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Behind the Counter

The Past Week at TitanGames

by Marcus King
May 10,2005

 

The Past Week at TitanGames

This is just a recap of what my week has been like. I have been extremely busy, so if anyone has anything they would LIKE to hear about next month, email me with column suggestions. :)

Monday: we prepared over 500 parcels for shipping. We worked a 16 hour day to get it all done, and went home and crashed, dead tired. My wife and I hardly had a moment to speak all day, but we did get a lot done.

Tuesday: More of the same.

Wednesday, Laurel went to a conference "up north" for the US Postal Service (no, she is not an employee there). We ship so many packages that Laurel and I got invited to attend a conference on Thursday, and she went alone, but stayed over night the casino it was being held in.

Laurel met the local postmaster, and his boss, a regional director. Evidently, TITAN GAMES is the largest shipper in this county, and people far up the food chain from us know of our business. That happens when you spend $1,000.00 a week on postage I guess.

Laurel had fun, learned some ways to save money when shipping, bought a new postal scale from one of the vendors there, and met the US Postmaster General.

Thursday: Serenity, the Movie!

On Thusday, May 5th, I was the guest of Jamie Chambers to attend the Serenity Movie. Jamie, of Sovereign Press and Margaret Weis Productions, was also accompanied by Margaret Weis, Jim Ward and Kevin (I didn't get Kevin's last name). We met in a restaurant in Chicago, next door to the AMC Theater where the movie was having a "sneak peak" or promotional screening, and Jamie had scored tickets (YEA!).

It was a real treat for me. As an added bonus, I showed up way early, and Jim Ward showed up about a half hour early, too. Wow - to get to talk about TSR history with Jim Ward for a half hour before dinner!! I have been playing Jim's games since 1979 or so, Metamorphosis Alpha being my first product from Jim - and talking to him about the glory years of TSR, and about his new projects, was really cool.

At dinner, listening to all these accomplished authors discuss their projects and work was so cool, I hope I was not too geeked up. It was also extremely cool to hear descriptions for the upcoming Serenity RPG, and hear how the combat system works, and what else is covered in the book, and hear about the license and such. This was a real treat for a fan like me, who has long enjoyed the works of both Margaret Weis and Jim Ward! Wow. Arriving at the movie later than we had planned (very slow wait help at the restaurant) we had to sit, literally, in the very front row - so, I apologize to Jamie and Margaret for being a bit fidgety, my neck gets stiff (too many years wearing a helmet in the Army), and looking straight up like that is difficult.

The movie had a neat intro by the creator Joss Whedon, who talked about the movie not being "completely polished" (not the final cut) and how not all the Special Effects were done and in yet, and how the soundtrack was not yet finished. He also spoke on the popularity of Firefly, leading up to the Serenity Movie, and what a truly remarkable "event" that was. It was actually kind of moving, to hear him talk about how the fans had refused to let this die. How 3 years into cancellation, a dead series of misfit characters, played (mostly) by never before seen actors were NEVER made into movies, and how the fans had simply "willed" this movie into creation. Honestly, before last night, I didn't realize this was the guy behind Angel of Buffy - and I really don't care now, cause I don't particularly like either one. But, I did love Firefly when I watched it last year on DVDs and can't imagine how this series failed (though, it has been explained to me since then).

The movie itself was enjoyable. I don't want to say great, that might be overselling it a bit. I have to say they 100% sold me on the idea that danger in the world of Serenity is real, and very lethal. I honestly thought "This is it, they are going to kill off all the Characters, and finish this "series" right here". The fight scenes were well choreographed. The action was suspenseful and the characters were believable. The dialogue was dead on, and the delivery of the actors was very satisfying.

I would point out to anyone who doesn't know - that this series has only 2 "real" (read experienced and familiar to viewers) actors in it, the Shepard (played by veteran TV actor Ron Glass), and Jayne (Adam Baldwin), whom I recognize from somewhere else, though not sure where. Joss Whedon even mentions this in his intro. I mention this because the acting was not completely polished - but very much as good as the series, which I do enjoy. I am not a student of film - just a fan of movies and TV series. So, I don't know the technical terms, but I do know what I like, and I liked this movie. I like the characters, the actors, the premise and the genre. I will take my entire family to see this movie, I will own the DVD, I will watch it several times the next couple years.

This is a cool setting, and the movie was very entertaining, the story was action packed, suspenseful and in places light and funny, in others very sad. It made me laugh, yell and even cry. Kind of embarrassing to cry when you're seated next to Margaret Weis - but, I couldn't help it. :) Additionally, one of the coolest things about last evenings experience was that the people AT the movie all "got it". They were appreciative of the opportunity to see the movie, they were quiet. The guy behind me kicked my chair once - and apologized. We were packed in like sardines, and the theater was full - with some theater staff watching from an aisle. Not one cell phone rang. Nobody talked through any scene. No crying babies, arguing children or loud/obnoxious idiots. Everyone in the theater was quiet, respectful and, maybe - like me, just a bit in AWE of what they were witnessing.

People clapped at several points - and applauded loudly at the end. I heard other fans crying at some scenes, laughing out loud at parts, and a bit of oooohing and aaaaahing at some parts.

If every movie going experience I had was this good, I would see a movie EVERY DAY.

I look forward to this movies theatrical release, and am even MORE excited about the Serenity RPG than before, if that is possible.

If you want a spoiler for the movie, know what happened to which character, contact me off list and I will tell you.

For here I will just say that this is not Star Trek (which I also love). But, in this setting when you are shot, you sometimes die. When you make an enemy, they sometimes kill your friends and loved ones - and nobody does a time-warp-doohickey - when people die in Serenity, the survivors bury them, and move on. I would imagine Joss spent some time as a teenager playing Boot Hill or Traveller2300, or perhaps RoleMaster.

As a gamer, the series was familiar right from the first few seconds of it, and so was the movie. I hope the movie will create new fans, and that novels will follow, more movies, perhaps another TV series someday, Comic Books, more games, action figures and whatever else they can do to keep this setting alive.

Friday: I slept most of the day, and played catch with my son, Max, in the evening. It was Max's birthday, him now being 10. I promised him a "Light Sabre" (one of those expensive ones with the long acrylic "light up" tube, and real metal handle) come Origins. He got RC stuff, and some cool games (of course).

Saturday May 8th - Sidewalk Sale - Demo Day - Free Food - Elephant Rides!

Okay, no elephant rides, but that'd be cool!

This past Saturday, May 8th, we at Titan Games held a Large Event in our store centered around a nice sale, some advertising promotions, free food, a sidewalk sale - and the Mayfair Games Company Demo Team being at our store. It was a huge success - which I will define by saying it was our best sales day, ever. We did more gross revenue on May 8th than any other day, ever, at our retail store.

Background: We negotiated with Will Niebling of Mayfair to have the demo team, consisting of himself, his son William, and their assistant Alex, come to our store for a demo day. We set it up about 5 weeks in advance. We advertised by giving flyers to every person who came into our shop for the past 4 weeks, and talking about it constantly with friends, family and other folks. We also did a quarter page ad in the weekly paper (locally, called "The Shopper") which cost us $200.00. We then planned to do an impromptu sidewalk sale on the same day - if the weather conditions were suitable - we didn't advertise this because we felt that if it rained, and people saw the sidewalk sale portion was cancelled, they may not come in. But, the weather was nice, so we put out 3 large folding tables, with books, records, comics, CD's a few DVDs, lots of VHS Video's and games, plush stuff and more. It was a nice spread of stuff we wished to discontinue. We put out all our remaining Creepy Freaks, all our Crimson Skies stuff, several boxes of CCG cards we wanted to liquidate, and some games we were way overstocked on. Overall: A nice layout. We brought in a large boiler unit to prepare hotdogs in, and a huge drink "jug" thing that held 8 gallons of liquid. We also had a grill for doing some polish sausages, just for the staff and Mayfair guys. We had tickets made for free drawings, thus gathering marketing information from over 300 visitors, whom we can later email or send letters to - to promote our next big event. We went and got 4 dozen balloons to put out and "decorate" the place with.

Problems: It was free comic book day at our competitor across town - who had a big FREE article about him in the same publication we were advertising in. And, since we had announced our sale and such 5 weeks in advance, our neighbor (pawn shop) had made up a sign undercutting ALL of our advertised prices. Additionally, he went and bought MORE balloons than we did, give away flowers to every female shopper, and called the police to complain about our sidewalk sale.

Solutions: We gave away free comic books, too - to every customer. We gave away back issues of KODT that we had, and this actually resulted in several sales of additional KODT comics from our shelf. To combat the guy next door, we were just more friendly, and more helpful - and every time someone parked and started toward our two buildings, we made sure to point out to them that we had free food inside - which resulted in several people diverting from his direction to ours. Now, generally, I do not fight with my neighbor - but he went out of his way to have a sign made to undercut my prices on a special event day. So, he can kiss my ass from here on out. Had he come to me, I would have bag stuffed my shoppers for him, with a flyer about his shop - but, instead, he ambushed me. Now, it is him or me.

Results: We beat our best sales day ever. We gave away over 200 cups of Hawaiian Punch, over 100 hotdogs. We sold out of Creepy Freaks (at cost), sold over 100 decks of playing cards (at about 150% margin), most of our records we wanted to dump (at 150% margin), over 100 of our $1 CD's (we paid $0.50 each), and sold several Mayfair games, two Video Game systems, and lots of general merchandise. We garnered all that information about customers - the beginning of our local database of shoppers - to whom we will send monthly flyers now. We had a TON of fun, the Mayfair guys were GREAT - and taught several games to a LOT of people. Some of our participants stayed to play 3 or 4 games, and one kid bought an armload of games (like, so many he couldn't carry them all in one trip).

After-Action Review, Lessons Learned: Next month we will do something similar. We will either include another publishers to do demo's, talk the Mayfair Guys into another trip, or simply have staff do demo's of a couple games all day. :) Additionally, we will continue to do the sidewalk sale component, and keep a close eye out for our neighbor, and try to keep pressure on him through our marketing and tactics of drawing people to OUR store. We will do a free food, special sale day with DEMO and Sidewalk Sale, and other marketing ideas, once a month, usually the Saturday after the 1st of the month.

My goal in sharing this with everyone is that I hope other retailers will see some idea's that they find useful to them. AND, I hope customers of retail stores will support such things if your local shop has one. Heck, volunteer to help run an event for your local retailer - we really DO appreciate that kind of committment.

As an online sell of games, I will ship anywhere, and will sell just about everything. You should check us out sometime at http://www.titangames.com. But, only if you can't find what you need locally. We don't undercut local stores, because without your local stores, the adventure-games hobby industry is all done. Nobody every learned to play a game from an online discounter!

I will send out a special THANKS to Will Niebling, William and Alex (of Mayfair Games) for their tireless efforts, and upbeat personalities and willingness to help us out! You guys rocked, and we had people here on Sunday excitedly buying some Mayfair Games, from the demo's you did on Saturday, and one guy who bought the Settlers game, saying he had played it Saturday night with a friend who bought it here after the demo on Saturday - that is very exciting to us.

SUNDAY: May 9th. Marcus and Laurel take the day off most Sundays. It was mothers day, so we went out to breakfast, and hung out all day - until our weekly RPG GAME session at 6PM (hey, you gotta keep your priorities straight).

Max and I share a character. He is 10, so he is not quite ready to play with everyone else on his own. We are playing CONAN by MONGOOSE Publishing. Mark Schumann (Origins Award Winning RPG Author) is running the game, and our character is a Noble. Brian Collins runs a Pirate. My daughter plays a Soldier, and a couple other players run barbarians. We got shanghaied and put to the oars on a galley, but escaped, and ended up taking the ship! (Mostly due to Max knocking the ships largest, toughest, fighter into the drink - and he being silly enough to be wearing some chainmail he had stolen, sunk pretty fast. Now, I guess we are stuck listening to Collins' Pirate, since he is the only one on the ship who knows how to sail.

Arrrrgh!

Marcus King
Titan Games
titangamesinc@aol.com

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What do you think?

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All Counter Talk columns by Marcus King

  • On Discounting by Marcus King, 15dec05
  • Think Different by Marcus King, 11oct05
  • GENCON, August, and TitanGames by Marcus King, 29aug05
  • Another Month at Titan Games by Marcus King, 06jul05
  • The Past Week at TitanGames by Marcus King, 10may05
  • The GAMA Trade Show by Marcus King, 13apr05
  • Con Jobs by Marcus King, 08mar05
  • Don't Skip The Retailer by Marcus King, 11feb05
  • How To Open Your Own Game Store by Marcus King, 14jan05
  • The Christmas Crunch by Marcus King, 22dec04
  • Light at the End of the Convention Tunnel by Marcus King, 15nov04
  • What It Takes To Open a Game Store by Marcus King, 15oct04
  • The Big 3 by Marcus King, 13sep04
  • Discoveries by Marcus King, 11aug04
  • Con-Man by Marcus King, 19jul04
  • Turmoil by Marcus King, 16jun04
  • Business is Business by Marcus King, 12may04
  • GAMA On! by Marcus King, 09mar04
  • On A Serious Note by Marcus King, 10feb04
  • Predictions for 2004 by Marcus King, 20jan04
  • Game Retailer or Game Club? by Marcus King, 11dec03
  • The Weather Changes... by Marcus King, 11nov03
  • The Deluge of Dead Products by Marcus King, 14oct03
  • The Conventional by Marcus King, 11sep03
  • Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings by Marcus King, 11aug03
  • Two weeks in the life of a retailer by Marcus King, 16jul03
  • In Store Gaming, and our love-hate relationship with it by Marcus King, 12jun03
  • Raising a Good Retailer by Marcus King, 28apr03
  • The customer is always right (right?) by Marcus King, 02apr03
  • Introductions by Marcus King, 24mar03
  • Jumping the Grand Canyon with Pikachu and Friends December 20, 1999
  • GTS'99 April 20, 1999

    Other columns at RPGnet

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