Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ass Pain Revisited

About six months ago I wrote a post of the top 5 most difficult to deal with game manufacturers. Lately I've got good things to say about some of them. They're not all on the right track, but good things are happening:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
What am I looking for in a good company? Consistent communication including street dates, quality product, appropriate margins, adequate supply, and protecting their product in the hobby chain (not selling direct, or through mass market). I don't know any company that has all of these, but four out of 5 is acceptable, provided the product has enough quality to be sold:

Rackham WizKids FFG UD Mongoose

Quality X X X X




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.


Fulminata said...

A good post, but are you sure you posted it in the right blog? ;-)

librarian said...

Exactly what I was going to say...

BlackDiamond said...

Wow, I thought Blogger ate this post. Now I know where it went!

I'm just surprised anyone reads this blog.

Fulminata said...

I read it. I find your campaign ideas very interesting. I've even made a couple of comments which you've probably never seen ;-)

BlackDiamond said...


I'll have to go back and make sure I didn't miss any.

Joshua Dunham said...

The issue with Rackham's margin is actually your distributor. I know two other distributors (one large, and one small) that both sell Rackham at 40% and if you go direct with FFG you can get the stuff for 45%. Maybe you should consider a different distributor since he's charging you more for the product than anyone else is. But I do agree with Rackham and FFG being pains. Rackham is most likely on it's way out. And FFG will probably take over production of AT-43/Confrontation in the near future. That's my theory.

BlackDiamond said...

Yes, I'm paying an extra 2% with my primary distributor, and I'll often wait and buy them at 40% with my secondary. Distributors are often +/- 2-5% from each other on various products. 40% is still below what's acceptable and I know other local stores are marking them up beyond 40%.

I didn't know I could order direct from FFG. I'll have to look into that. It's unlikely it will be feasible, since it would require a substantial order. AT-43 sells well, but I would hardly call sales "substantial." Only two companies are worthy of direct orders based on our volume: GW and WOTC.

I could see FFG taking over Rackham production, especially AT-43. I've heard AT-43 sells significantly better here and isn't very popular in the rest of the world (the US fixation on Sci Fi).

GameGuy said...

GW's margin is a bit poor at 45% but they ship the products for free. I can get several percent better from other lines but I have to pay shipping. Add in the shipping and GW is pretty comprable. For instance WOTC gives 50% off, but charges $20 in shipping on orders under $300 and $10 in shipping on orders over $300, so if you don't order $300+ GW is actually cheaper.