Saturday, December 19, 2015

Asmodee's Specialty Retail Policy: Paving the Board Game Utopia

The big news this weekend (not counting Star Wars) is the reorganization of Asmodee, Fantasy Flight Games and Days of Wonder into a globular amalgamation of board gaming intellectual property. And the biggest news from within that amalgamation is the new sales agreement Asmodee has announced they will try to use to save their retail margins and rescue everyone’s favorite local gaming store from the brink of extinction.

At least, that’s why I assume they are doing it. Ultimately, behind the corporate speak, only the executives at this new Asmodee North America truly know all the reasoning.

What we have is a agreement all retailers will be expected to sign, that severely limits their rights to resell their own property purchased from one of only 5 approved Asmodee North America distributors.

Advice is Cheap, But the Games Won’t Be

I don’t own a game store. But what I do see is a world full of game stores, both online and brick-and-mortar. And I have trouble envisioning why any type of trade agreement like this would ever turn out as a good thing for anyone involved. It’s not like its a new thing, small publishers of niche products have tried to control their retail channels ever since Games Workshop began slowly strangling itself to death doing the same thing back in the early 90’s. You have to buy at certain percentages. You have to sell at certain prices. You can’t sell online.

One of the few benefits to running your own game store is being your own boss. At least, I have to imagine it is. Any report from any “specialty retailer” has first and foremost reiterated it is not about the money. There are far easier ways in this world to slowly spiral into bankruptcy.

Why do We Even Have Favorite Local Gaming Stores?

This agreement, along with opening your eyes and looking at the world around you, both seem to indicate there are plenty of ways to buy cheap board games. Even the most hard-to-find game, if its in print, you can no doubt buy it somewhere at a discount.

In the cold, uncaring marketplace the Asmodee Specialty Retail Policy is fighting the good fight. To keep those faithful retailers making the profit they deserve. But what have retailers been doing in the meantime?

I’ve personally seen the typical gaming store evolve to cope with these challenges. The competent retailer has not stood by and watched people showroom their aisles and load up on their Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Cthulhu-based board games online. Heck, one of the biggest examples of the NEW board game store is the flagship retail establishment run by the former Fantasy Flight Games itself.

There’s places to play your games. Spaces to hang out with people. Food to eat. Drinks to drink. Demo copies of new titles for you to try out.

No online store can offer any of these amenities. They can only compete on price.

Getting Them in the Door

Ask anyone in sales, and they’ll tell you the biggest challenge is just getting people to show up. Once someone has walked into your establishment, they’re already halfway made up in their mind they’re going to buy something. Heck, when I go in a game store it take incredible, almost impossible force of will to leave without buying something.

So even if the prices are higher, if you bring people into your store you will no doubt get sales. And all of the previous reasons are exactly why people go in there. Buying the board games is almost secondary. Anybody can buy board games, any time. You see the ads on Board Game Geek. They’re all over the place.

Retailers don’t need the help. So maybe this agreement will really help Asmodee turn into a super-profitable game company, a board game Google, ready to take the entire board game industry to the next level.

Well, here’s the problem. Even with the acquisition of a couple other HUGE publishing juggernauts, there’s one inescapable fact:

Plenty of Board Game Fish in the Sea

Anyone can publish a board game. There are more small board game publishers than there are stars in the sky. Go ahead and try to count them sometime.

How will this affect the board game industry?

It won’t. No matter how hard they try, I don’t anticipate any time of agreement forced on retailers to do anything whatsoever. Except destroy Asmodee’s relevance in this changing niche economy. And even then, there are so many other companies ready to fill in the gap should even the mightiest oak fall I don’t see that as a problem.

While I’m sure board gamers are already jumping out the second floors of their townhouses in anticipation of some big board game collapse, there’s just no way for it to happen. Buy the games you want to buy, however you want to buy them. And visit the establishments you want to patronize. And if you’re a retailer, enjoy your independence and feel free to shun any board game company forcing you to sign overly complex agreements. Because your clientele aren’t coming to you for the board games. They’re coming to you because you’re you.

Some famous cartoon character once said it best: "Screw those guys."

No comments:

Post a Comment