / recent releases.  As a marketing tool, we needed to cover all the classics and bestsellers to make this work for us.  As such, in 2013 we’ve had to do dig into some older items and with only half the videos as the previous year, we just couldn’t cover as many new releases as we’d like.  However, the good news is that we’ve caught up with the vast majority of older games, and going forward will be focusing on more recent releases.

As for doing videos of games before they are released, well — that’s really up to the publishers.  As this isn’t our real business, we don’t have time to chase publishers for new releases and can just hope they send them to us without promoting, allowing us to get the videos shot in a timely fashion.

Less Script / More Fun!

While it’d be nice to have more fun, it’s worth noting that both Joanna and Kaja are working from a very tight script, which is necessary to fit a full rules summary into the 5-minute target we set ourselves for that portion of the video.  We don’t want to go much longer — especially since there are so many other good video review series that do — which means we need to convey a ton of information in a very short time frame.  In addition, with only 2 or 3 takes per video, they just don’t have a lot of time to rehearse and get really comfortable with the script to make it more ‘natural’.

At the end of the day, with more practise they’ll get better (and have improved a lot over the 2 years these videos have been produced) but there’s only so much that can be done within the time-frame and structure.

No Rules Explanation / More Rules Explanation / More / Less Pro’s and Cons

The structure we have is actually focused specifically on our intended target audience.  We are looking to provide information to new visitors, as a quick overall summary of the game.  It’s not focused on those looking for an in-depth review of the game nor those who want a more in-depth discussion about the rules (or a ‘how to play’ review).  As such, the structure we use is one that we are very happy with, and that fits best with how we use videos on our website.  We’ve tweaked it a bit here and there; but can’t really see it changing much over the long-term.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the videos do what we need them to – provide good, relevant information to customers and branding for the site overall.  Our current structure is what we feel is the best method.  With over 10,000 subscribers; I’d guess it works. It’d be preferable if it could draw more revenue, but that I believe will come in time – a long term investment.

New Releases: November 22nd, 2013

Boxcars
Descent Second Edition Miniatures
Dixit: Origins
The Great Fire of London 1666 (New Edition)
The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Morgul Vale Adventure Pack
Mage Wars: Druid vs Necromancer
Mage Wars: Official Spellbook Pack #2
Mage Wars: Official Spellbook Pack #3
Mice and Mystics: The Heart of Glorm
Pathfinder: Combat Pad
Shadowrun 5th Edition: Splintered State
Shadowrun 5th Edition: Sprawl Wilds
Summoner Wars: Fallen Kingdom – Second Summoner
Summoner Wars: Vanguards – Second Summoner
Ticket to Ride: Map Collection Volume 4 – Nederland

Survey Comments: Rambling On (Part 2)

Continuing to part 2 of our on-going answer to some comments / suggestions in our latest survey.  Part 1 is here.

Your selection isn’t large enough / Carry more stock

I grouped these comments together because they are actually two sides of the same coin.  The problem is the wider our selection grows (the more different SKUs we carry); the harder it is to go ‘deep’ on individual games.  It’s all a matter of capital – if we stock 1000 games at an average cost of $20, it’d cost us $20,000.  If we stocked 2,000 games at the same average cost, it’d cost us $40,000.

The other problem we’ve slowly realised is that as we grow larger, the need to stock higher quantities for a larger number of ‘good’ games increase.  Basically, as we get more customers the ‘type’ of customers we get and their tastes broaden, requiring us to broaden the amount of stock we have of the more ‘popular’ games.  As such, where we might stock say 3 copies of 20 games a year ago, now we might have to stock 3 copies of 30 games.  Again, this requires more working capital.

All this is to say, our selection has broadened somewhat but we’ve also grown deeper.   Unfortunately, it’s rather obvious that we haven’t grown deep enough – the rate of stock-outs has been something we’ve been concerned about; and most of it is due to the lack of capital (or the need to have a higher level of capital).

We’ll need to work on this, and hopefully increase our total levels soon.

More stock of newly released games

For the most part, we stock new releases using a simple formula – number of pre-orders * 2 = number of quantities we request.  However, one issue that happens with games with good ‘buzz’ is that in the last week before a game releases (often long after the game has started shipping to us and/or the pre-order window has closed with the distributor); we see a massive surge in orders.  So, for example – we have 6 pre-orders 2 weeks from release.  We have 12 games on pre-order.  In the final 2 weeks; we see another 5 games sold of this pre-order.

Suddenly we go from having a decent 6 copies ‘free’ to 1 copy free.

Of course, you’re saying ‘well, you should order 3 times pre-orders then’.  Except this doesn’t happen for every game – it happens maybe 1 in 5 times.  So some games might have 6 games on pre-order with us, we order in 12 copies, 0 sell additional in the next 2 weeks and we end up with 6 games ‘free’.  Which is fine – but those 6 games might take another month to rotate out of stock.

Basically, if you want a game; pre-order it at least a month from when it’s expected to release.  We don’t charge your card and we even provide double Citadel Points just so we can gauge demand.  If you don’t pre-order, well that’s a decision you’ve made. Sorry!

Bring in Imported Games

We tried this once.  It was a dismal failure – we lost quite a bit of cash trying to get rid of stock.  What we found was that it just wasn’t worth the cost and time to bring in imported games when many of these games would be brought in later on by publishers in much larger quantities and thus lower cost.

Truthfully, unless there was a lot of demand for a specific game (like Bunny, Bunny Moose, Moose) there just doesn’t seem to be sufficient demand to make bringing in imported games worthwhile.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t special order such games in – and if sufficient number of customers started asking for a game(s); it might be worthwhile for us to look into once more.

Pre-painted miniatures for normally unpainted mini’s

Again, something that we’ve tried to set-up before.  The issue really wasn’t on the customer’s part – it was on ours and our inability to locate a reliable miniature painter.  Finding someone who’d be willing to do this kind of work on a regular / reliable basis.  It’s also a low-demand service (at least we thought so); so one thing that we haven’t devoted a lot of time to.  We’ll put our thinking caps on and see if we can find someone(s) who might be willing to do this and the cost / price.

Wider selection of meeples and tokens

I guess we have a wider variety of game designers out there than we thought.  We’ve got an order in for a wider variety of tokens, hopefully it should be enough when it arrives (look out for arrival in 2 weeks or so).  If not, we can certainly go looking for more…

Help me connect with gamers!

Ooof – that’s an interesting series of comments.  They range from suggestions that we run events to forums to conventions.  I’m going to have to think about this one a bit more, I have a germ of an idea (and long-time customers know we tried forums once to dismal failure); so we’ll get on this project after Christmas.

Working with Kickstarter project creators / being a distribution hub for Canada

This is actually a really interesting idea.  I played with it for a short period but after talking to a few developers, realised that the number of actual Canadian Kickstarter backers was somewhat smaller than I thought (in the low 30’s I believe was the number).  While we have both the space and expertise to ship orders out for developers (and help them lower their overall cost I’d guess); the potential revenue at those numbers seemed way too low to be worth the ‘chase’.  If we say charged a handling fee of $5 for each order we processed, at 30 backers that’s only $150.  In between there’s a lot of leg-work working with the developers to pitch the idea to them, working out a contract, doing the import paperwork, receiving the delivery and finally the shipping (and handling of shipping issues).  Of course, the numbers change if we can work with a more successful project; but guessing which one’s those are are somewhat more difficult.

I wouldn’t say no a developer approached us, but it’s a project that for now is on the low-end of the priority scale for us.

Online supplier for independent game producers (small scale orders or consignment).

It’s an interesting idea but most publishers that I know of would not want to place the items with us on consignment.  Don’t forget – we have a limited amount of space, so we’d have to put a limit to how long ‘non-moving’ stock could stay with us.  Which would mean we’d either junk them / destroy the games eventually or they’d have to pay return shipping too.

Shipping games direct to us in small quantities is a great example of why distributors exist – if we purchase 2 copies of a game, on average it’d cost a publisher $7.50 per game just to ship those games.   That’s a huge chunk of profit loss.

Again, it’s an interesting idea and we’d be willing to talk to publishers to work on a consignment basis, but it’s just a low-priority / low-profit project.

Okay, next set of ramblings is going to focus on the video review comments.

 

 

Video Reviews: Our Top 10 Games of 2013

It’s time once again for our year-end-ish special episode, where we present Kaja and Joanna’s favorite games from the last year of reviews. All of the items we list were either new releases in 2013, or were new to us:

Joanna’s Picks:

Kaja’s Picks:

New Releases: November 15th, 2013

10 Wooden Bread Token Set
10 Wooden Brick Token Set
10 Wooden Carrot Token Set
10 Wooden Cow Token Set
10 Wooden Grain Token Set
10 Wooden Pig Token Set
10 Wooden Sheep Token Set
10 Wooden Wood Token Set
25 Wooden Carbon Ore Token Set
25 Wooden Lightning Bolt Token Set
25 Wooden Alloy Token Set
Discworld: The Witches
Fate: System Toolkit
Fate: Worlds Volume 1 – Worlds on Fire
Fate: Worlds Volume 2 – Worlds in Shadow
Hegemonic
Mage Knight: Resurrection Campaign Starter Set
Mage Knight: Resurrection – Booster
Yucatan Narrow Card Sleeves – 54 X 80 mm

“New” Used Games: November 13th, 2013

Agricola with Gamer’s Deck expansion – Used (Grade A)
Batman: Gotham City Strategy Game – Used (Grade B)
Battles of Westeros – Used (Grade B)
BattleStations 1.1 – Used (Grade A)
Blokus – Used (Grade A)
Camelot Legends – Used (Grade A)
City Of Remnants – Used (Grade A)
Dixit 2 – Used (Grade A)
Dixit: Journey – Used (Grade A)
Eminent Domain – Used (Grade A)
Forbidden Island – Used (Grade A)
Glory to Rome Black Box Edition – Used (In Shrink)
Morels – Used (Grade A)
Mystery of the Abbey – Used (Grade B)
Rory’s Story Cubes – Used (Opened)
Rush n’ Crush – Used (Grade A)
Sentinels of the Multiverse: First Edition – Used (Grade A, Missing box)
Shogun – Used (Grade A)
Thunderstone Advance: Caverns of Bane – Used (Grade B)
Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin – Used (Grade B)
Zooloretto: the Boss – Used (Opened)

Competing on Price – Or Not

Recently had a talk with someone who asked me a simple question ‘Isn’t online difficult? You just have price to compete on’.  It is perhaps one of the most common beliefs out there, and the simple fact is that it’s not true.  On the surface, price definitely looks like the only thing that we all compete on; but it really isn’t just about the price + shipping.

Customers choose one company over another for a series of reasons including:

Usability

How useful is the site? To what extent does the site offer you the tools that you need to put an order through.  This can range from offering a payment method that you prefer to a wishlist / guest registry to reviews.  Heck, it could be as simple as having the right colour font.

Reputation

Buying online (heck, buying in general) is a leap of faith.  You only need to go to BGG’s Discussing Retailers section to see the number of times customers have to ask ‘is this company good’?  Having a reputation of good customer service can put you ahead of a similar, less well-known company.

Shipping Speed

How fast does your order go out? Does it take a day? 2 days? A week? It matters to some people, it doesn’t for others.

Selection & Availability

Does a company have everything you want? Do they have it in-stock? Amazon’s a great example of a place that has low prices (especially when you include Free Shipping) but do they have everything you want in-stock? Sure, there’s not a huge difference if you can do multiple small free-shipping orders (like in the US with Amazon Prime) but what if you struggle to reach that threshold?

Returns, Mis-shipments & Other Exceptions

What are the return policies of the company? What are their policies on mis-shipments or wrongly labelled / addressed orders? What are their policies on exceptions or mistakes in the ordering / shipping process?  When everything goes well, we never worry about these things but when it doesn’t, you need to know the policies of the site.  In Canada alone, among the major game stores, the policies dealing with any of these areas are quite different.

Customer Rewards

Are there any? There might be, there might not be; and within the rewards programs there’s quite a difference in degrees and options available.  These things can complicate even a simple site-to-site comparison.

Pre-Order Policies

Lastly, what are your options with regards to pre-orders? There are obviously a lot of ways to take pre-orders – from adding individuals to a notification list, a reservation list, taking orders (and charging for orders) to just taking an authorisation (the way we do).  All of these policies affect customers differently, and again differentiate the customers

The Hidden Cost

Here’s the truth though – the more lax / favorable the policies are towards a customer, the more likely the prices are going to be higher.  As an example – it’s easy to do returns with a B&M store compared to an online store, but you do pay for that convenience.  Again, the same with game space (which we don’t have).  The more you expect in terms of favorable policies and the like, the higher the prices are likely going to be.

There’s a disconnect between us and say, Amazon though – they provide great policies and low prices; and manage to do so without impacting their service much generally.  Of course, they also have a bottomless bank-account.