Friday, August 1, 2014

Organized Play (Tradecraft)

There is only one thing absolutely required for any organized play (OP) program, and that's available product. Friday Night Magic, which uses drafting (opening new packs) runs like a top, because there is always product from Wizards of the Coast. Sure, they have the best OP program in the industry, but the bare requirement of available product is never an issue. D&D and Pathfinder have core books always available, even 4th edition Player's Handbooks were in stock at most distributors up until recently. We run 14 events a week for games with ready stock (along with our red headed stepchild, Flames of War). Even Pokemon USA, the shadowy dark lord of hobby gaming, makes sure there's enough product in the pipeline for months after a release.

When product is not in stock, we have a problem. We cannot run events without product, and if the customers have product already, through whatever sources, the promotional element of events ceases to function. We're essentially running events for Amazon at that point. Getting an event on the calendar obviously requires customer interest, but I'll look at the likelihood of available stock and attempt to determine how much pain this event will cause.

Yugioh is an example of pain. Yugioh is a hot potato product, red hot out of the oven and handed off as quickly as possible. Distributors do not sit on Yugioh. It comes out, they sell it to us and it evaporates from their warehouse within a couple days, forever. Yugioh customers are right now driven and won't care about the new release six weeks in the future. As a retailer, I must buy all my Yugioh product up front, everything I want, until the end of time. When we canceled Yugioh events in December, we were sitting on $9,000 of inventory. That's at my cost.

To put the opportunity cost in perspective, a good store will do at least three turns a year. $9,000 buys me $18,000 of standard inventory at MSRP (a lot less if it's Yugioh; the worst margin in gaming). Three turns times $18K is $54,000. I gave up $54,000 a year in gross sales so I could run steady Yugioh tournaments with product rarely, if ever, out of stock. With the profits, that's a new car payment (around $400/month). Imagine how much money I had to be making to say, "No, that's alright, I don't want those keys. Close up the sunroof. I need product to run Yugioh." It was a lot of money.

You know who doesn't have that kind of pull? Every other game company except Wizards of the Coast. If WizKids or Fantasy Flight Games told me I had to stock model star ships 50 deep to run their events, I would be running the numbers, checking the mileage on my car, and politely declining. That's exactly how those two companies have always worked retailer stock. Forget your theoretical opportunity cost. If you don't want to be out of Arkham Horror, stock deeper. That these companies can't actually supply the demand even if we wanted to go deep, says they are not ready for organized play. They may have a great OP guy, but the production dynamics of these companies are not designed for retailer events. It's a shame too, because the demand is there.


  1. What do you foresee for Paizo and the new Organized Play with the Pathfinder ACG?

  2. I think Pathfinder OP should recover with the new season. I don't know that the OP for the card game has much of a chance.

  3. I was just in the store on Sunday and asked after an OP setup for X-Wing. This explains (perfectly) why that's not going to be anything more than an occasional event. Even so, I'd be interested in a once a month or every-other month X-Wing day, even if it had a cost to enter/purchase minimum.

  4. And believe me, we feel your frustration. There are two really hot games of 2014, X-Wing and Dice Masters. Both have serious supply problems. Both companies want us to run OP.

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  6. I feel like I'm missing something here. My local FLGS has dedicated game nights for various different games.

    I get the "We need to be able to have stock on hand" part. From the FLGS perspective, no stock means promoting a game for nothing.

    What I don't get is the last paragraph. Is the effectively the distinction between (e.g.) a "Warmachine Tuesdays" gaming night with minimal Privateer Press support, and a Privateer Press sponsored OP event with prizes, posters, new releases etc, in return for which they have stocking requirements?

  7. The problem with, say Star Wars miniatures and Dice Masters, is the lack of available product. In the case of Dice Masters, there's no ability to both "draft" the game nor ancillary sales for running the event. The game is great. The customers buy as much of it as they can get their hands on. Very little of it is from us because the supply is FUBARed.

    In the case of Star Wars miniatures, which doesn't use the collectible model, we could run events, but without product on the shelves, it's a non starter. It's a fundamental fact of Fantasy Flight Games that at any time a good percentage of their product will be out of stock. It puts a damper on OP.

    The goal of OP is to try to "blow up" your sales of product. If there are irregular outages, you cannot build momentum. Since a gaming spot in a store is a sought after position, we're highly reluctant to give a steady position to a game from an unsteady company. We want to, but we know there's only heartbreak there.