Thankful I'm Not a Publisher

I've been at this a while. I remember struggling through "Expansion Year", when there were no decent board game releases and all I could sell was Widow's Walk, over and over. In 2017 the paradigm shifted to 3,000 new board games in a year. From that 3,000 it was on each retailer to do their research and figure out what they could sell, then bring it in and sell the heck out of it. With 3,000 new titles over the course of the year there were a great many releases that were chaff, wasted money, very difficult to sell. That's not say they were bad games, many of them were decent games that didn't have marketing hype around them because they got lost in the piles and piles of other games on the market. We did really well in that market, seeing a substantial increase in real dollar sales of board games, and seeing the department grow as a percentage of our business. Enter 2018, where the paradigm appears to be shifting again, something I've enjoyed talking to publishers about while attending the GAMA Trade Show, CMON Expo, and this most recent trip, ACD GamesDay. I have a belief, which I will now share and you can call me crazy. If you give me a good game I can demo it in 90 seconds or so, and sell it. My demo tables tend to be covered in $50 games that offer some form of price protection. Sometimes it's a $60 game, sometimes it's a $40 game, but my favorite thing in the world to sell is a $50 game that looks good on a table, is simple enough to explain easily, and that I can demo in sell in 90 seconds. New ones don't exist right now, sadly.

Last year I rode Bunny Kingdom to the top spot in my store by units sold. It's adorable to look at, a ton of fun, and simple enough that I can demo the heck out of it and sell the heck out of it. I expected that the first quarter of 2018 would give me another $50 title I could ride like that, but it hasn't happened yet. I'm still selling Bunny Kingdom, Azul, and Sagrada. I'm still selling Scythe, Mountains of Madness, and Potion Explosion. At the same time, when it comes to new games the biggest movers for me are Wing It!, Fairy Tile, and Decrypto, three items that have on thing in common. They're not $50. It seems like every game I've put my hands on this year has been twenty bucks, twenty-five bucks, or thirty bucks. I'm happy to sell those games too if they're good games, but it's a numbers issue. Because something is cheaper doesn't mean you automatically sell more of it, we each have a finite number of customers, so the entire thing becomes about math. 50 copies of a $50 game is $2,500 in sales. If I needed 90 seconds on each demo I spent 4,500 seconds, or 75 minutes, on those sales. That means I made $33.33 in sales each minute. 50 copies of a $30 games is $1,500 in sales. If I needed 90 seconds on each demo I still spent 4,500 seconds, or 75 minutes, on those sales. That means I made $20 in sales each minute. I love selling all kinds of games, but I love doing demos and hand selling games that are $50, but the industry appears to be undergoing yet another change. Those games just aren't coming out right now, and I have a theory... That goes back to price protection. You see, it's easier to sell a $20 game with no MAP than it is a $50 or $60 game with no MAP. Seeing the $60 game for $40 (33% off) on Amazon sends retailers into attack mode against the publisher, and that difference actually matters to the consumer as well. At the same time, the $25 game for $18 or so buck doesn't move the needle as much for consumers. They'l take 'get it now' for $7, but will gleefully take 'wait two days' for $20. So, it probably just feels easier to make twenty and thirty dollar games. And to be honest, they're easier to sell as well.

It's just that with a finite number of consumers, it's easier to sell 50 copies of a $50 game and make $2,500 than it is to sell 125 copies of a $20 game and make that same money. With another year upon us that will see 3,000 new board game releases we still, as retailers, are drowning in new product and left to figure out what's any good on our own, but more and more those products aren't expensive enough to seriously move the needle. I'm really thankful I'm not a publisher in this environment. Whether your company is releasing one game or twenty games this year you have to work much harder now to catch the attention of consumers, and of retailers, who are drowning in the flood.

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