Publishers and Product Devaluation

Welcome back to Tabula Rasa! I hope you all spent the week as sad as I did as I read stories from our colleagues. I was sent several others, and we're going to share those in the future, but this week I want to talk about things that are important to my industry. Talk to any good retailer on a regular basis and eventually you are sure to hear the term “product devaluation”. For the most part the problems with this industry stem from the poor practices of retailers. I'm sorry if you disagree with me, and you're entitled to do so, but that's how I see it. If you want to find the problems in the game industry, check out retailers. A short list of things retailers do wrong...a free-form poem by John.

Shoddy lighting, dirty restrooms, and dungeon-like stores

Contribute to the theory that our hobbies are for trolls.

Unwelcome environments where people are told they're wrong

Teach customers to shop on Amazon where they think their dollar is strong.

Clubhouses, garage stores, and all manner of stink

Make it far more profitable to just pour money down the sink... Thank you, thank you very much. :) I promise to stick to retail instead of poetry. Now, despite my belief that retailers are to blame for much of what ails the industry, there is a certain amount of it that falls on publishing. Obviously it's bad for publishing if products are devalued. No publisher wants to make a game with a $50 price tag and see it sold for $30 online. That game looks like it has less value, and a game with less value gets placed on fewer retail shelves, and ultimately ends up with a shorter life span. Worse, if the devaluation hits something a publisher believed in, they could end up sitting on tens of thousands of dollars of product that no one wants because there is clearly something wrong with it, why else would the $50.00 game be $30.00 on every single website. But, strangely, publishing is at least partially guilty of “forcing” retail into devaluing some products through the use of poorly designed promotions. I love promotions, and there are a lot of great promotions offered to retail by publishing, but there are also a lot of promotions that are dangerous to retail, and retail compensates by mitigating their own danger through the dumping of product on line. What the heck is he talking about? Sometimes publishers offer us really cool stuff. Sometimes they tell us “Buy this stuff, and we'll give you this stuff.” Those offers run the gamut of huge opportunities for something cool to HUGE opportunities to close your business. Want some super generic examples? Buy FIVE – Get One Free! These can be awesome offers, these can be disastrous offers. I am a mid-sized game store, which means a great game is something I might take six copies of on release, and a good game might be three copies on release, and a game that no one has mentioned to me but I thought looked cool, that's one copy. Also, that can change based on the retail. If you want to give me a free copy of a $40 board game for buying five now I'll have a demo copy to use to sell the other five, and selling those five got a hell of a lot easier. On the other hand, you want me to buy five copies of something that retails at $100.00, now we have a problem. BUY 60 – GET 3 FREE Not making this up, at all. A very popular card game, not just popular, but an award winning card game. And it's not like they wanted me to take 60 of the same thing, or three copies of the thing that I bought 60 of. They wanted me to buy 60 copies of their games, (three different games), and in exchange get three oversized demo copies. Sounds pretty cool. I mean, if it weren't a three year old game widely available at 25% off from any of about seventeen online marketplaces. Buy $1,000 in Wholesale Inventory – Get a Free Table I love the company responsible for this promotion. I believe in a couple of their products deeply, and some of their products have performed very well for me on my demo tables... But they're not a huge company. Despite my love of some of their products I worry about this promotion because there just isn't enough variety of products to order here. I'm worried about the effect this promotion has on a couple of their key product lines. Why am I worried?

Because retailers are stupid. Not all retailers, but just enough of them. I've seen it happen. Retailers make a silly squealing sound and go “FREE SHIT”, without thinking about what they're going to spend on their free shit. So, in order to get a little free shit they overspend, and when rent comes due they look around their stores and go “Well, I've got 60 copies of Game XYZ, let's just move that shit on Amazon to pay rent!” And now the $20 game is $15, and the $50 game is $35. They don't care if they make profit, they care if they make keep the lights on and eat some ramen. Is this the fault of publishers, not completely. Adult business owners should make better decisions, but it would be nice if publishing would make it harder for them to make bad decisions.

So, how does publishing do this right? I'm going to use IELLO as an example here, because two of their promotions are front of mind for me these days. For the holidays there is a King of Tokyo promotion that is super simple to understand, for every copy of King of Tokyo you buy for your store you get a smashy X-Mas Tree dude promo to give away in some way. Genius promotion, because it's simple, it scales to the store that only need three KOT and the store that need 30 KOT, and they both benefit equally.

Promotions like this decrease the risk of over-purchasing and thereby decrease the risk of online dumping. Let's do more of them! Next week...to borrow from Games Workshop... Profit is not a dirty word!

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