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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

International Tabletop Day 2015 Post-Mortem Review

It seems like I'm doing a lot of post-mortems these days, despite not being in the funerary industry.  Nonetheless, I've had feedback that these are helpful articles and less uninteresting than my usual fare, so here we go!

Tabletop is a web video series hosted by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and published by Geek & Sundry (G&S).  The hosts join guest stars every few weeks or so and play through a board game or miniatures game on camera, using fun graphics to teach viewers how the game works.

The Tabletop episodes, then, are essentially the best demos the games can ever have, short of being taught in person, so as soon as a game has appeared on Tabletop, it usually flies off the shelves and runs to immediate backorder with distributors.  While this state of affairs is no doubt a positive one for publishers, it creates difficulty for store owners, who are left with empty shelves and a customer public that is disappointed and figures if they're going to have to wait, might as well just buy the thing on Amazon.

Tabletop has kindly released their game roster ahead of time for the past two seasons, giving retailers ample warning to stock up on those titles.  For the current third season, this has worked well for me.  I have been able to move excellent quantities of Tokaido, Love Letter, Forbidden Desert, Sheriff of Nottingham, Dead of Winter, and Catan Junior.  I continue to see great velocity from titles featured in seasons 1 and 2 of Tabletop, among them Carcassonne, X-Wing, Once Upon a Time, King of Tokyo, The Resistance, Fluxx, Pandemic, and so on.  Among all those titles, the hardest to keep stocked recently has been Dead of Winter, with Plaid Hat Games's fulfillment through PSI being abysmal.  It's a hot game, released in late 2014, and most gamers don't have it already, meaning quite a few of them want it.  Yeah, Catan and Small World and Ticket to Ride always sell, but most gamers already own those, so demand is a more steady drip.

So, imagine my happiness when I learned that a special edition of Dead of Winter was included with the ITD 2015 exclusive promo box!  G&S offered a promo kit and a promo box, the latter of which, as it turns out, included the kit.  I bought four of each, two each from my primary distributor GTS and my secondary distributor Alliance.  Had I known then what I know now, I might simply have bought the boxes, perhaps three boxes per distributor and no kits.  The main value was in that Dead of Winter game.

There has been great disagreement on the various Facebook game and comic retailer private groups over whether or not the ITD promos should be sold.  These are items stores had to buy; they were not given to us for promotion.  Stores like DSG readily give out promos that we are furnished at no cost.  The archetypical example of this is Wizards of the Coast's Friday Night Magic program, which has set a very high standard for efficient and effective promo trading card disbursement.  For ITD, store offerings ran the gamut.  Some stores held raffles, scavenger hunts, tournaments, and such, where participation earned a customer some promo or another from the ITD kit/box.  Some sold all the promos online.

However, I took a different approach.  Since earlier in the week, we had been getting calls from people who wanted to know if they could just buy the promos and be done with it.  They didn't want to jump through hoops, they just wanted to get the promo, go home, and play.  Since a lot of DSG's demographic is made up of families and working adults, where time is as much a resource as money, I opted to cater to this demand.  Some of the promos were free, virtually all of them were free-with-purchase (such as getting the Wil/Felicia Fluxx pack free with the purchase of any edition of Fluxx), and those where I still had enough remaining to sell, I sold at nominal prices well below the going eBay rates.

Customer traffic on ITD was less than I expected, but more than nothing.  I think a fair number of people stayed home and watched the YouTube live stream from Wil and Felicia, rather than playing games at their Friendly Local Game Store.  Our events all fired, but not by a wide margin.  About halfway through the day I saw that we had some solid sales of the promo materials, but we were not on pace to run out of them, so I yanked a bunch of them off the sales floor and quickposted them on eBay.  We sold several hundred items from Saturday through Tuesday.  When the early posts had promo items like the Fluxx packs and Dixit cards at ten bucks or so, I came in at $4.99 and cleaned up.  By the time my supplies ran low, everyone else had saturated the resale market and they were all competing for the scraps.  The Felicia Day Dead of Winter promos sold for an average of $45.00 each.  Wow.  I had a few customers turn their noses up at the bare promo for $29.99 in-store.  We quickly sold three of our four ITD Editions of Dead of Winter in-store with the promo included for $100.  The fourth went for $150 on eBay.

So, was International Tabletop Day 2015 a success?  I would have to call it a push.  I think a beautiful spring Saturday when we might have seen depressed traffic and sales anyway was lifted up into an average, perhaps slightly-better-than-average day.  I think the kits and boxes were far overpriced for what we got, and I will be much more skeptical about buying heavily into them in 2016 if they are offered.  However, on some level and to some degree of involvement, I think DSG will participate again in the future.

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