Quote from mikeyG »Did MtG sales dip through the spring? Are sales rebounding this summer with things reopening? I've seen conflicting reports (evidently Q1 revenues were up, but covid really only struck in the last slice of that quarter so Q2 sales will be the better datapoint). Q3 may see that uptick with reopens shifting perception, but I do wonder how the unemployment and housing crises may have blunted the MtG sales recovery.
Quote from Desert Sky Games »
One of the most stressful aspects of the COVID pandemic for game stores is that it artificially amplifies constraints. Dealing with this day in and day out starts to wear on a store owner, and I start to feel like Keanu Reeves in that new Bill & Ted 3 trailer, when he says, "We've been trying to write this song and save the world our whole lives. And I'm tired, dude."
You said it, Ted "Theodore" Logan. I'm tired, dude. Tired of every business component taking more work than it should. Tired of getting chewed out by every deadbeat who thinks we should price-match limited edition product pre-orders against the smallest store in town who pre-sold-out their one case of boosters in an hour at a nickel over cost. Tired of having arrival traffic down 90% because people call to check pinpoint stock on Nintendo Switches and virtually nothing downstream of that. And tired of the vocal minority who think we're political puppets or worse for keeping the game room closed and requiring facemasks.
But I think the amplification of constraints is the most difficult thing, because it forms a vicious circle of interdependency. Here, maybe showing you the moving parts will make this clearer.
The best Dungeons & Dragons product slate ever is on store shelves today. Right now. We have the best new sourcebooks: Theros, Eberron, and Wildemount, with limited edition covers for two of them. We have a staggering variety of dice in every color and material and in every price range. We have the best miniatures the game has ever had in the WizKids Nolzur's Marvelous line, far higher quality at a lower inflation-adjusted price than even the classic Ral Partha pewters. We have maps, dice trays, dice towers, character folios, and more. And now we have Warlock Tiles, head-and-shoulders the finest immersive terrain components D&D has ever seen.
Despite all of the above, we've seen only a fraction of the sales we'd usually get in the category. Many of our regular players have been in, and their purchasing makes up essentially all the sales we've gotten of this merch. But a majority of D&D players disappeared with COVID. We don't know what this means. In-store play is, of course, not happening, and I wonder whether it will ever be back. Zoom/Skype style play seems to be thriving. Tangible game elements become somewhat less important then. I've long speculated that the "giant table-sized iPad" appliance might virtualize much of the RPG experience, but we might reach the same effective outcome because of remote play instead of digitally-augmented in-person play. I think there will be a COVID vaccine eventually or it will burn through and be subject to herd immunity, and people will come back to the table to have wonderful times adventuring together. How long before that? A year? Three years?
So since we placed orders well before the pandemic for current D&D stock, and indeed already owned the bulk of our D&D inventory well in advance of that, we now have a huge amount of somewhat illiquid merchandise, that doesn't ship that well and isn't fast-moving like video games or Magic singles, and that even generous bundle specials only modestly move the needle on. It's not a simple case of $N worth of D&D being on the shelf, where we could liquidate it and have $N. It's the frozen turn rate. We should have $N multiplied many times over as the product comes in, sells, is replaced, sells again, and so on. It's difficult to articulate just how great the scale of this can get to an outside observer.
That same effect is happening in board games as well. We saw reasonable throughput on board games on our way into the lockdown and shortly after re-opening, and board games are a commodity category for DSG anyway. That means we stock greatest hits and new hotness, and discount it all, in order to push for market share and establish a competitive position against other local stores, without risking our real meal tickets, Magic singles and video games. But now that we're kinda sorta reopened, and people are mostly back to work, the public has all the board games it needs, and is buying far fewer of them from us, even with price tags well below Amazon. They just finished a plate of steak and lobster. They don't need seconds. So it stacks up.
With the two main general tabletop categories slowing down sales, we see them overflowing their racks. And we can't get more of the kind of racks we use right now because restocks from China are still pending transoceanic shipment. So even though we're the biggest game store in the Valley, we actually don't have enough room for all our merchandise right now. Even with a giant empty floor where the game room used to be. We should use game tables to display merch, perhaps, but (1) that's awful looking, (2) it has to be taken back apart anyway once we can reopen the game room, and (3) we're buying some really nice upgraded tables so we're currently selling off the existing ones.
Less room up front and lower sales of general tabletop means we need to lean harder on singles sales, where space isn't as big of an issue. But we're also constrained on labor! Fast and furious sales via TCGPlayer since the first stimulus landed have resulted in our million-card inventory being whittled down to, as of this writing, about 450,000 cards. We're still buying every single day, for cash or credit, and it's not enough. We have at least 300k cards in the back office right now in various stages of processing that are not entered into TCGPlayer. We're losing sales every day from people who ask for cards we know we have in the next "waves" to process, but aren't done yet, and are cost-ineffective to deep dive for on an ad-hoc basis. Our existing back-office staff are running at red-line, they have almost zero slow time on the clock.
So why not add more labor? Ah, but how are we going to pay for it? Sales are coming up shallow in D&D and board games, so we don't have "overflow" revenue available to shift toward Magic labor, which is designed to cover its own normal/ordinary pace of intake and sales, and instead is overwhelmed right now. It's fairly common for a game store with large business components to take from some and give unto others, resource-wise, in an internally Marxist fashion of sorts. But when there isn't any surplus elsewhere, and every department is subsidizing every other, there's no wealth to redistribute. (There's probably a greater political lesson to be taught here, but I'm staying well clear of that.)
Thus, we have a dire shortage of Magic singles, our highest-volume category, which we actually do own but can't get processed into the system fast enough, for which we badly need labor, which we could afford if every product category were performing even at average levels, but the two general tabletop categories are both running very thin right now, constraining all parts of this resource chain. And thus it is that Griffin and I spend significant parts of our working days plugging in labor wherever it fits, so as to give both front-of-house and back-of-house staff as much unobstructed throughput as possible. And it's still not enough.
I'm tired, dude.
Quote from user_938036 »It sounds like you are perfectly explaining why Magic doesn't reprint to appease their vocal fans because they learned the lesson that overprinting desired cards causes the collapse of the system. Is that what you meant? If so what is that middle paragraph? It's at odds with the first and last one. Is there something I am missing in what you are saying?
Quote from Feyd_Ruin »Things used to be easier. The reserve list, by definition, shows that WotC once openly acknowledged the secondary market.
One could easily argue that they are now legally bound to it as a Promissory Estoppel, and as such it would be "grandfathered" in as acceptable (since revoking it to align with current laws would also put them legally liable) — as long as they never add to it.
Now days, however, the laws have changed and they have to walk a tight rope.
Reprinting cards to lower prices is, by itself, an absolute acknowledgement of the secondary market. This is why they can never refer to the prices of cards, especially with regards to reprints. They reprint cards that are "desirable" or to "increase supply" in order for more people to play with them. While these two things directly affect price, they can say they're doing the former without acknowledging the latter. It's very much a tight rope.
As to the real question at hand:How can we make these products in a way that allows that audience to get what they want without all of you feeling like we're doing harm to you?Reprint sets should be used to increase supply of desirable cards.
Secret Lair, Promos, Special Pack versions, Alternate Arts, Alternate Frames, etc, should be for the big spenders.
It's the exact same as regular cards vs foil cards that's been here for years. Some people just want cards to play with, so they can enjoy the game, while some love foiling out their entire deck. Give the people who just want to play the game more access to desirable, playable cards, and give the people who like bling fancy versions that we awe at.
Want proof that this will work?
Sol Ring, normal version, is sub $5 from multiple sets.
Sol Ring, Judge Reward, is $190.
Sol Ring, Inventions, is $345.
And sol ring isn't some special case either.
Lotus Petal, normal version, is $8.
Lotus Petal, From the Vault, is $37
Lotus Petal, Inventions, is $125.
Bling caters to that higher-spending audience, which they will pay for, while basic reprints (should) cater to all players. We fully expect to pay more for fancy versions, and many will pay handsomely for it. But average players need to not be priced out of the game because basic format-defining cards have their demand so much higher then their supply.
This would also directly help you to pretend the secondary market doesn't exist. This set isn't more expensive because it contains cards that the secondary market has driven the price up on, they're more expensive only because they're special, rare versions.
Game players win because they can buy reasonably priced products with cards they need in it.High end players win because they can buy super fancy versions to bling out there deck.Collectors win because they'll transition more to the bling versions that fetch high prices.LGS wins because they can sell to all of the above.WotC wins because all of the above are buying.
How can we make these products in a way that allows that audience to get what they want without all of you feeling like we're doing harm to you?
Quote from Desert Sky Games »
Okaaaaay then. The first-half list for 2020 is short, of course, owing to no particular disruptive events across the industry or our economy. If only that were true. What a first half of the year we've all had, and somehow the second half has not started off especially better. Small businesses have taken it on the chin, and we are here to mark the passage of some that took that blow and did not get back up.
New to this post or to The Backstage Pass? Here's what we're doing. These store closure posts are among the highest-read and highest-shared articles I write, and one would think some more official source like GAMA would take up the mantle of tracking this, but I guess not so far.
Today's list has a tag of "COVID" for stores that cite specifically the pandemic disruption as their cause of closure, or which closed during state shutdowns and were discovered not to have reopened. Obviously a store that was already in trouble might use COVID-19 as an excuse for why they failed, but for the purpose of this article, I am taking it at face value. The situation was bad for everyone except the mass market, and I see no need to flog a corpse. Moreover, stores not closing specifically due to COVID surely were done no favors by the gigantic worldwide mess the pandemic caused.
AND NOW THE LIST.
Announced or Discovered Closed:
Chain: GAME (40 stores in UK closing out of ~260) 1000 Lives Gaming (Hartsville, SC) 42 Ale House (St Francis, WI) ABC and Toy Zone (Chanhassen, MN) COVID Action Toys & Collectibles (Jacksonville, FL)Advantage Games (Northglenn, CO) COVIDAero Hobbies & Games (Santa Monica, CA) AK Comics (Beloit, WI) All About Books and Comics (Phoenix, AZ) Apache Comics (Mesa, AZ)Apex Gaming Center (Irving, TX) Baxter's Tempe SAK Gaming (Tempe, AZ) COVID Big Rapids Hobby Shop (Big Rapids, MI) Board Game Barrister (Greenfield, WI) Other locations remain open Boards & Beans (Regina, SK, Canada) COVID Boardwalk Hobby Shop (Mount Lookout, OH) Bonanza Books and Comics (Modesto, CA) CCG-Singles.com (Portland, OR) ChronoCade (Kalamazoo, MI) Coffee With Comics (Glendale, AZ) Collector's Edition (North Little Rock, AR) Comic Book ER (Cadillac, MI) The Comic Book Store (Little Rock, AR) Comics Dungeon (Seattle, WA) COVID Connected Gaming (Phoenix, AZ) Corner Comics (Kirkland, WA) COVID Critical Strike Games (Edmonds, WA)Dice Bag Games (Duncan, BC, Canada) COVID Dice & Donuts (Preston, Lancashire, UK)The Dragon and Meeple (Los Angeles, CA) Dragon's Keep Gaming and Miniatures (Portland, OR) COVID Dragon's Lair WarGames and Hobby Supplies (Shreveport, LA) Emerald Phoenix Comics (Aldergrove, BC, Canada) COVID Empire Collectibles (San Diego, CA) COVID Ever Green Game and Hobby (Missoula, MT) COVID Fables of Calhoun (Calhoun, GA) COVID Family Game Night (Orlando, FL) Fanatix (Dothan, AL) COVID Fight or Flight Comics (Raleigh, NC) Freaks & Geeks (Denton, TX) COVID G33k Out (Ocala, FL) Galaxy Comics (Somerset, KY) Game Empire (Pasadena, CA) Game Essentials (Superior, WI) Game Hunters (Frederick, MD) Game Kastle (Mountain View, CA) chain location Game Quest Games (St Croix Falls, WI) Game Quest Inc (Radford, VA) Gamer's Cache (Mountain Home, ID) COVID Gamer's Gambit (Danbury, CT) Gamers Vault (Montgomeryville, PA) Game Rules (Portland, OR) GameStreet (Mississauga, ON, Canada) Games N Go (Roseville, MN) The Gaming Keep (Hastings, MI) COVID Gaming on Grand (Escondido, CA) Gathering Games (Tampa, FL) G Cubed (Bunbury, Western Australia) Geekygami's (Bartlesville, OK) Geeky Villain (Everett, WA) Gerard's Gaming & LAN Center (Webster, TX) Hellbent 4 Cardboard (St Petersburg, FL) Henchmans Games (Swaffham, UK) Heroes 4 Sale (Southbury, CT) Hieroglyphic Games (Cincinnati, OH) Hidden Treasures Collectibles & Comics (Alexandria, MN) entire plaza destroyed by fire Hillside Games and Comics (Asheville, NC) Hobby Knights (West Bend, WI) Hungry Hippo Board Game Cafe (Decatur, IL) Hyperspace (Lakewood, CO) Imagine! Hobbies & Games (Sherwood, AR)Inconceivable Toys and Games (Monument, CO) COVID JJGames dot com (Englewood, CO) Joe Garage Games & More (Suwanee, GA) Kapow Comics (Cumming, GA) Killer Rabbit Comics & Games (Williston, VT) Lee's Comics (Mountain View, CA) COVID Mad Reads (Brighton, CO)Magic Mike's (Portland, OR) MaximuM Comics (Henderson, NV) Nerdcore Toys and Collectibles (Ellensburg, WA)Netherworld (Warrington, England, UK) The Nexus 419 (Rossford, OH) Now Playing Movies and Games (Tylertown, MS) NuGames (Eureka, CA) COVID Oblivion Games Inc (Mansfield, TX) OOP Games & Hobby (Lynnwood, WA) PlayLIVE Nation (Mission Viejo, CA) COVID, chain The Portland Game Store (Portland, OR) COVID Prime Time Gaming (Macon, GA)Purple Turtle Comics (Vallejo, CA) The Raven's Nest (Marietta, GA) Realms Comics & Games (North Richland Hills, TX) Revolution Video Games & Movies LLC (Tampa, FL) Rocket's Hideout (Baton Rouge, LA) COVID Rockhead's Comics & Games (Kenosha, WI) Rogue Nation Games (Richmond, BC Canada) Ronin Games (Castro Valley, CA) San Diego Comics (San Diego, CA) COVID Seann's Anime and Comics (Sylvania, OH) Sho'Nuff Comics (Tuscaloosa, AL) COVID Silver Key Lounge (Mesa, AZ) COVID, indefinite Skol Games (Eagan, MN)Splat! Gaming (Burleson, TX)The Storm Crow Tavern (Vancouver, BC, Canada) COVID Table Top Cafe (Edmonton, AB, Canada) COVID, consolidating into remaining location Teahouse Comics (Sandy Springs, GA) Tolly's Game Store & Lounge (West Jefferson, NC) Toys Cubed (Toronto, ON, Canada) Erin Mills Town Centre location Toys Cubed (Toronto, ON, Canada) Oshawa Centre location Toys Cubed (Toronto, ON, Canada) Scarborough Town Centre location Toys Cubed (Toronto, ON, Canada) Square One Centre location Toys Cubed (Toronto, ON, Canada) Vaughan Mills location Video Game Trader (Calgary, AB, Canada) COVID, 2 locations closing and 1 remains open Video Game Trader (Forest Lawn, AB, Canada) COVID, 2 locations closing and 1 remains open Vigilante Gastropub & Games (Austin, TX) COVID Villains Comics & Collectibles (Monroe, LA) COVID Wandering Havoc Games (Marysville, WA) Warcraft Games (Mission, BC, Canada) Weekend Warlords (Loughborough, England, UK) Weird Realms (Cleveland, OH) COVID Wizards Keep Games (Renton, WA) Yellow Jacket Comics (Tempe, AZ)At the time of publication, the list had 123 entries representing 162 stores, totaling chains and multi-location closures as noted in their respective entries. Typically after these articles go up, I receive emails and messages about stores I missed, which I do appreciate as it helps make these articles as useful as they can be in terms of reference. The overwhelming lesson of this industry through almost half a year of COVID disruption has got to be something like "You can never assume general business conditions will remain as they are." I can tell you right now that DSG has suffered for not being able to employ our single biggest marketing draw, which is organized play. What happens to a store that has little else in its toolbox? It probably ends up on a list like the one in this article.
When you realize our industry has had to deal with the sudden near-total elimination of organized play and constant supply chain chaos, both factors completely upending even the most prudently planned square footage deployment (generally the most expensive and least changeable part of a store), it is not difficult to see how even a reasonably stable comic, video game, or hobby game store could find itself suddenly scratching the cloth. And in that unexpected time of peril, resources to weather the downturn may or may not be ready. DSG had a gigantic inventory to lean on. What if we didn't? What about any store that doesn't have a strategic reserve of some kind, whether it's cash, assets, favors to call in, some mixture of those, or what have you?
I have now seen enough evidentiary performance out of stores of different kinds and places that it has become fairly clear how a comic, video game, or hobby game store experiences wild success to where there is not only no danger, but considerable income for stakeholders. The answer to that question, which so many of us are so avidly chasing, is of course highly dependent on that store's specific physical, financial, and competitive circumstances! But once configured for maximum compatibility with those factors, things get somewhat more straightforward. The operational imperatives crystallize. Don't leave money on the table without getting something to make up for it. Don't spend good money chasing after bad. Don't let yourself get rolled by people who are out to gain at your expense. Get your home situation right. Most importantly, get your head right, because the action follows the thought, and the result follows the action. You will reap what you sow.
Get on with it.
Quote from Onering »Why WotC thinks at home play is the majority: surveys. They do a fair amount of market research to determine how people play the game and what players like and want so they can target products to them. The reason you see premium products and stuff like that is because their market research told them a significant enough portion of the player base wants those products. You see the major commitment to EDH because they found it was the most popular format after 60 card casual, and they built brawl in the hopes of building on that. They know that at home play is still the most common way people engage with magic, with casual and EDH leading that. At home players tend to spend less on cards than FNM warriors, but there are more of them and they tend to buy packs. I think Wizards isnt about to abandon the LGS because they make money from them, tournament engagement increases the amount people spend on magic, and limited moves packs. Getting people who play at home into their local LGS makes wizards money by getting them to spend more. They want both market share and dollars per player, so both groups are important.
Quote from Arctanis8 »Quote from Card Slinger J »Quote from Xcric »Quote from LuckyJoe1988 »The fact that they kept the Terese Nielson art for the regular card brings a tear to my eye... they said they couldn't remove her art in time, just like noah bradleyOr they'll just flush more Force of Will's down the toilet in protest to drive up the price of the card because we're all being told by MTG Twitter to hate Terese Nielsen for her political bias when it shouldn't even matter. Better than Gerry Thompson defacing them with a Sharpie at least. >_>It isn’t for no reason. You may not like the reason, but it is a legitimate one. Also, you’re not being told to hate her, she followed questionable groups and the company responded to it. You can still collect her art if you want.
Quote from Card Slinger J »Quote from Xcric »Quote from LuckyJoe1988 »The fact that they kept the Terese Nielson art for the regular card brings a tear to my eye... they said they couldn't remove her art in time, just like noah bradleyOr they'll just flush more Force of Will's down the toilet in protest to drive up the price of the card because we're all being told by MTG Twitter to hate Terese Nielsen for her political bias when it shouldn't even matter. Better than Gerry Thompson defacing them with a Sharpie at least. >_>
Quote from Xcric »Quote from LuckyJoe1988 »The fact that they kept the Terese Nielson art for the regular card brings a tear to my eye... they said they couldn't remove her art in time, just like noah bradley
Quote from LuckyJoe1988 »The fact that they kept the Terese Nielson art for the regular card brings a tear to my eye...
Quote from hoffmkr »A lot of it is local regulations also. My lgs just opened huge new game room. However, city/state basically say 25% Or less capacity. They are trying to do some local events to drive business but even then they have to severely limit capacity.
They also apologized for their cases being low stock. They opened more product than normal, but without events, they are getting low trade in. Usually people jump in, buy a few but limited trade ins meaning less to sell in long run.