Starlit Citadel Reviews: A Very Special Episode

One of the promises we made our Season 2 fundraiser backers was that we’d produce a special episode that was a little different from our usual fare. Just in time for the holidays, here it is!

Join Kaja, Joanna, and special guests Edwin Perez (Standard Action) and Eric Fell (The Critical Hit Show) for an in-character playthrough of The Red Dragon Inn.

Idle Thought – Timelage, sales and kickstarter

Firstly, not a post bashing Kickstarter.  I was just wondering on my way in to work if any publisher had any data about the changes in sales numbers between:

– directly published games

– Kickstarter games

Obviously, their own games so this limits the number of individuals with this information to a very small number.

Within that context and probably separately as well, I’d love to know what the numbers for sales were like between the start of first promotions to final release / wide release.

None of this actually effects me as a retailer of course, I just like data but I wonder if there’s a correlation between when you start your promotion, when you release the game widely and final sales.  That is, is there a sweet spot in promotion that would drum up enough interest to maximise your sales? Or perhaps there are multiple sweet spots – first, a selling cycle in Kickstarter and then again when it releases – but if so, is there a noticeable drop in wide release sales due to Kickstarter and if so, does it correlate to how long it’s been since you started your promotions / Kickstarter?

Obviously, I have no data. I’m just curious.

Allocations, Pre-Orders & Purchasing

One of the most common questions we get currently is ‘Will you have enough copies to ship to everyone’.

That’s an interesting  question because our best answer is usually ‘Probably’.

See, here’s how pre-orders work.  We often get an e-mail from our distributor(s) anywhere from a week to a month before they need to place their pre-order with their publisher.  At that time, we guess at the quantity we need.  Often this is before we have the game on the site.

In the  interim period, if we have time; we get the game up on the site and hopefully receive a few pre-orders.  If we have time, we update the distributor on the new quantity.

The distributor then inform the publisher of the quantity he requires with an added amount for over-stock and last minute orders.

When the publisher finally receives their orders and games, they must then decide how to ship their orders out.  In most cases, they have more than sufficient games on-hand to fulfill all orders.

Allocation

The tricky part is when the total number of orders the publisher receives is greater than their total number of copies printed.  They must then decide how to allocate their orders.  At this point, I’m not going to speculate on how they do so – I’m not a publisher and I’m sure there are as many ‘fair’ methods as there are publishers.

What it does mean is that they ship fewer quantities (e.g. 80 copies instead of a 100) to the distributor.

The distributor, who now has 20 fewer copies than they ordered must decide how to allocate their orders. Again, how allocation happens is a blackbox for the most part.  If they are lucky, they might only have 70 orders from retailers (i.e. the other 30 were meant to be held in their warehouse for over orders).  Often, they 80 – 90 copies ordered.

Pre-Order Rush

In the meantime, our pre-order  numbers start creeping up for the hot game. This might be because buzz has continued to grow.  It often happens when a game has finally been announced to have reached the publisher.  Suddenly, our pre-orders go from 2 copies to 6 copies, at the same time we might get allocated from our order of say 10 copies down.

And that’s where the entire question becomes interesting.  The quantities and likelihood of this happening for us often occurs when the game is truly hot – so our pre-order with our distributor is often double to triple our (at that time) pre-order.  So, we might ask them for 10 copies because we say a total of 5 pre-orders.  Not a bad number, it gives us at least 5 more copies with an expected 2 to 3 more pre-orders at the last minute.  However, if we get allocated; then the last customer might not get it.

This is why we say ‘probably’.  Allocations happen at both the publisher and distributor level and there’s just no way for us to tell how many copies will finally arrive with us for a truly hot game.  More often than not, it’s sufficient but on occasions for a truly hot game – it’s just not.

Moral of the Story

Pre-order early.  I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Remember, we don’t charge pre-orders immediately anyway, and it puts you in-line immediately.  It helps us, it helps the distributor and eventually it helps the publisher.

 

Adding Value: Online Stores

I’ve recently noted a few comments and questions directed at online stores, most of which boil down to – what’s the value of an online game store? What do we contribute that another entity, whether it’s a physical Bricks & Mortar store or a publisher could do themselves.  Here’s some areas of value that we, as an online game retailer add:

Reach

Online stores add additional reach over and above what a B&M store or a publisher website is able to.  Whether it’s the reach across national lines (Canadians that US publishers can’t reach easily) or to small towns (it’s generally accepted that towns with a population of less than 50,000 are difficult for game stores to thrive in), online stores expand the market.

In addition, market saturation is never 100%.  I lived for years in Vancouver without knowing of Drexoll, yet they are a firmly established B&M store.  Online stores, in many ways, are really ‘easy’ to find.  Or should be at least…

Specialisation

Publishers are good at publishing games. B&M stores are good at running B&M stores.  They aren’t necessarily good (or should be!) at running an online store, shipping games to customers, online customer service, etc. For a publisher, there’s an order of difference between managing 20 to 30 distributors to managing 2000 – 3000 customers.   For B&M stores, the added complexity of managing 2 inventories and online customer service can be extremely difficult.

Sometimes, when you try to be / do everything; you end up being good at very little.  Slow shipping, missing inventory, bad customer service, annoyed retailers & distributors, etcetera.  Sometimes, it’s better to focus on what you are good at.

Convenience

Online stores provide a level of convenience for those who either do not want to, or are unable to purchase at a B&M or publisher.  We ship games direct to your doorstep (or office) and allow customers to shop at their leisure.  Want to purchase something at 2am in the morning? Sure – no problem.  It’s the kind of convenience that some customers want.

In addition, compared to publishers we provide the convenience of consolidation.  Rather than purchasing from a dozen publishers to buy a dozen games, it’s easier (and better!) for the customer to find / buy from 1 location. That doesn’t even include things like accessories (dice, dice bags, storage solutions, etc) that we carry that a publisher would not.

Lower Prices

Of course, there’s the part where online stores are willing to sell games at or below MSRP.  However, online stores also stock and sell games from multiple publishers, thus being able to sell and ship more than 1 game from 1 publisher.  It brings the overall cost per game shipped down, often quite significantly – leading to lower prices for the customer again.

As an example, the base cost of shipping a game from BC to Ont is $13. Add 6 games, it still only goes up to say $18. So, cost per game shipped is like $3. It’s rare you’d get a publisher with 6 games that a single customer would like to buy.

And more

Of course, all the other ways of how we compete play in too – all the things that we do to be competitive with other online stores are also things that differentiate us from a B&M store or a publisher run webstore.