Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SKU Creep (Privateer)

Privateer Press is revamping the rules for Warmachine and Hordes. This should be a minor disruption for players, easily resolved with a new rulebook and a deck of cards for their models. Privateer promises to increase the viability of certain models, but what they aren't doing is retiring models. Every month they come out with several new models, yet nothing is ever retired. Inventory grows continuously, with no end in sight. This is a problem for me.

Unlimited inventory growth assumes I have an unlimited number of Warmachine customers. The new edition promises to make older models more useful, but there are just far too many models overall. Where I could once stock all their models, I'm now more careful, dropping many models that haven't sold in a long time. Unfortunately, there are some "bread and butter" models that only sell once a year. The line is just too wide and the customer base too shallow to justify what Privateer Press is doing. There is no easy way for me to "cull the herd," like with many other games.

What Privateer Press needs to do is learn from Games Workshop. Retire models that are slow sellers, possibly making them a direct order item that stores can bring in or customers can buy direct. I hate to say that, but in the GW model, customers accept that obscure models are special order and they will wait for the model to arrive. In exchange, the company charges me more for the model, with the trade-off being I don't have to stock it.

Privateer Press should also create a tiered system for retail stores, taking another page from Games Workshop's playbook. Battlefront recently started doing this as well. Let stores know which units are core and which units are supplemental, and thus should only be stocked by certain, high volume stores. I asked for this a couple years ago when I got to talk with the president of Privateer at the GTS show, and I think it needs to be revisited. If the answer is that all units are core, there is a fundamental problem with how the game is being marketed.

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