Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MFG: Most Favored Game

Most favored nation (MFN) status means that at the very least, your country won't be treated any worse than any other country. One of my strategies has been a most favored game (MFG) status. This combines standard retail practice with old school "full line" strategies, in which you carry the entire product line of various games. "Full line" doesn't generally work anymore; there are just too many games out there with too many SKU's.

My MFG status involves picking certain core product lines, the most popular, and carrying the full line, going to great lengths to keep them in stock, and at the very least, not treating them any worse than any other product line. It means not only a full breadth of product, but adequate depth to account for the additional sales MFG status implies. For example, when Flames of War had MFG status, I didn't carry one of everything, I carried enough product to field enough units of every item. Sometimes this was up to 5 of one item.

To lose MFG status is a sad day and a decision that is not taken lightly. MFG game lines are exempt from turn rate analysis, get premium shelf space, and are actively sold to customers. Removing this special status requires thinking about the game differently, and inevitably upsetting some customers. Reaper miniatures had MFG status, and it took me about 18 months wrestling with its poor performance before I finally revoked MFG and treated it like everything else. This resulted in a couple of purges, one sale included everything that hadn't sold in over two years. That wasn't enough, and we had a follow up sale of everything that hadn't sold between a year and two years. So what you see left is viable product. What was there before was junk nobody bought for some time, sometimes ever. The danger of such a purge is that people have the illusion of an available selection, even if they only ever buy the same 25% of that product line. Other games that have had MFG status revoked include Flames of War, Chessex dice, Crocodile Games, Fantasy Flight Games, and Confrontation. You may not have noticed, or perhaps it hit your hobby hard.

Companies that currently get MFG status include: Warhammer 40K, Warmachine and Hordes, and the RPG lines: D&D 4.0 (taking over from 3.5), Shadowrun, Traveller, and Paizo's Pathfinder adventures. In board game land, Settlers and Carcassonne have MFG status for their core games and all expansions.

Is it healthy to give a game line MFG status? It can be if the reasoning is sound. Some game lines are flagship products. A game store without Settlers of Catan, Space Marines, D&D Player's Handbooks, and the like is not much of a game store. Likewise, if the local Barnes & Noble has more D&D books than I do, something is wrong. At the same time, the MFG decision is to forgo logic and analysis for intuition. It can be a lazy decision. The key is to continually analyze these product lines, like everything else. Know you're giving them a free pass, and watch these lines carefully for weakness.

Of course, like MFN status, MFG status is a two way street, even if the other company doesn't know about it. There are company decisions made by past MFN members that have resulted in my revoking their favored status. Wizards of the Coast discontinued D&D 3.5 this Summer, so that was their decision, while Battlefront made some bad company decisions and worse customer service decisions that rubbed me the wrong way. The Reaper inventory exchange program was frustrating enough to knock it off it's pedestal, making me painfully aware that there was no free lunch there.

The US has discontinued the use of MFN status, now referring to those countries as having Normal Trade Relations. It's a neutral status, rather than a positive status. If you don't have Normal Trade Relations, it means you're being penalized. Perhaps I'll drop my MFG status one day as well. That's what most stores do.


  1. Traveller? Including GURPS Traveller; and those ones that reprint all the 1st edition books?

  2. That would be Mongoose Traveller, admittedly only 3 books right now, but it's looking solid. I used to carry EVERY version of Traveller, but it was more out of stupid pride than anything else.

  3. Interestingly enough, most of the Classic Traveller reprints are easily adaptable to Mongoose Traveller, especially the adventures. Ironic given that the hard copy versions appear to be going out of print again.

    You can still get them all as a CD-ROM compilation, and it might be worth stocking a copy of the Classic Traveller CD-ROM if it's offered at wholesale.

    GURPS Traveller is pretty much as dead as GURPS, and harder to convert to MT than CT is given the different system of tech levels that it uses. Great books, but not worth carrying today.