This week, we’re reviewing the biggest heavy cooperative game of the past year: Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island.
Android: Netrunner LCG – Overdrive Corp Draft Pack
Android: Netrunner LCG – Overdrive Draft Starter
Android: Netrunner LCG – Overdrive Runner Draft Pack
The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Dunland Trap Adventure Pack
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Spires of Xin-Shalast Adventure Deck
Rolling Freight: Expansion Map #1 – India/Great Britain
Samurai Sword: Rising Sun Expansion
Star Wars LCG: Join Us or Die Force Pack
Star Wars X-Wing: E-Wing
Star Wars X-Wing: TIE Defender
Star Wars X-Wing: TIE Phantom
Star Wars X-Wing: Z-95 Headhunter
Warhammer: Diskwars – Hammer and Hold Expansion
Warhammer: Diskwars – Legions of Darkness Expansion
Ascension: Realms Unravelled
Desperados of Dice Town
Firefly: Out to the Black – Browncoat Card Pack
Firefly: Out to the Black – Serenity Card Pack
Galactic Strike Force
Krosmaster: Arena – Duel Pack 1
Krosmaster: Arena – Frigost Extension
Lost Valley: The Yukon Goldrush 1896
Pathfinder Pawns: Base Assortment
Power Play: Schemes and Skulduggery
Spielbox Magazine: Issue #2 (2014)
Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary Edition
Interestingly enough, as much as I complain about the distribution chain in the game trade, developing Fortress Geek as also shown what an industry without a few major distributors is like – and let me tell you, it’s not pretty.
The Distribution Chain in Gaming
Let’s talk about what distributors do. They are clearing houses for our favorite games, the places where publishers sell boxes / cartons / etc of games and who then consolidate and sell these games to us. The major advantages for a retailer of a game distributor is the ability to consolidate their orders and for the distributors to ‘break’ cases, allowing gamers to buy smaller quantities of each game. As I’ve written before, there are numerous other reasons but this consolidation and breaking of games makes a huge difference in how easy it is to run such a store.
Right now, in the US there are about 2 major distributors and another 3 to 4 medium sized distributors. In Canada, there is 1 major distributor and another 3 or so smaller distributors. To give a context of size, the major distributor in Canada is still smaller than most of the medium distributors in the US.
This is not a huge number of distributors, but it is enough to ensure that there is a decent amount of competition in the industry.
Now let’s take a look at another example in the general ‘Geek’ product world.
The Distribution Chain in the ‘Geek’ World
Let’s be clear here, when we say ‘geek’; it encompasses a lot – from figurines to collectibles to toys to t-shirts and apparel. As such, in many ways; the entire concept of a single distributor who could cover all this is unlikely. However, there are 2 major players in the market (Diamond who supply all the Comics being one of them). These distributors however are pretty much oligopolies (and in Diamond’s case for comics a monopoly) and as such are able to dictate pricing, markup and quantities to a significant degree. As such, they often do not break-up cases and if they do, margins are painfully low.
That is, if you can get the items you want. A significant number of products can only be purchased direct from the suppliers themselves. This of course creates a whole host of problems:
- Minimum orders at each supplier
- Lack of transparency of stock levels (many don’t have a method to view current stock levels)
- Significantly increased number of supplier contacts and ensuing paperwork
- Licensing & verification issues
- Increased length of restocks
It’s no wonder that, if you look at the number of generic ‘geek’ stores in Canada; there just aren’t that many. It’s extremely difficult to run such a store as we are finding out – its extremely difficult to go broad and deep as it requires a significant capital outlay. In many cases, we have to stock multiple copies of an item even before we know if it’ll sell.
So while publishers and retailers might complain about the distribution chain (and yeah, there are issues); it’s at least better than the current system evidenced in the ‘geek’ world.
Sometimes it’s scary posting online on this blog. It’s not that as if we are such a big player that what we do / what we think / what we want is going to change anything by posting. In fact, posting anything controversial is just asking to be signaled out as a troublemaker. It wasn’t a problem when we were tiny and no one read this blog (like when we started); but now we actually get citations from Wikipedia and even have people read us across the world.
It’s not as if we even get money from this blog – at least, not the business posts. So why bother?
Truthfully, I think it’s the perverse side of me that likes poking the bear. Or teasing my wife.
There are other less self-destructive reasons of course:
- Education – somethings are outside our control. The more we educate our customers on these aspects, the less difference there is between their expectations and our reality there is to occur. It creates a smoother customer flow.
- Analysis – writing these posts generally require me to conduct analysis, not only on the topic on-hand but on my thinking processes. Occasionally, that’s actually been useful. I hate writing reports, but a blog post can help me structure my thoughts in the same way.
Overall, I post what I want when I want to. I try to watch what I post though based off the idea that nothing I ever post will disappear; so I best be willing to stand by it. That corollary though means that I don’t post a lot of things, because this is a public forum still.
This week, we’re reviewing Boss Monster, a light card game inspired by classic 8-bit video games.
Battle Foam: P.A.C.K. 432 Molle (Empty)
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Imperial Foam Tray 1
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Imperial Foam Tray 2
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Rebel Foam Tray
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Accessory Foam Tray Kit
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Corellian CR90 Corvette Foam Tray
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Corellian CR90 Corvette and Rebel Force Foam Tray
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Corellian CR90 Corvette and Rebel Transport Foam Tray
Dice Bag: Large Black Velvet with Blue Lining
Dice Bag: Large Black Velvet with Gold Lining
Firefly RPG: GenCon 2013 Preview
Fleet: Arctic Bounty
Magic the Gathering: Modern Event Deck – March of the Multitudes
Magic the Gathering: Conspiracy Booster
Magic the Gathering: Conspiracy Booster Box
Numenera: Character Options
Savage Worlds: Oversized Action Card Decks
Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil Explorers Edition
Savage Worlds: Steamscapes – North America
It’s interesting to see how exclusive distribution has fast become the norm. Here’s a list of all the exclusive deals that are now in place among all the big publishers:
- Mayfair Games
- Queen Games
- Asmodee Editions
- Z-Man Games
- Days of Wonder
- Playroom Entertainment
Here’s the list of big publishers who have yet to do so:
- Fantasy Flight Games
- Alderac Entertainment Group
- Flying Frog Productions
I am leaving out a few mid-level publishers from this list, many of whom are still unrestricted. I’m also leaving out Game Salute, since technically they only restrict distribution to online game stores (us).
When we launched, not a single one of these companies were in exclusive distributorship contracts. These days, more than half the ‘large’ companies are. I wish I could say that I’ve seen an improvement in distribution and availability as well as lower costs as promised by the publishers, but I can’t.
As of this moment, these items are out of print / unavailable to me:
- Small World: Be Not Afraid
- Escape: the Pit
- Killer Bunnies Green Booster
- X-Men Starter Packs & Boosters (okay, I’ll give them this since this was a bit of an unexpected hit)
I would have to guess that at least 80% of our bestsellers have gone out of print for longer than a month in the last year – many of them items owned by these exclusive publishers.
Worst, we’ve seen an on-going increase in costs as our discount structures have been hit and (in the case of Canadian distributors), shipping costs have increased. We’ve seen an increase in cost by about 2% on our cost-of-goods sold. That’s huge when you are talking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Just as bad, we are held over the barrel with our distributors constantly. Don’t like the way the distributor hires monkey’s to pack your boxes? Tough. Have an issue with the ding & dent policy? Tough. Can’t get hold of your sales representative? Tough. You either deal with it or you don’t get the distributors exclusive games.
THis week, we’re reviewing a very clever blend of tight, abstract mechanics with a space conquest theme and scope. Meet Quantum:
A Game of Thrones LCG: Fire Made Flesh Chapter Pack
Adventure Time: Card Wars – Finn vs Jake (Reprint)
Adventure Time: Card Wars – BMO vs. Lady Rainicorn (Reprint)
The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Dead Marshes Nightmare Deck
The Lord of the Rings LCG: Return to Mirkwood Nightmare Deck
The Lord of the Rings LCG: The Hills of Emyn Muil Nightmare Deck