Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top 10 Games (2013)

Around this time each year, I like to post our top games. For most people, they have their game and they happily, blissfully, go on playing it. Good for them. For others, we want to know the trends, where things are headed, possibly as a crystal ball to see where we're going. I use this to spin a narrative about my store, justifying decisions and verifying gut instincts.

I think there are two game trades right now. There is the traditional model with established publishers, distributors and retailers and then there is the indie scene, primarily via Kickstarter. The money is certainly in the traditional market, by far. All of Kickstarter derived "sales" to date are a rounding error on a year of the traditional game trade, although to believe there's a firewall between them is to miss the point.

That said, the traditional game trade is coasting. Game stores are doing great, amazing, fabulous, with CCGs, but that's about it. Board games haven't seen another innovation like deck building and even that category has become rather tired and derivative. Our board game sales are driven by Tabletop, which is more about marketing than innovation. The choice of games for that program seems  arbitrary, although there is some reason related to their format. RPGs (AKA Pathfinder and "other") haven't seen hits in quite some time and as I've mentioned, those "second wave," mostly 90's RPGs have lost in-store steam, while getting in on the "third wave" indie games is maddeningly difficult. It's possible, we just haven't cracked it.

So it's ho hum in the game trade, while Kickstarter and other direct projects, seem to have all the energy, but without much (financial) spill over everyone was hoping for. There are no crowd funded games on our top list (although one is close, and I'll get to that).  So here's the list:

Jumping onto the list and a game to watch is Cardfight Vanguard. I would describe this Japanese CCG as played by Yu-Gi-Oh graduates who want a more nuanced experience. There are multiple deck types to build and each release focuses on a type, rather than being a universal blind purchase for everyone. If you were thinking Yu-Gi-Oh players might graduate to Magic you would be mistaken. It's Cardfight Vanguard.

Hordes joins the list with Warmachine, and together they would be at the number four spot. I would like to make some sort of claim that Warhammer Fantasy players have gone this route, but most of our Hordes players have chosen the game as their second or third army after Warmachine. You know that old Games Workshop strategy of having a primary, secondary and break game? This is the Privateer Press secondary, it seems.

Warhammer Fantasy has dropped off the chart and is generally perceived as a failed edition by our fans. The upconing stock list from GW doesn't require much breadth or depth of this game from a partner store like ours, and I'm thankful for that. Sales have fallen off the chart and interest in events is lacking. Some will blame us for lack of support, but you need cheerful volunteers for an event like this and there's not much cheer. Step up if you want to run it. The latest High Elf release was our worst ever, but maybe you weren't aware it even happened.

Dungeons & Dragons is likewise down in the dumps, with special edition sales keeping it on the radar. We still sell this game, including to new players, but for us the game is no longer "top tier." D&D Next is due next Summer and it will bring the game back for sure, although it's no Pathfinder killer, at least from what I'm reading. I really hope it does well, kind of like how you hope your ex-girlfriend finds happiness, with someone, hopefully, over there somewhere.

What else? Malifaux was on the top ten two years ago and we plan to bring back second edition. Cards Against Humanity, a Kickstarter derived project that uses Amazon as their wholesaler, is number eleven, a strange and uncomfortable blog post in itself. Rio Grande is likely to be replaced by Z-Man as popular board game licenses transition to that company. I thought it would have happened already.

Caveats: Yes, data for only one store and across town it could be completely different. Top games and top companies are not the same. For example, "Fantasy Flight" is only FFG board games, with LCGs and RPGs pulled out in other categories. FFG is probably our number three company. Also, because sales are year-to-date, they ignore seasonal increases, mostly the holiday board game sales bump (which is a skewed mess anyway).

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