(A not-so-fictional story, presented in three parts...)
Episode I Mean People Suck
It is a period of uncivil war. Old guard retailers, vocal and openly hostile to publishing, strike out with impunity against the people who should be partners in their money-making endeavor.
During these wars publishers begin to withdraw from the battlefield. It is not worth fighting a battle where the other side cares nothing for your business concerns and is not interested in understanding you.
Pursued across media by anger and vitriol, publishing found an unlikely ally, younger retailers, newer retailers, who understood the importance of open communication and mutual respect between the tiers. Relentlessly heckled by the 'old guard', these retailers bravely crossed space to hold open and respectful communication with their publishing partners....
If that sounds like fiction to you, I quote from a great movie when I say 'It's true, all of it.' The tiers were toxic to one another, respect existed only between small groups or individuals and the two sides of this great uncivil war were unable to come to any agreement on what customers wanted, and how to best steer our dungeon dwelling hobby into the hearts and minds of more people, and put more games on tables.
Into that fray stepped my predecessors. Called all sorts of horrible things by ancient, nearly extinct, dinosaurs of the retail industry, these brave men and women fought back. They showed our publishing partners respect, and slowly made it possible for publishers to share information, to solicit new ideas, to discuss some of the challenges they face.
We came out of the dark times, and as we came out of the dark times the industry flourished. Both sides suffered some challenges; retail feels the pressure of eCommerce and discounting, and publishing feels the pressures of a market glutted with product. The great games still get found and put on tables, but good games get missed as retailers and consumers relentlessly pursue the next fidget spinners.
How long ago was this? Not that long. As I entered the industry six years ago we were still feeling the effects of those times.
Episode II Things Suck Less
Through the efforts of new leadership, things get better between publishing and retail. The old guard has been driven from their positions of implied power, and a collective of retailers works with publishing, and with one another, to insure that everyone in the industry has access to the tools needed for success.
Evading the dreaded old guard, these newly empowered retailers seek out new allies, new friends, new kindred spirits, to push forward the hobby in a time of further digitization.
The evil old guard, pawn shop owners and junk dealers, continue to spout their hatred, and attempt to recruit new followers into their backward and counterproductive movement....
This is roughly akin to the place the industry was when I first joined. Facebook groups were loud, angry, places, where a handful of counterproductive voices attempted to bewitch new retailers to their previously failed methods of communication.
I was stuck in a cesspool of anger and hatred. I never learned anything except how to be more angry and more filled with hatred. But, I also knew what I didn't know, and at that time I didn't know a damn thing. A decade of running bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, doesn't prepare you for this industry. I'm not actually sure anything prepares you for this industry.
But knowing what I didn't know was a great blessing. I sat silently for that first year, just trying to learn which voices provided signal and which provided noise. When I attended my first GAMA Trade Show in Vegas I sat quiet as a mouse, and if you know me you know how hard that was. In every room I identified the people who asked good questions, and the people who traveled to Vegas to drink and criticize. I went out of my way to meet the former, and I avoided the latter, unwilling to be covered in the stink of their negative attitudes and unwillingness to listen to multiple sides of any issue.
Episode III The Golden Age
Our publishing partners have opened their doors and shared with us, and together the tiers have escaped from the horrors of an adversarial past.
But little did we know that the old guard has found a new tool, and new allies. Social media platforms have both made it easier for our partners to share with us, and made that sharing more fraught with perils. Striking from behind their keyboards, 'retail justice warriors' make a mockery of the work done before them. They build little coalitions and attack every announcement from their potential partners with the most hateful of terms.
If they get their way, we are not far from publishing taking their toys and going home. Why share your exciting news when it is met by hatred by a faceless mass of people who care for nothing but their own business....
What brought on this story today, you might be asking? Well, today's story was inspired by an announcement from WizKids and Games Workshop, that was graciously shared across social media platforms by Justin Ziran, the man in charge of WizKids. It didn't come through some media aggregate or a press release, but through the President of WizKids, who took time to share a press release across platforms so we could be better informed retailers.