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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:08 am 
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An interesting development in the board game industry.

Copy and paste from Reddit between the ******.
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Anton Torres of Asmodee North America (and the Marketing Manager of Fantasy Flight Games) has been doing a number of interviews/demos at GAMA, including with BoardGameGeek and The Dice Tower. While he's been trying to demo upcoming ANA products, the conversation has always shifted towards the ANA selling policies that go into effect April 1st, and the hour-long presentation the Christian Petersen gave yesterday about the history of the board game industry and why they need to "take a stand" to prevent the industry from collapsing.

Come April 1st, retailers will have to choose whether they are a brick and mortar, or an online retailer. Brick and mortar retailers will get product at a deeper discount than online retailers, but presumably won't be able to sell/ship any product online. Online retailers will get less of a discount, not sure if they can sell also in brick and mortar. Also, when asked by Chaz Marler at The Dice Tower about how CoolStuffInc, Miniature Market, etc fit into this equation, he said that there are no exceptions, and that those companies will have to "pick a side" come April 1st. Obviously, they'll choose to be online retailers, which means they'll have to pay more for ANA product, which will get passed on to the consumer (as seen already by diminished discounts for newer ANA releases).

The argument that Anton gives is that consumers are going out and buying a glut of games at a deep discount through online retailers. Consumers are buying games just because they are cheap (ex: people buy a game just to get free shipping, a game is on sale, price bots on Amazon race to the bottom, etc), and not actually to play. He sees consumers owning hundreds of games that don't get played frequently to be a bad thing. They see a potential board game bubble bursting if the only interest in buying games it to collect and not play. Comparisons were made to the comic bubble that burst in the 90's.

He thinks that consumers should be buying games at a higher price, that board games should be a luxury item that people commit to and invest in, and has said he'd rather people buy one or two FFG products at a higher price point than a glut of them at a discount. He implied that consumers should be going to stores and conventions to get face-to-face demos of games before buying instead of "anonymously" buying them online.

While I totally agree that people should probably play the games they actually buy, there does seem to be a flaw in his logic for the motivation as to why people buy games they don't play. The issue people saw in the comic bubble was that people were buying comic books out of speculation that they would be worth hundreds/thousands of dollars decades from then. Publishers began to focus heavy on the people in it for the speculating/collecting, ie tons of sealed collector editions with multiple cover art. I don't think that's happening in board gaming. People are buying games with the pretense/hope that the game will get played and loved by their friends. The reality is just that it's easier to buy games than to learn, teach, and play a new game and/or schedule time to play it with people. To date, with some exceptions like Magic: The Gathering (and to a lesser extent, Kickstarter exclusives), board games also don't really have a collectors' market. It's pretty rare you hear of somebody buying a board game in a store because one day it will be worth something, more likely it's because one day they'll find somebody to play it with.

Also, keep in mind that by saying "you should buy less games", they're not just talking about themselves. If their hope is that people buy less games, they are also hoping there are fewer titles on the market. The trend over the last 10-20 years has been a steady growth of publishers and titles. They're basically saying they want less competition.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 12:12 pm 
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Fantastic topic to bring up. My distributor ACD is one of only 5 that are allowed to sell FF games now.

What they are doing is following the WOTC model - ever wonder why magic packs are more expensive at stores like Target and about the same price online as in FLGS? It's because WOTC knows its bread and butter is Friday Night Magic which can only be played at the FLGS. Therefore they price control so FLGS can make it work. This is the same for shoes by the way, Footlocker has high quality shoes that you will never get at Wal-Mart. Discounts on Apple products are also rare.

What we are seeing in board games are roughly two camps. People who see value in FLGS and will pay more to support that value, and those who hunt for the lowest price possible online. And by lowest price I mean that it's usually not even close to MSRP. While this arrangement seems fine in theory, in practice the price differential is so great as to be impossible for FLGS to compete (even though some of them maybe should go out of business anyway). I haven't checked in a while but in a lot of cases it is literally cheaper to buy from CoolStuff than to buy from me because I have to charge shipping and tax.

To clarify what was said, when a person buys an extra game (or two) just to get free shipping, they are perpetrating the model of dirt cheap. Many of these online stores can only get away with free shipping if they sell in huge volumes.

Because they are so big, by adjusting their pricing structure, Asmodee/FF are evening the playing field between online and FLGS. I think they are hoping that others will follow. Also, and this is important to their argument, as online prices rise (FLGS prices will remain the same) we will become more discriminating in our purchases. Consequently GOOD games will rise to the top and become more viable for larger print runs and to reprint. This is a good thing. Though given all the Kickstarters I don't see an end to the "glut" anytime soon.

The core of board games is its community, playing at the same table with others. FLGS and conventions like NEWGAME 100% support the growth of that community. Online stores do not and can not.

The author made some great observations about the collectability of comic books vs games (though we could point out Space Hulk had everyone a twitter, CCG's by their very nature, the latest Munchkin guests artist collectable sets, and how people will pay large sums to get OOP games). And, people really do have "collections" now. Hell I even think of my meager number of games as my collection.

What do you think? I wonder if it might depend on which camp you are leaning towards (buying online or FLGS). Both have their benefits in my mind.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 2:59 pm 
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Mayfair does this already. And so does Games Workshop. Heck, Games Workshop will not even sell to you, if you are selling online.

Fantasy Flight has a nice core of games that do well, but do even better with organized play events in local stores. X-Wing dominates over Star Trek or the D&D flying game, because X-Wing has the solid organized play events. Same goes for Netrunner on the card game front. They know that they do more in sales of a particular product, if it goes through a game store, where people will be more likely to buy even more of their product to stay competitive in the local events.

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