Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Your Psychic Friend

As predicted a few things happened this week.

First, Blackhawk, one of the game distributors, tacked on a $5 handling charge on shipments. This is the three tiers of the game world looking around as to who should pay for increased fuel costs. Yep, it's the disorganized game store tier.

Again, the solution is to raise prices and accept the reality of inflation, rather than to put your head in the sand and squeeze other businesses. Fuel prices aren't going to be dropping significantly anytime soon. Game stores are terrified of passing on costs to customers, since they face such intense price competition.

We should drop the free freight concept and net price everything, like every other industry in the world. With net priced items, the store pays freight and just tacks that on to the cost of an item. It's probably a 5% price increase or so, but it's going up. All toys, for example, work this way.

I also wonder with globalizations cost for fuel, how long it will be before "Made in America" is something the far left of the political spectrum starts looking for like the far right. It certainly won't be profitable to produce things here unless fuel costs really go ballistic, but I could see it as a value demanded by consumers. Unfortunately, it's probably too late for that. I have customers coming in regularly asking if something is made in China. I want to ask them how much more they would pay for something not made in China, two to ten times as much? This country got itself dependent on cheap, Chinese made goods, much to the detriment of small business. They can't suddenly wake up one day and expect everything to be made in freakin' Detroit.

Second, the first newspaper article on board games for the holidays came out in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. I had a heads up from the author, the Chronicles music critic, who sent all the local game stores lists of games he was going to review. What he didn't send were his actual reviews, which are dubious. Several games, like 10 Days in Asia, haven't been released yet, which gives me the impression he was reviewing what he was sent by publishers. Some negative reviews were of highly acclaimed games, such as Zooloretto (2007 German board game of the year), Pillars of the Earth (2008 Games 100 Game of the Year) and Race for the Galaxy (a new game, currently with an 8.0 on boardgamegeeek).

It sounds like the author, Joshua Kosman, actually played these games with friends, which is a good start.Perhaps they just didn't like them. A couple points though: First, there are enough other reviews to look at that perhaps he might want to see if a game is bad because his particular group doesn't care for it, based on theme or mechanics. Zooloretto, for example, is a great family game, but I personally don't find it to my taste. It doesn't make it bad. Second, there are so many new games this year, does an article with limited space really need to list so-called bad games too? With so many new games out this year, I could easily write a long article on just the good ones. These little men with hats jumping on their chairs are fine for movie reviews, I suppose, but there really are some great new games that could have been mentioned.

Anyway, customers came in looking for some of these games, a couple made big purchases of the ones on the list and other games I steered them towards (including Zooloretto, yeah for me!). The real value of the article was introducing new people to Euro games. I had enough time today to talk to these new customers and explain to them the concept of the Euro games (and these lame holiday review articles). I'm hoping a new world opens up for them.


  1. Gary, 10 Days in Asia is absolutely released and very available. Your best bet is R&M or ACD at this point.

    When compared to the former game reviewer for the Chronicle, Joshua's picks - both good and bad - are an utter blessing for us. We've never had advance notice before, and the choices have never been so Euro-oriented. It's easier to allow his misses when you know that many companies didn't even send him requested demos - for instance, Mindware with Qwirkle. Finally, he is a very avid board gamer of 'our style' of board games, and his gaming group, the rumor has it, is includes some pretty prominent local names. This shouldn't uphold his opinions one way or another, but he does play regularly and the style of the Chronicle reviews have always been to include both good and bad picks.

    My thought is that this is the best thing that could have happened to our local industry this year. We've been waiting for a competent reviewer for ages, and we're seeing the effects of it a bit closer to the City.

  2. When is "BDG: The Boardgame" coming out?

  3. ACD is telling me they don't have 10 Days in Asia yet, but any day now. The other 10 days games have never been popular with us. I'm only bringing it in because of the article.

    I agree with his picks for good games, no question there. It's his panned games that are a bit surprising.

    There's definitely some value here if he does reviews more often than just the holidays. I just get tired of the hit and run holiday reviews.

  4. As the dollar falls, American labor will end up being less expensive compared to other labor, and American made goods will become a better value.

  5. I believe the Chinese Yuan is pegged to the US dollar, so the currency market wouldn't make a major difference, at lease insofar as Chinese / US labor is concerned.

  6. Yep, chinese labor isn't going to get any more expensive compared to american labor unless the Chinese decide to detach the yuan from the dollar, and that might end up causing a whole host of other problems for us.

    In my experience, those on the right have only ever paid lip service to "made in america", except when it comes to the very visible automobile. Everything else is bought at the cheapest price possible. Check out the history of Wal-Mart's "Made in America" campaign sometime. IIRC, while they were advertising "Made in America" some 70%+ of their products were made overseas.

    Back to the games: "the style of the Chronicle reviews have always been to include both good and bad picks." Unfortunately, this makes me wonder if the writer felt obligated to include a certain number of bad reviews in order to meet editorial expectations. The Zooleretto review is just bad. For one, it starts off by describing it as an expansion for Coloretto, which it is not. It's a complete game.

    It's good that these games are getting mentioned, but it's too bad that it's with the usual sloppiness I've come to expect from the mainstream press, and especially Chronicle reviews. Personally, if you're only going to give something a single paragraph, then I'd rather just have a plain description than a review. If I want soundbytes I'll turn on the TV. I expect better from print.

    Sorry, bit of an ex-journalism student rant there on the state of the mainstream press :-P