Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer Winners & Losers

Based on what's hot now and what was hot last Summer, we have some clear winners and losers at the store. This is all very regional and other stores, even close by, might have dramatically different results. I also don't want to make light of all the effort these various companies put into their games. This is just what's going on with us. If there are trends, it's that organized play really matters, customer service is essential, and that licensed products and historical games have a limited shelf-life.

Warmachine and Hordes sales are up over 300% from a year ago, thanks to a loyal group of weekly players. Privateer Press gets a lot of credit for creating a strong league system. If you're ever free on a Sunday, stop by and see the group in action.

Magic the Gathering is on fire thanks to 10th edition and Wizards of the Coast experimenting with their DCI program. Sales are up 250% from last Summer. They bent the rules for us and others to give us a taste of DCI sanctioned events, and for us it catapulted our Magic sales. Now they hope we continue with the program, which we're trying to do (if we can get our DCI report submitted). The new store will definitely have a Friday Night Magic program. As a side note, the World of Warcraft CCG had a huge blip from November-February and disappeared down into Yu-Gi-Oh sales territory this Summer (low).

Dungeons & Dragons minis was added to or ailing Friday Night Star Wars program. Star Wars was our number one game last Summer, but sales are off by about 50%. The game is down to the core customer base, with very few new starter sets being sold. I think the Alliance & Empire release was pretty tired, but where else were they to go? Adding D&D minis to Star Wars night helped increase D&D mini sales by about 20%. For the first time since opening, we sell more D&D mini starter sets than Star Wars sets.

AT-43 has jumped onto the scene, but barely hangs on due to product availability. It takes the place of Perplexcity when we compare top 10 lists. Hopefully it won't suffer the same fate. Rackham has the attitude that everything is fine. Oh the French.

Also coming up the list is Warhammer Fantasy Battles, due primarily to our upcoming campaign. GW has been very supportive of our new Mighty Empires campaign, even sending us a box of terrain for the event. They're also putting in a free notice about our upcoming move in a future issue of White Dwarf. Warhammer 40K is up 30% from last Summer, but we had only just started stocking it back then. Our local GW mall store is closing on September 13th and we're debating about how deeply we'll be supporting these games (quite a bit more than now, that's for sure!).

As mentioned, Star Wars miniatures has toppled from the place of honor to number six. It's tired, and the new Star Wars RPG suffers from no new releases for quite a while.

Flames of War is down about 50% from a year ago. Most customers are happy to play mid-war and have little interest in late war releases. This is a company in disarray, with their head US person leaving for Privateer Press, their offices moving to Delaware, of all places, a new website that barely functions and a tendency to act like the old Games Workshop at every turn. They should take some lessons from the new Games Workshop.

Pirates of the Spanish Main has lost it's way. It took advantage of the movie last Summer with some good success, but this Summer found us with few takers. Most regular players have found it's inclusion of sea monsters and the supernatural an escalation into absurdity. Hopefully a change to the PocketModel system will invigorate the game. The Star Wars PocketModel game is doing alright. My alpha gamers have taken an interest in it (along with AT-43).

As mentioned, Perplexcity has died. It was my #10 game last Summer. I think it had potential to be a very good game, without all the alternate reality intrigue. Now it's absolutely and utterly dead, like so many other card games (Naruto, The Spoils, Bleach). I just wish I was out of it.


  1. Wasn't the Walnut Creek GW Store the first in the Bay Area? Maybe their lease ran out, and they decided to close and move on...



  2. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the first in the Bay Area, but I could be wrong. I have it on good authority that it was, at one time at least, the store with the highest sales in the Bay Area.

    My guess right now is that the closure does have something to do with the lease being up. With the decision to close a number of stores throughout the country following a poor year in sales, they probably feel the need to close another in this area, and Sun Valley was the store with the shortest time left on the lease.

    Spot on analysis of Battlefront's handling of Flames of War, but I don't think it's fair to say that all historicals will necessarily follow this pattern. The key with any miniatures game is to release a playable army as fast as possible, and a lot of games make the mistake of not doing this. Warmachine stumbled early because of this. Wargods of Aegyptus still hasn't recovered because of mistakes in this area.

    GW is about the only company that has this down completely. Within three months of an army book coming out they usually have every single unit in the book available for purchase.

    Battlefront could have done this with late war but instead chose to pull all their late-war models and start over from scratch. As a result it's been close to a year now since Festung Europa was released, and there's still tons in that book that they don't make models for.

  3. "The key with any miniatures game is to release a playable army as fast as possible..."

    Thanks for making this point. I honestly didn't know that was the primary problem. There was only one model I needed for late-war US rangers and I just modded it to work with a different model (M20 utility, I believe).

    So is the theory then that once BF produces a critical mass of late war models we'll see more people playing late war?

  4. Gary,

    You and I are 100% in agreement about BF. The thing that occurred to me today is that I held a copy of Villers Bocage at Origins. FInal press copy. Origins is in mid-July...why is this book streeting 3-4 months later?

    I have a feeling they are going through some internal drama that hit at the beginning of the year, and might just now be righting itself. I think more than anything, I am REALLY tired of BF treating it's retail partners like fans...and not, well, partners. They do have some big releases coming up in the next few we will see...

  5. Sun Valley was the fourth (of four) GW stores to open in the bay area.
    The San Jose store has always done okay, as has Sun Valley.
    The Metreon store can't pull it's weight financially because it has no "local neighborhood" and has a higher rent than even the mall stores. Their Stoneridge store is too small to adequately support the in store gaming that GW wants.
    Unfortunately, GW evidently feels that they need to keep a store in SF, and they are convinced that the demographics of the Stoneridge store (all those million dollar homes and high income families with kids within 10 miles of the store) make it a better bet in the long haul.

  6. The Metreon store already closed, so we're down to Stoneridge. I wonder if that one will also close when they're lease is nearing an end.

  7. Dont forget about Oakridge...I haven't heard anything about that one either...

  8. If Battlefront gets their act together and gets more complete armies out, then we could see renewed interest in the Late War.

    It looks like maybe the plan was always to release armies GW style for the small books, but the problem is that they apparently just intended Festung Europa to be a "get-you-by" list for those who already had miniatures. That was a big mistake because players don't see it as a "get-you-by" list, they see it as a core book. "Get-you-by" lists don't cost $40.

    People will continue to feel cheated until everything in that book is fully supported by Battlefront.

    That said, the delay in releasing Villers Bocage could very likely be due to their waiting until the miniatures are ready to release. If this is the case, then I have to support that decision.

  9. Having a list designed solely for the guys that have been around long enough to already have their late war minis - when your company has been experiencing tremendous growth - seems like a slap in the face for your newer customers.

  10. re: Metreon

    I'm glad it closed. It was never cost effective to be there, and GW ground up a lot of good staff by demanding that they make it profitable.
    When I last was "in the loop", Sun Valley and Oakridge (San Jose) were the two that were actually making money - although Stoneridge has always done well during the Christmas season.
    Sun Valley and Oakridge were also the only two (of the four) that had nearly enough space for events, product storage, and staff project storage.
    Compared to the GW stores in other markets, they are still cramped.

  11. The Metreon store always struck me as something of a vanity project. The Metreon being a prestige location in SF. I wasn't too surprised when it closed.

    It reminded me of the K-mart that used to be located across the street from Wal-Mart Store #1 in Rogers, Arkansas. It never ran at a profit. So many people in the area had Wal-Mart discount cards either because they were employees or related to employees, that K-mart never stood a chance. Despite this, they kept that store open until they filed bankruptcy, just so they could say it was there in the heart of Wal-mart country.

    Back to FE, I don't have a problem with a "get-you-by" list as long as it's clearly identified as such, and provided as a free or minimal cost .pdf or booklet like GW did with 5th edition Warhammer Fantasy. I think marketing it as a $40 book that gets absolutely no support is the mistake that Battlefront made.

    It's only recently that I connected all the dots and realized that FE was indeed a "get-you-by" list. The lack of painting guides in the book, the lack of errata, and the lack of model releases specific to the book all point towards a product that Battlefront never had any intention of treating as a core product, despite the way it was marketed on release.