Behind the Counter
Turmoilby Marcus King
Behind the Counter
Turmoilby Marcus King
Well, so much turmoil this past week, it has me thinking about How we retail, where and to whom we retail, even IF we should retail.
Retailing today is a lot different than 10 years ago. In fact, the industry today barely resembles the industry we had 12 years ago at all. Collectible games weren't even a consideration to retailers in 1992. Then came Magic, and the slew of collectible card games that followed. Then, Mage Knight, and the other collectible miniatures games.
Along the way, we got eBay'd. :) The very nature of collectible games lent itself perfectly to the online auction of said collectibles. A perfect match, which now has grown to the point that I would guess that of the "tournament level" magic player pool 98% are eBay members. It is rare to see even a couple power-9 cards for sale in a shop, because players no longer sell those cards TO shops, they sell them on eBay, or to big dealers (I have had 5 P9 cards in the past year).
The internet itself has now become a big part of most manufacturers strategy as well. Online sales directly to consumers is such a better deal for a manufacturer that they are silly not to capitalize on it. I am not bemoaning this, at all. Lest something think otherwise, let me state here that I believe that when a publisher develops a property, they have every right to sell it as they see fit (but, not all retailers agree with this). This past week, I have been party to several discussions with other retailers who feel that a manufacturer or publisher selling their own wares online is a clear indication that the retailer should stop supporting those manufacturers. More on this later.
Meanwhile, the barrier for entering into publishing has been lowered by some factors, as well. d20 is one, and print on demand, and the lowering cost of printing of RPG books is another. I think there may be more "active" game manufacturers and publishers today than there have ever been, at any other time in our industry's history. D20 has given credibility to many a small press company, who didn't have to develop their own core rule books, or game system, they simply wrote a module or supplement for the most popular Role Playing Game in the world, and were allowed to publish it. Until recently, they needn't even get approval of content.
Also, it is easier to get published now. Locally, the printer who does my flyers has the ability to do glossy cover magazines (ala Dragon or Dungeon) and both soft bound, and hardcover books. Minimum quantity to make it profitable: 250 (I know, I am working on a d20 module, like everyone else in the industry). Yet, all of these things: Collectible games, the internet, eBay, web sales by manufacturers, more numerous publishers, and a lower barrier to enter the industry as a publisher - all of this has had detrimental effects on the stability of retailers as a whole.
No retailer can carry everything today, so a customer that comes in and asks for a product the retailer has never heard of may never come back. But, the flood of new products has made retailers choosy about what they buy and stock. Heck, distributors don't carry everything. Some of the most profitable lines I carry, I have to get direct from manufacturers who are not supported by the distributors I use.
And, every retailer has stories about the loss of sales to the internet, through eBay, manufacturer's own sites, etc. Some are becoming bitter about this issue.
Today, in my opinion, it is unreasonable for a retailer to think they can just "not sell" a product by any company who sells their products online. I mean, what would be left to sell? WotC sells Magic and D&D online. Nearly every leading product is sold at manufacturers websites - in fact, I cannot think of a product that I sell that is not available online.
So, is retail dead? How "do" we retail in the game industry today?
At TitanGames, we are rebranding ourselves. We are going into selling used video games, buying publishers overruns and dead products to sell online and at conventions. We are beginning our trend toward being "An Entertainment Store". We are buying used music CD's (originals only) and used DVD's (again, only originals) to resell. We are looking into a new location to begin selling Comics at, and we are going to start carrying Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Horror and a few other used books. Lastly, we plan to open up a LAN for computer gamers, and have a dedicated game room and run events regularly.
We think that "Game Retailing" may be something of a dinosaur, and that to stay IN the game industry we may have to branch OUT of it, selling a larger variety of products that bring our game customers in more often, and bring in a totally different bunch of customers, who can be exposed to "Adventure" or "Collectible" games for the first time.
Hope to sell you at Origins game convention, where we will be selling "just" games. :)