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.
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.
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.