- Rackham. You could hear the collective groan when Rackham (my #1 ass pain) teamed up with Fantasy Flight Games (my #5 ass pain) for US distribution. Distribution of the game did seem to improve, but at a cost. That cost was the price that FFG charged for their services, which amounted to 2% of my margin from my primary distributor. This put us back to the old metal days of Rackham pricing, where we looked at what we were being charged, scoffed at the MSRP, and priced product at margins we could afford. Manufacturers "suggested" retail price. As for Rackham product, AT-43 has inched up our top game charts, while I've declared the new Confrontation DOA.
- Wiz Kids. This is a company that has lost relevance for us in the last six months. We're completely finished with anything "clicky" from them. We'll never order clix again, unless it's a special order. Pirates releases far outstrip the demand for the game. We're down for a single box of the next set, due out this week (already!), and then we'll probably see a slow slide to nothing over the next year or so. The company continues to have problems coordinating "big box" and "hobby channel" distribution, with game store owners regularly complaining about early releases at Target, for example. I see them as a very small company that used to be very big, trying to do big company things unsuccessfully.
- Fantasy Flight Games. Here's a very big company, that used to be small, that still does things like a small company. FFG rocks. They have great products and they've just acquired very popular lines from Games Workshop, notably the new Dark Heresy RPG but also games like Talisman. However, they lack street dates on any of their products and lack communication about their problems. I was slightly embarrassed after I lambasted them in the game industry forum a few months ago, only to have them respond with an honest explanation of what had happened, explaining situations well out of their control. If companies like this would only communicate with us, we would be very understanding and we could explain it to customers so their frustration level is reduced. Today's ass pain was the realization that new Dark Heresy products were released in the UK already, while the US market has a wait of several weeks, at least. This has happened with Black Industries before, so it's not new, so it seems FFG has inherited their own ass pains.
- Upper Deck. I dare say, they're starting to listen. Last week they released a hobby exclusive Yu Gi Oh gold series pack. This $25 pack had incredibly rare cards and it was only distributed through hobby stores. I think these hot packs demonstrated the true demand for Yu Gi Oh product, something we could only see when Target and other big box stores were temporarily removed from the equation. My 15 boxes sold out in three hours when our Yu Gi Oh crowd arrived, something I've never seen for this game. Upper Deck is listening, but the biggest ass pain is their continued attempts to artificially inflate demand by limiting quantity. It's a frustrating strategy for game stores, especially managing cash flow. Compare these: The next Magic set will be released in May. I need to order enough product to get through the weekend until I can place another order. Now lets look at the new World of Warcraft set. Limited supply means I have to order enough to get me through June. Upper Deck has just shifted a huge burden onto my shoulders, while Wizards of the Coast is partnering with me to sell their product.
- Mongoose Publishing. They dropped their in-house printing, with its warped covers and low quality. I won't touch any of their existing product lines, which I consider irreparably damaged by this fiasco, tainted by incompetence, but I will be selling their new Traveller release, printed by a professional. Battlefield Evolution is officially dead and I would be incredibly reluctant to try a new miniatures game from Mongoose again.
Both Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast get my best marks. GW has a reduced margin while WOTC often gives preference to mass market by breaking street dates.