Here's an update on some of the new trends of 2007.
Pre-Painted Miniatures. Here we have some clear winners and losers. Pre-painted Reaper miniatures were the big news earlier in the year. Sales for us have been about equal to sales for their unpainted tin models, which is a bit disappointing. I'm really surprised.
Battlefield Evolution from Mongoose was put on hiatus recently. This modern, 28mm pre-painted miniatures game had a lot going for it, but was critically mishandled from day one. It could have been a contender.
AT-43 has caught on. Some stores meander along with this game, but it's been doing extremely well for us lately. Wishing it into the cornfield has not helped. The new Karman book has everyone excited. Who wouldn't want to play gorillas strapped with rocket launchers? The new pre-painted Confrontation is due out this month sometime. It's supposed to be based on the AT-43 rule set. We received a half-dozen promo figures and they look well done.
The Mongoose Starship Troopers pre-painted miniature game was supposed to be out in April, but I haven't been able to find out what happened to it. Anybody know?
CCG's with MMORPG Tie Ins. The World of Warcraft CCG was on fire this time last year. It remains a viable game for us, even though most people were initialing buying it for loot cards. It's a living game for us, with organized play on Thursday nights. This was an example of a CCG taking advantage of MMORPG hype.
Several new games this fall have online components built from scratch to coincide with the card games. Chaotic has crashed and burned in the game trade already, even though it's about to go mass market this week. It suffered months of delay which killed the hype and by the time it came out, the buzz was dead. We've nearly sold through our initial box of starters and boosters and have no intention of re-ordering.
Maplestory is a maybe for us. We've sold it well but the initial buzz has died down. It suffers from starter packs that are out-of-print, curtailing the possibility of developing a larger player base. Big mistake by Wizards of the Coast. I think this one won't make it much farther, but I hope I'm wrong.
Bella Sara staggers along, not really delivering on the promise of bringing young girls into the store. The daughters of gamers are the sole customers of this game and sales are negligible. Like Yu Gi Oh, the player buys buys a booster per visit. There's an entire online world of horses to explore here, or so I'm told.
The Eve CCG is based on an MMORPG but lacks any integration. It was alive for us long after it died elsewhere. It's dead now.
CCG's are a difficult nut to crack. I honestly feel a little sorry for CCG customers intent on finding the next cool thing. I hope they find value in all the roadkill they accumulate, one booster pack at a time. At least with a miniature game, you've got something to show for your effort, even after they game is dead and gone.
I've been told by other store owners that an area can support three to four CCG's. Beyond that, and you've got diminishing returns. I would say our four solid games include: Magic, Naruto, Yu Gi Oh, and World of Warcraft. Still, we've got Game of Thrones players, the occasional Pokemon purchase, and the slow death of the new games for 2007.
Big Box Games. It's kind of a trend, it's the uber large expensive board game. Fantasy Flight continued it with Tide of Iron and Starcraft in 2007. Starcraft had a bunch of negative buzz and a monstrous delay while Tide of Iron was the savior game. It turned out to be reversed, with lots of disappointed Tide of Iron players, unhappy with game play and upset about the delay. Starcraft was apparently worth waiting for. Early play reviews by our game room residents ensures me it's a very good game. Good sales followed. Dust has also begun to do well. Stores in the MidWest have been complaining about the price points of these games, usually in the $80+ range, but they do fine here. Back list games like Twilight Imperium, World of Warcraft and Descent (out of print for the holidays thank you very much) have been selling well this season.
Collapse of the Miniatures Market. There has been this feeling of impending doom for various miniature games. Warhammer 40K may not be as hot as in the past, but it's going nuts for us now. Warmachine and Hordes have slowed down tremendously for game stores who have been in on the ground floor of these games, but we came a bit late, and they continue to be hot. Flames of War was revived for us after some clever organized play activity brought more people into the store. Still, Battlefront is disappointing on so many levels. This weeks releases will be out next week, in case you were wondering.
Beyond that, I have to say I have little interest in adding additional miniature product lines. I've seen Infiniti at various miniatures oriented stores, but the price point and margin have kept me away. It has also kept away distributors who won't touch it. The Anima game came out hot earlier in the year, but we've backed away from it as interest waned. Confrontation is thankfully dead and I'm glad I kicked something to the curb that I didn't regret later. Confrontation is dead, long live Confrontation (pre-paints).
If anything, I'm reluctant to do anything cutting edge in miniatures at the moment. No Infiniti, no Micro-Armor, no Battletech, no Crocodile Games. I'll be waiting for Confrontation and the Next Big Thing from Battlefront. The last thing I want to see is the miniatures market look like the CCG market, with various folks throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks. The war is over, check the slatwall for the winners.
Small Press Roleplaying. This was really the year that small press took off for us. There are not a lot of big hits here, but they have finally begun paying off. Spirit of the Century remains the top seller, vindicating the model. I think they're very close to hitting a critical mass of worthwhile products, and when I say that I'm talking about Indy Press Revolution and their minimum free freight model. Once the average game store can purchase $200 at cost of solid RPG's, there won't be an excuse not to carry small press titles. This is all happening while the "mainstream" role-playing industry has been nose diving.
The (near) Death of Collectible Miniatures. Wow, a complete and utter collapse in this market segment for us. It's still doing well in the rest of the country, but the SF Bay Area has seen this segment collapse. Star Wars and D&D miniatures have dropped by 50% and only make our top lists in the months of their release. Heroclix and MechWarrior sell meager quantities, while even Pirates has slipped substantially. PocketModel Star Wars has picked up some of the slack, thankfully, while we've also had a revival of Axis & Allies, both land based and War at Sea.
The new Pokemon miniature game had a lot of promise, but there were supply and quality control problems and now the distributors are flat out dumping it. I'm sure there's a story there somewhere. It was supposed to be the hit of the holidays.
It's not all doom and gloom, but it's down to normal proportions. At one point I sold ridiculous levels of Star Wars miniatures to where other stores accused me of lying about my sales figures. Heck, at one point I sold 72 AT-AT walkers. Oh yeah, and Privateer Press is coming out with a new line of collectible minis that I'm apparently not hip enough to get excited about. Godzilla like creatures or something.
Chinese Made Toys. I know most of you don't care about it, but toys have taken a tremendous blow this holiday season, especially those in the news, like the Thomas Wooden Railway System by RC2. We'll be carefully evaluating what to do about this large part of our store after the new year. The Melissa & Doug stuff, also made in China, hasn't had any bad press and has faired much better.