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Made in us
Tzeentch Aspiring Sorcerer Riding a Disc





Orem, Utah

I just found this post about why Privateer Press is going through Kickstarter. To me, this looks like it explains a lot of what we've been seeing.



Here is what I understand about the current state of retail:

The normal path to retail is Game Developer-Distributor-Retailer. But with so many new games coming out, retailers have to be choosy about what they stock. This means that they pick up things that they know have local demand.,

The crazy thing is that the market is flooded enough that Distributors also have had to be more choosy about what they stock as well. This means that when a retailer wants to stock something, it isn't always available from the retailer- despite there being plenty of them sitting in the Game Developer's warehouse.

Apparently, this has been happening to Privateer Press. Retailers aren't getting stuff because the Distributor is understocking them (despite making plenty).


Naturally, the Distributor is choosing to stock more 'conservative' choices- things that are certain to sell. This means that Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and board games from Asmodee are all plenty available. But it has become significantly harder for other companies to make inroads this way. It really weirds me out that Privateer can have plenty of something in the warehouse, but it is still stupidly difficult to find them at retail anywhere.

This explains why a company as successful as Monolith would go to a Kickstarter Only model, why CMON did not keep releasing board games straight to retail, and won't be quitting Kickstarter, and why Kingdom Death is doing direct sales only forever.


(Games Workshop have had their own distribution channels for years. This continues to work to their advantage).

 
   
Made in gb
Fixture of Dakka




UK

Even without distributors and retailers being more picky because of an expansion of the market offerings, there's a few more things that I think come into play

1) Retail is bad at present. Running a physical shop is a nightmare in many western nations. The rates and rents and tax are all very high, whilst the footfall has reduced. So basically all your outgoings are on the up and your potential income is on the down. When this hits a whole highstreet it has a snowball effect whereby fewer people shopping results in fewer open shops; less cleaning; less smart fronts; more closures and thus fewer people wanting to walk down the highstreet.
That in itself means smaller places to operate out of; rising costs and thus reduced desire to stock multiple lines and to stock anything that isn't an easy good sale.

2) The internet is far more accepted and safe for shopping. Many people are getting very used to internet shopping and the delivery services are getting faster and faster. Gone are the "please leave at least 14 days for delivery" days - at 14 days most people today are ready to complain/cancel.
So there's far more potential for a manufacturer to connect directly with their buying customers. So they've a direct incentive to sell direct and make more profit per sale than they would if selling through the distribution network.



That said wargames are not a singleplayer product and the lack of physical store exposure can be damaging to growth. Just like having physical stores pushing your product can lead to a lot more growth potential.

So PP needs to highstreet store- however I can see a time when they might instead offer online discounts to clubs and push the clubs far more so as more retailers die off or shift to other higher profit higher sale volume product lines (eg magic). Meanwhile clubs are always going to be important for wargames.

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Powerful Phoenix Lord






I also think some companies may not be aggressively keeping with the times, with regard to the retail area.

While everyone hates a recession, there are benefits, and sometimes a company needs a rough patch or two to learn how and where to tighten up their budget/methods/etc. After our (relatively minimal) recession here 5-10 years ago, a lot of businesses ended up benefiting over the long term because the crunch made them re-evaluate everything and streamline their practices. Companies and management can get lazy during a good economy; you see this all over the place. That complacency can lead to egregious spending, poor planning, lack of foresight, etc.

So the market is different and new...and that's a challenge the companies will have to figure out. If a company can't adapt (even if that means re-writing your agreements with distributors, or changing the way you do stuff) it'll suffer.

 
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





 odinsgrandson wrote:

The crazy thing is that the market is flooded enough that Distributors also have had to be more choosy about what they stock as well. This means that when a retailer wants to stock something, it isn't always available from the retailer- despite there being plenty of them sitting in the Game Developer's warehouse.


There's another step beyond that. The glut in distribution means that not only are they being choosy about distribution, but they're not restocking at all. Once the initial week or two of retail orders are fulfilled, the product is essentially abandoned by distribution in favor of what's new. Part of this is simply because FLGS can't compete with online wholesale beyond the first week or two of convenience and are really only stocking pre-orders and guaranteed sales. This is why its basically impossible to get things at retail these days without a preorder and why we're seeing so many companies shift to things like GWs current infatuation with limited run box sets. Everyone is trying to get as much out of the two weeks of relevance they have before their customers get focused on other shiny new things.
   
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New Jersey, State of Perfection

 odinsgrandson wrote:


The normal path to retail is Game Developer-Distributor-Retailer.


Its a little bit more complex than that. For the most part its Publisher-Distributor-Retailer (sometimes the Publisher and Developer are the same entity, more often than not they are different). In general, the state of distribution for tabletop gaming as a whole is very poor (at least in the US, I am not familiar with the situation overseas). Alliance, the largest distributor in the arena is generally absolute gak in terms of their business practices, they are also very aggressive about trying to starve the other smaller distributors out of the market and have pursued a number of exclusivity deals which have generally backfired but succeeded in undercutting their competitors in various ways and generally made life worse for everyone involved in the process. A handful of larger companies (i.e. Games Workshop, soon to be joined by Asmodee) have basically skipped the distributor side of things and handle distribution in-house, so for them its Publisher-Retailer. Then there are *countless* smaller publishers out there who are too small to even be on distributors radar, the only way they get into stores is if they manage to set up direct trade accounts with the retailers themselves - no easy task unless those companies invest heavily into developing a sales department to aggressively market themselves to retailers, even then most retailers don't want to be bothered - theres so many product lines out there that it isn't worth the time or money for them to pursue self-distributed product lines unless its for a major company like Asmodee/GW, etc.

On top of that, because there is simply so much coming out at once, distributors are basically being forced to drink through a firehose. They only have the infrastructure to carry so much stuff at once, so what they do carry needs to be in and out and done, the only times things get restocked is if they basically sell out on release day and the demand for more of the product is overwhelming. If you release a product and it sells out 3 months later, tough gak you aren't getting a PO to restock it no matter how many retailers beg you for it and how hard you push for it as a publisher. From the distributors point of view they want to turnover their warehouses as rapidly as possible and not get stuck holding any inventory, to them having your product on the shelves for 3 months means your product was a retail failure.

The crazy thing is that the market is flooded enough that Distributors also have had to be more choosy about what they stock as well.


This has always been the case with distributors. Its even more difficult now, but even 10-20 years ago it was hard for smaller publishers to get distribution deals with the bigger distributors. Regional distributors were more game for lower-tier product but that often meant your product would only be available in some areas and not others. Most of the regional distributors have shut down or merged or been bought up or basically gone "semi-national" in that they cover most of the country but still have a few areas that are outside of their ability to support.

Apparently, this has been happening to Privateer Press. Retailers aren't getting stuff because the Distributor is understocking them (despite making plenty).


Yep, its a distributor death spiral. Privateer Press gak the bed hard a few years ago and distributors took a huge loss on PP product because they had (probably) drastically over-ordered as the demand for it dried up. Distributors lost interest in carrying the product and view PP and their products as toxic as a result, kind of a "fool me once, fool me twice" type thing - not that retailers are really any more keen or interested in carrying PP products either. This is compounded by the increased competition int he market making it harder for a publisher of PPs size to get attention, as well as the fact that Alliance supposedly has a bit of a "personal" beef with PP, so they refuse to carry the product, which wouldn't be so bad if the other national distributors weren't themselves struggling to stay relevant/being forced to downsize as a result of Alliance currently controlling distribution for a large portion of market share.

This explains why a company as successful as Monolith would go to a Kickstarter Only model, why CMON did not keep releasing board games straight to retail, and won't be quitting Kickstarter, and why Kingdom Death is doing direct sales only forever.


Not quite right.

Monolith does what Monolith does because they would have slimmer margins on their products going through distributors and they wouldn't be able to offer the value that they do to customers. Its less of a distribution issue and more of a branding/business model issue.

CMON does release board games straight to retail (not sure why you think they don't). Their products are distributed via Asmodee (which currently goes through Alliance but as of July will be self-distributed like GW).

Kingdom Death could go to retail but chooses not to for similar reasons to Monolith. Kingdom Death is basically the "Warby Parker" of board gaming, its a "direct to consumer" business model - it gives Poots better margins and allows him to release a better product than what he would be able to do if he had to go through a middle man. Various distributors have courted him several times in an attempt to carry Kingdom Death, they don't carry his product because he doesn't want them to, not because they won't carry him.


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MN

As a company, it makes sense to cut out the middle man and sell direct as much as possible. Less mouths eating away at the profit margin. Therefore, shipping "just in time" direct to the end customer can save a lot of money on the edges.

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 Overread wrote:
Even without distributors and retailers being more picky because of an expansion of the market offerings, there's a few more things that I think come into play

1) Retail is bad at present. Running a physical shop is a nightmare in many western nations. The rates and rents and tax are all very high, whilst the footfall has reduced.


How long can this last? I mean, if retail operators cannot make the rents and taxes, rents and taxes have to come down, because some rents and taxes are better than no rents and taxes. At some point retail has to reach an equilibrium. Most retail space isn't easily converted to something else.

   
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 John Prins wrote:
 Overread wrote:
Even without distributors and retailers being more picky because of an expansion of the market offerings, there's a few more things that I think come into play

1) Retail is bad at present. Running a physical shop is a nightmare in many western nations. The rates and rents and tax are all very high, whilst the footfall has reduced.


How long can this last? I mean, if retail operators cannot make the rents and taxes, rents and taxes have to come down, because some rents and taxes are better than no rents and taxes. At some point retail has to reach an equilibrium. Most retail space isn't easily converted to something else.


If you're big enough in real estate, you let the property sit vacant and write off the losses, so it can actually be better (or no worse) than "some rent". After all, you've got records showing that the property is worth X, and someone would have to give you money to convert it to something else.

So the rents won't go down until they're really desperate.
   
Made in gb
Twisted Trueborn with Blaster




Methinks the retail landscape is about to hit a bigger change than any of us expected.
   
Made in gb
Fixture of Dakka




UK

The thing is I get the feeling that local councils want the trade, but they don't want their central highstreet chocked with traffic every day and with cars that have nowhere to park.

In a way high mobility through the car has killed the highstreets in many UK towns because the town's cant actually cope with the high volumes of traffic easily.


So you get discouragement through higher rents for shops and higher costs to park in many urban areas. Meanwhile park and ride systems, whilst they work, don't take all the pressure off and many people don't like using them when they want to control when they come and go.



Of course the supermarkets and superstores latched onto the out of town regions - sadly no one has yet really pushed for a big warehouse store with lots of little shops within it (mall style). Heck if anything the inner town malls that I've seen are ghost areas in their own right - again the higher rents pushing those smaller stores out. Heck one locally turned into a cinema.



Rent and rates seem to be deliberately set to drive out the retailer. Whilst food outlets seem to survive and even thrive in many urban settings in the middle of town.

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I was surprised, as I initially thought that this thread would relate to covid 19.

In general, there are things to be learned from the current situation. Some of the shortages that we are experiencing, such as the number of doctors, etc. are caused by the medical system being run with a busniess model. Excess capacity is considered wasteful. Thus, only have enough for the normal times.

Moving back to gaming. I think distributors are very important. Yes, they are a middle man, and thus increase the cost of things. However, they serve several functions. They store a supply of items. This is important, as a game store will not want to carry a game system if they cannot regularly get stock for it. They also help maintain a diversity of products. Smaller companies cannot afford to have their own distribution system. A distributor helps them.

However, I fear that much of this discussion will be moot. Already we see that kids are not playing with minis as much as the older generation did. The virus scare will only increase this. The staples of a game store, MTG, etc. are going to be hurt badly. People will not want to congregate to play. They will also be used to being holed up playing videogames, which already dwarf the physical game industry. I just do not see a physical game store as particularly viable. However, I am a terrible businessman, so maybe I am wrong.
   
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Fixture of Dakka




UK

The big risk for game companies moving fully online is that they are relying heavily on an established market and not recruiting non-gamers as much.

Any recruitment is only being done by the game clubs and its my experience that many don't really hunt out new members and instead tend to tick over with what theyv'e got and people finding them.


So if too many wargames pull back and the highstreet shops become more card and boardgame focused the risk is that new generations of potential wargamers are passed by.


The saving grace is that GW is VERY active in pushing for new younger gamers to get new people into the hobby. Indeed for many its the gateway into wargaming in general (at least for fantasy and sci-fi). So the other companies do have to mooch off GW's efforts in many respects.

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Fireknife Shas'el






 Overread wrote:
The thing is I get the feeling that local councils want the trade, but they don't want their central highstreet chocked with traffic every day and with cars that have nowhere to park.

In a way high mobility through the car has killed the highstreets in many UK towns because the town's cant actually cope with the high volumes of traffic easily.

So you get discouragement through higher rents for shops and higher costs to park in many urban areas. Meanwhile park and ride systems, whilst they work, don't take all the pressure off and many people don't like using them when they want to control when they come and go.

Rent and rates seem to be deliberately set to drive out the retailer. Whilst food outlets seem to survive and even thrive in many urban settings in the middle of town.


Town councils don't set the rates for rent, the property owners do. Rents are going to float on demand for retail space, or they'll be empty (and despite what solkan says, I don't think most landlords are 'big enough' in real estate that writing off empty properties is a good strategy, and empty real estate tends to decay more rapidly as there's seldom heating or anyone around to spot issues before they become major problems). Also, landlords know that a reliable renter is GOLD compared to taking the chance on the next prospective tenant. It only takes a few problem tenants before a landlord realizes that a non-problem renter is worth holding on to, especially in a crisis situation. I'm sure some landlords will be all "Pay up or get out", but they'll be the losers in the long run as new retailers won't be popping up like spring flowers come the end of this pandemic, there's going to be a significant lag in any kind of rebound in new businesses - it takes money to start a new business, after all. OTOH, the businesses that survive will be 'last man standing' and do quite well with no competition to speak of for some time.

Regardless, in my experience most gaming shops (and comic shops) exist off of highstreet in lower rent areas anyways, alongside other specialty shops that don't get huge volumes of traffic.


   
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John Prins wrote:
Town councils don't set the rates for rent, the property owners do. Rents are going to float on demand for retail space, or they'll be empty (and despite what solkan says, I don't think most landlords are 'big enough' in real estate that writing off empty properties is a good strategy, and empty real estate tends to decay more rapidly as there's seldom heating or anyone around to spot issues before they become major problems). Also, landlords know that a reliable renter is GOLD compared to taking the chance on the next prospective tenant. It only takes a few problem tenants before a landlord realizes that a non-problem renter is worth holding on to, especially in a crisis situation. I'm sure some landlords will be all "Pay up or get out", but they'll be the losers in the long run as new retailers won't be popping up like spring flowers come the end of this pandemic, there's going to be a significant lag in any kind of rebound in new businesses - it takes money to start a new business, after all. OTOH, the businesses that survive will be 'last man standing' and do quite well with no competition to speak of for some time.


In the US, there are other crazy factors. One of my FLGs moved a couple years ago out of a large open retail mall complex down the street to more of an industrial warehouse area. The land lord wanted to raise the rent 25%+ on them. Since that time, the old space has remained empty and others in the complex has opened. Talking with the FLG owner he said they were asking even more for his old space now then when he left. But he said for rental companies, they have a perverse incentive to only try to get large retail chains in their spaces vs small stores. The complex is considered to be worth more with a couple big chains renting one or two spaces with the rest empty vs a full complex with small independent stores.

chaos0xomega wrote:
Yep, its a distributor death spiral. Privateer Press gak the bed hard a few years ago and distributors took a huge loss on PP product because they had (probably) drastically over-ordered as the demand for it dried up. Distributors lost interest in carrying the product and view PP and their products as toxic as a result, kind of a "fool me once, fool me twice" type thing - not that retailers are really any more keen or interested in carrying PP products either. This is compounded by the increased competition int he market making it harder for a publisher of PPs size to get attention, as well as the fact that Alliance supposedly has a bit of a "personal" beef with PP, so they refuse to carry the product, which wouldn't be so bad if the other national distributors weren't themselves struggling to stay relevant/being forced to downsize as a result of Alliance currently controlling distribution for a large portion of market share.


This is probably the biggest problem PP has had. They had a prime spot on retail walls for over a decade due to the games popularity. It was theirs to loose. I've heard from different stores for years that PP had a tin ear when it came to retailer needs. Things like wall space, SKU control, etc. And this even before MK3. When they did the jump to pure digital due to constant rules changes/erratas they left a lot of retailers with unsellable books and cards. All my FLGs owners felt like they'd been had. Pretty sure there were a number of distributors sitting on the same stock in their warehouses and having similar thoughts.

That they are blaming the trouble on distributors of their current state is deflecting blame.
   
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Orem, Utah

 Overread wrote:

That said wargames are not a singleplayer product and the lack of physical store exposure can be damaging to growth. Just like having physical stores pushing your product can lead to a lot more growth potential.


Well, it isn't just that they need two players.

The real marketing difference between a board game and tabletop miniatures game is that players are expected to each collect half of the game, and meet up to complete a full game (and play).



I feel that direct sales model through Kickstarter (with possible direct sales after) has proven to be a viable business model for board games. For a board game, you only need one person in the group to own the game. For a tabletop miniatures game, you need to find someone who has bought an army. Even the abundance of two player starter boxes doesn't alleviate this much.



This is why a game store needs to provide playing space for people who each own half a game, and why retail presence might be more important than for other types of games.


So I really wonder if direct sales can work for a tabletop miniatures game. It can probably sustain it well enough to justify continuing releases, but it probably won't ever become one of the 'big ones' without retailers supporting the game.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2020/03/23 18:08:40


 
   
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That's a big part of why the 2 player starter model has proven so successful. People will buy into it as more of a boardgame and expand as they like. The main issue is that this gets weirder the more factions you have in your game, as you end up needing a bunch of different faction pairs and people can't pick the pair they want and... still, it seems more successful than faction starters for most games.
   
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Orem, Utah

 Overread wrote:
The big risk for game companies moving fully online is that they are relying heavily on an established market and not recruiting non-gamers as much.

Any recruitment is only being done by the game clubs and its my experience that many don't really hunt out new members and instead tend to tick over with what theyv'e got and people finding them.


So if too many wargames pull back and the highstreet shops become more card and boardgame focused the risk is that new generations of potential wargamers are passed by.


The saving grace is that GW is VERY active in pushing for new younger gamers to get new people into the hobby. Indeed for many its the gateway into wargaming in general (at least for fantasy and sci-fi). So the other companies do have to mooch off GW's efforts in many respects.



For a long time, the cycle was that gamers would start with GW games, and eventually get angry at GW (for hiking prices or discontinuing Genestealer Cults) and jump into one of the other tabletop miniatures games.

During the declining years of Games Workshop, we started seeing new miniatures gamers who were starting out with Warmachine or Infinity, and had never played 40k. Now that GW got their house back in order, and things are shifting against PP, we're seeing a lot less of that.


But board games are really booming right now. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if we start seeing more board games as entry point to tabletop miniatures gaming- but I don't feel like I've observed that happening much.

 
   
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We'll find out soon enough eh.

 Overread wrote:
The thing is I get the feeling that local councils want the trade, but they don't want their central highstreet chocked with traffic every day and with cars that have nowhere to park.

In a way high mobility through the car has killed the highstreets in many UK towns because the town's cant actually cope with the high volumes of traffic easily.


So you get discouragement through higher rents for shops and higher costs to park in many urban areas. Meanwhile park and ride systems, whilst they work, don't take all the pressure off and many people don't like using them when they want to control when they come and go.



Of course the supermarkets and superstores latched onto the out of town regions - sadly no one has yet really pushed for a big warehouse store with lots of little shops within it (mall style). Heck if anything the inner town malls that I've seen are ghost areas in their own right - again the higher rents pushing those smaller stores out. Heck one locally turned into a cinema.



Rent and rates seem to be deliberately set to drive out the retailer. Whilst food outlets seem to survive and even thrive in many urban settings in the middle of town.


Not to stray too far into the Forbidden Lands, but in the UK(particularly the English & Welsh) context you can't really examine local government taxation in isolation. Councils have seen their funding from central government absolutely gutted over the last decade, and it wasn't that great to begin with in a lot of areas. A lot of them simply don't have the resources necessary to even develop a new strategy for reinvigorating town centres, nevermind actually implementing it, so they cling to the last few dregs of rates they can get.

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Orem, Utah

 John Prins wrote:
 Overread wrote:
The thing is I get the feeling that local councils want the trade, but they don't want their central highstreet chocked with traffic every day and with cars that have nowhere to park.

In a way high mobility through the car has killed the highstreets in many UK towns because the town's cant actually cope with the high volumes of traffic easily.

So you get discouragement through higher rents for shops and higher costs to park in many urban areas. Meanwhile park and ride systems, whilst they work, don't take all the pressure off and many people don't like using them when they want to control when they come and go.

Rent and rates seem to be deliberately set to drive out the retailer. Whilst food outlets seem to survive and even thrive in many urban settings in the middle of town.


Town councils don't set the rates for rent, the property owners do. Rents are going to float on demand for retail space, or they'll be empty (and despite what solkan says, I don't think most landlords are 'big enough' in real estate that writing off empty properties is a good strategy, and empty real estate tends to decay more rapidly as there's seldom heating or anyone around to spot issues before they become major problems). Also, landlords know that a reliable renter is GOLD compared to taking the chance on the next prospective tenant. It only takes a few problem tenants before a landlord realizes that a non-problem renter is worth holding on to, especially in a crisis situation. I'm sure some landlords will be all "Pay up or get out", but they'll be the losers in the long run as new retailers won't be popping up like spring flowers come the end of this pandemic, there's going to be a significant lag in any kind of rebound in new businesses - it takes money to start a new business, after all. OTOH, the businesses that survive will be 'last man standing' and do quite well with no competition to speak of for some time.

Regardless, in my experience most gaming shops (and comic shops) exist off of highstreet in lower rent areas anyways, alongside other specialty shops that don't get huge volumes of traffic.




Now, I wasn't referring to the current game of Pandemic that's playing out (in which we are all abstract victory conditions). But I think many landlords are going to cut about as much slack as they can afford right now in order to keep their good tenants in place.

 
   
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Although they don't have to as a private company, Steve Jackson Games publishes a Stakeholder's Report every year that goes into a fair amount of economic detail about the company and their business decisions. Now written by CEO Phil Reed, it also talks about the churn and burn in the industry, and how they are reacting to it. Mostly by limiting print runs, and relying on Kickstarter to get a solid production estimate, etc. It's worth reading, even if you're not a fan of their games, but are interested in the industry as a whole. http://www.sjgames.com/general/stakeholders/

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/03/24 00:29:11


 
   
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MN

Regarding Rents.... many of the landlords do not even live in the vicinity. Therefore, they have 0 interest in the community, only their profit and loss statements. If a building sits empty and you can get tax credits on empty spaces, and almost never pay any money to update the building to even be back to rentable.

My old town had a huge issue with this and had to get really aggressive with Local ordinances and laws so the whole downtown didn't just rot away.

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