Sunday, April 13, 2008

Top Lists

These usually elicit some discussion, which is the whole point of this exercise anyway, right?

Board games are not big sellers in the first quarter. Few new ones are released and sales are generally down. The 4th quarter is where most are sold, in November and December. It evens out for the year. Still, I figured some of the hot games would make the top five list. Pandemic was a hot seller until it sold out, as was 1960 and Mr. Jack (both of which are back now). The hottest new game is the White Wolf card game: Mwahaha! (did I miss a ha?). Out-of-stock problems are why we see the usual suspects:

  1. Settlers of Catan
  2. Bang! The Bullet
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Arkham Horror
  5. Puerto Rico

Tactical Miniature Games includes miniatures with game mechanics that aren't collectible. So Reaper isn't included and neither is Star Wars or D&D, or Heroclix if we were to ever sell enough to find it on a list. None of those would make it on the list anyway as CMGs (collectible miniature games) are dead in this region of the country and Reaper, although on our top 10 as a company, never has a hot item.

The big news for most stores is Warhammer Fantasy's strong releases lately. Other stores have confirmed unusually strong sales of fantasy. We also continue to see unusually strong sales for the 40K rulebook, despite the 5th edition version planned for July. My GW rep is a little perplexed. I'm guessing it's the complete lack of publicity. I still don't have a release date, so I rarely mention it's imminent arrival. AT-43 continues to sell well for us, despite the lack of organized play. It begs for a regular event at the store, but nobody has stepped up to run it. With that crap margin, don't expect us to twist any arms. In other words, it succeeds despite me.

  1. Vampire Counts Spearhead
  2. 40K Rulebook
  3. Ork Codex
  4. Ork Battleforce
  5. AT-43 Initiation Set

Role-playing games. The rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated. The D&D 4th Edition gift set pre-order deposits should be #2 on this list, but we'll just wait until June for that. Dark Heresy is not just the top RPG seller for the year, despite only being available for about 5 weeks before we ran out, it's the number one item in the store for 2oo8. It will be returning in May, through Fantasy Flight Games, and with a new $60 price tag. I'm not quite sure the demand is still there. It goes for over cover price on eBay, and in-store games are strong, so perhaps there is.

Trail of Cthulhu has also done well. The author, Ken Hite, is a local celebrity around here (despite being from Chicago), and a known Lovecraft expert. He has many years of RPG design expertise. The logic goes like this: Nobody knows Lovecraft better than Ken, and if anyone could write a coherent RPG book about that topic, he's your man. It's a very hot seller and in short supply. If you don't like the Gumshoe system, there's a section on converting it to the (horribly unsellable) Chaosium system.

There's a bit of an industry uproar over Trail of Cthulhu. The consolidator that sends this book to the distributors offered full margin on the book for the first order and a reduced margin on re-stocks. Without knowing the details, many game retailers attacked the model on principle. The idea here is that stores would be rewarded for taking the burden of stocking the product deeper, a burden that distributors usually face. Warehouse space is expensive. It was an interesting idea that won't be implemented again. The problem is there's not really a reward here. If you gave it at say a 55% discount to start (much better than average) and a 50% discount for re-stocks (still good), then you would have had takers. Any attempt to reduce margin will rightfully receive protests. Hopefully the behind the scenes wrangling doesn't hurt sales of the book.

Shadowrun is on a roll, with Augmentation a steady seller. I honestly didn't know there were that many players out there, but the 4th edition rules has been a steady seller for some time now, despite periodic outages before Catalyst took it over. Armory is not on the list yet, but it will be soon, if sales continue. If you're a Shadowrun fan, we've got alternating 3rd edition/4th edition campaigns that meet each week.

The D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook sales confirm that there is plenty of life left in this edition. As I tell my customers, if 90% of D&D 3.5 players move to 4th edition, 3.5 will still be my second most popular role-playing game. It's that big. This may happen short term, but the books are quietly going out of print. Distributors are removing them permanently from their system the moment it happens. For example, staple, "near-core" books like Complete Divine are gone forever. WOTC probably won't pull a White Wolf move and deliberately destroy all 3.5 material, but the supplies are dwindling and many distributors look at 3.5 books as hot potatoes. I'm more than happy to pick them up at very deep discounts. Foolish mortals. Mwahahaha!

Scion is not a hot RPG in our store, but Scion: God has extremely good reviews and has sold unusually well. It's one of those products, like the Yu-Gi-Oh Gold Edition hobby exclusive, that makes you realize that most players of this game must not be buying from you.

  1. 40K RPG: Dark Heresy (top item, out of print)
  2. Gumshoe: Trail Of Cthulhu
  3. SR: Augmentation
  4. 3.5 Player's Handbook
  5. Scion: God


  1. I'll run AT-43! ...oh wait, that's not going to work is it?

    Publicity for the new edition of WH40K is nil. I heard rumors a few months ago, but they were more or less denied by GW at the time.

    Still, fans find out, and that could be part of the reason for stronger Fantasy sales. Players who play both focusing on Fantasy until the new edition of 40K comes out. That's just a guess though.

    Speculation time: I think that 3.5 sales will dry up when the 4.0 core books are released. Right now I think that a lot of 3.5 purchases are people taking out insurance policies in case 4.0 sucks. People know that the books are going out of print and want to either pick up ones they are missing, or extras of the ones they use the most, before they're only available in the used book market.

    I saw a certain amount of this back during the transition from 1st to 2nd edition.

  2. Interesting. I was involved in other things when 2nd Edition D&D came out, so I pretty much went from 1E to the realization that there was this 2E version that had been out for a good number of years. Transitioning from 1st to 2nd was simple, since it was an incremental upgrade.

    Going from 2nd to 3rd was difficult to gauge since 2nd was out of print for a while. Still, most game stores had the core books for 2E long after they were supposedly out-of-print. Accessories were harder to come by and I recall driving long distances to game stores in other cities just for the off chance they had a Planescape book I hadn't found yet.

    Going from 3rd to 4th is not quite the jarring change of 2nd to 3rd, but a bit more involved than the 1st to 2nd incremental change. The biggest issue I have with 4E is that all past adventures are null and void, as are many NPC's and monsters, at least from a stats perspective.

    Right now I'm in this holding pattern for me 4E game, since I can't use past adventures to build new ones until I see the game structure. Encounters don't scale in 4E like they do in 3E.

  3. I think the continued strength of sales for 40k rulebooks might be traced to a few factors:
    1) the previously discussed lack of publicity regarding the upcoming change.
    2) the desire to have 4th ed as a playable system not just now, but until 5th ed is fully released.
    3) the desire to have 4th ed as a system to play with or without upgrading to 5th ed.
    4) the desire to have a collection of 40k books - which include different background information and artwork.

    Just a few possibilities

  4. BTW, I think GW still has a policy of not officially talking about future releases more than three months prior to those releases. I would expect their publicity drive to start with a teaser in the next issue of White Dwarf, and a full-blown preview in the issue after that.

  5. Didn't 4E 40K just come out like 3 years ago?

    Or was it almost 6 years...