Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thoughts, Part 7

Yesterday was the first of May, and in addition to what JoCo would recommend we be doing, this meant the beginning of a whirlwind cycle of releases, convention appearances, and oh yeah moving the Gilbert store to adjacent Chandler, as is now about 98% likely.  Basically barring some critical lease problem, we have moved forward working on DSG New and look to wrap construction in time for a fall opening.  I'll post updates sometimes.

MTG Amonkhet launched very well, especially for an off-cycle large set, and pound-for-pound basically did better than Modern Masters 2017 for us.  In part I think this might have been a bad time to hold the line at MSRP.  I felt stung by having pushed so hard with Eternal Masters and seeing other dealers scoop up MSRP with ease, and I wanted to hedge in any case against the softness that we saw after Modern Masters 2015 landed.  This time I didn't really need to hedge so I figured, OK, I'm going to take the approach I saw the larger and more stable dealers do.  Only to have most of the market dump the set.  I vented a little bit of it at market but with my last dozen cases I'm off that plan, I'm going to sell it a pack at a time now and follow the market price up... eventually.  I still have Eternal Masters in stock.  Magic is stabilizing for me after Aether Revolt underperformed in the early frames.

Games Workshop's new policies go into effect tomorrow for hobby retailers.  A minimum advertised price of 85% of MSRP as well as permission to sell online under assorted guidelines.  I think a lot of stores will rush to sync their stock to Amazon or eBay, and since there can be no price competition really, we won't actually see that become a revenue driver.  I am going to hold off on that and instead work on mastering the buy-on-your-phone-and-pick-up-at-the-shop process through our website that has already proven a winner for Magic and Destiny singles and event registration.  DSG's existing wargamer community is pretty healthy the way it is and we want to keep that focus local.  Getting the staff accustomed to minis and especially paint and supplies orders through the web system will be good exercise and a chance to get some more efficiency of scale there.

Hasbro has quietly been ingesting some classic Avalon Hill and Wizards of the Coast titles, moving them from the subsidiary catalog up to the main imprint.  Acquire and RoboRally are already done, and we'll see which games get tabbed next.  My two tabletop distributors, GTS and Alliance, are both selling Hasbro-branded merch firsthand now.  GTS already had a deal in place with Diamond that included Previews Exclusive SKUs, and Alliance is, well, part of Diamond.  I am stopping short of foretelling suffering to come or any such thing; I just wonder if we are seeing a significant piece of the consolidation trail played out quietly before us, in realtime.

I'm stuck on a metrics pinion right now.  A fair number of board games and miniatures failed to meet turns for Q1.  In terms of cash flow management, the correct move is to clearance them with a sale of some kind.  But with DSG Next so close upon us, I'm going to want a lot of product to fill up all that footage.  What do you do when you don't really want to clear the deadwood because you know bonfire season is approaching?  In the end I think I'll cash out some chips with a sale, but it will be small and understated compared to my usual strike first strike hard no mercy sir closeouts.

Online traffic continues to pick up.  TCGPlayer is adding Final Fantasy and Destiny to its offerings, which suits me just fine to be perfectly truthful, as I am already dealing in both.  It's irksome seeing a 90%/10% split of online/in-store singles sales, when the transactional cost is so much better in-store and these buyers are passing up a lower price card-by-card to buy through TCGPlayer.  (I use a multiplier to defray fees with a 20% price bump; all DSG website and in-store singles sales pay 20% less.)  But volume, man, volume.  With mastered subprocesses there's an opportunity there.  I have some great folks in the high-end dealer community to thank for teaching me how that works.

Square doesn't offer the best rates for credit card interchange, and they don't offer the fastest payment (though you can insta-withdraw for a small surcharge).  But their system really is easy and faults are rare.  I finally ran into one this week where the chip dipper kept disconnecting for some reason.  In the end deleting the Square app from that iPad and redownloading it fixed the problem.  Have you tried turning it off and on again?  With their use of device codes so I don't have to give all and sundry my Square login credentials, I think they've got a winning system.  PayPal Here is close but I still run into technical problems more often than anyone should.  Saving money on the interchange rate is extremely important but how much money do you lose when there's an interruption in your ability to take payments?

We ran a table at Zapcon 5 last weekend, an arcade game and pinball convention that wasn't really tailored toward shopping, but where I wanted to get some more exposure now that video games are becoming prominent for us.  It was cool to see the guys from The Gaming Zone, Starfighters Arcade, and Game Over again, and we appreciate Wes and the Zapcon organization inviting us.  We sold out of everything Rick & Morty, sold most of the Nintendo marketing trinkets I brought (there is more), and sold a respectable amount of Magic and Pokemon cards.  I think if we're invited back I'm going to find some way to feature console free play or testing at our booth, since we had electricity at no extra charge.  I took a few jaunts into the game room and most of what I wanted to play had a line waiting, but that's OK in my world -- it means people are enjoying something I am passionate about.

Speaking of which, I got myself an X-Bone for my birthday, without much of a clear direction for what games I wanted to play on it, figuring to use Plex and the media center functions.  I had already played a bit of Destiny and Forza Horizon, as well as brief durdling on Dark Souls III and Deus Ex Mankind Divided.  That last one, by the way, has some solid worldbuilding in it.  I love me a good twenty-minutes-into-the-future storyline, and Mankind Divided executes that splendidly.  Forza delivers as promised in the racing department, which I occasionally decide to obsess over.  But the revelation on the Xbox One thus far has been Moon Studios' masterpiece Ori and the Blind Forest.  I was given the recommendation by people I trust, and wow, I was not ready for the impact of this game.
Most of what I might tell you about Ori has already been said.  It's beautiful, both visually and musically -- perhaps the best ever.  It's a mechanical delight, the pinnacle of both the Metroidvania mechanic specifically and 2D platforming generally.  And the story is Pixar quality, including the requisite "all those feels."  I would not have regretted buying the system solely to play this game.

I do have some other games -- about a third of my DLC from the Xbox 360 ported over, and most of our disc titles are apparently on the backward-compatible list.  I picked up Mighty No. 9 at the right price and I'm ready for a letdown but hoping for the best.  I'm told that Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Axiom Verge, and Batman Arkham Knight are also worth a look.  There seems to be an abundance of high-production-value first-person-shooters and sports games on the platform, but I can't do much with those these days.  I just don't have the patience for them, and even as I was able to appreciate the tactile polish of Destiny, I could not summon up the urge to play more.  I didn't even redeem my code for Madden 17 that came with the console.

Once the store has enough systems in stock, I'll procure a Playstation 4 so I can try that silly VR thing, and play titles like Journey and The Last of Us that I've had strongly recommended to me.  The kids have their Wii U to play the LEGO games on... and Minecraft.

Hope everyone's May is off to a great start.  Enjoy the onset of summer!

1 comment:

  1. lol I love my silly VR thing. Not many long or involved games on it yet but it's got a good amount of fun arcady games. And the Star Wars VR mission which was everything my childhood wanted.