Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Invasive Species

The ecosystem has recovered nicely. The circle of life is stronger than it has been in years. What? What is it you say? You would like to introduce a new species into the mix, one that's not native to these lands? Oh, and it competes with the creatures in the existing ecosystem? And it's biologically less efficient? Now why would I want to do that?

That's exactly the case with collectible card games. A community can at most support a handful of CCGs before it begins to fragment, break down and spin out of control. Each game store owner knows how many games, exactly, they can support, and each knows precisely what those games are. For us it's Magic, Yugioh, Cardfight Vanguard and Pokemon. Add another game and I'm more than likely sucking the resources, customers and event space, from an existing game or just spinning my wheels. For other store owners, it may be three games or six, and they might be different, but we all know what they are.

It takes a tremendous amount of effort for a store to get a CCG off the ground. It includes volunteers, staff time, inventory resources, dedicated high value play space, and a ton of marketing. A dead collectible card game is the only thing we'll ever throw in the trash.

As for what gets introduced, there are predatory companies with poor margins like Upper Deck where it makes no sense whatsoever to even risk their new games. They are the worst of an invasive species, one that sucks the resources from vibrant species and leaves the environment worse for wear. Dollar for dollar, I'm poorer, plus I know from experience, I will curse their name on a weekly basis.

Game companies want very much for us to take this risk, to introduce the new species, whether it's a new superhero game from Upper Deck, the re-skinned Duel Masters (Kaijudo), the super high tech but no street cred whatsoever Redakai, or the "other" game from Bushiroad, Weiss Schwarz. If customers start asking for it, we'll certainly consider a new CCG, but oh my god is this a dangerous game to play.

Right now we're in a CCG bubble, a highly profitable period where it feels almost like a race to accomplish financial goals. Pay off debt, repair and replace old FFE's (furniture, fixtures and equipment), build out new spaces, and possibly, maybe, put some money aside for the future. Game stores, for the first time I've ever seen (in nearly 9 years) are acting like real businesses. They have capital and staff and ideas and they're doing new and interesting things. Nobody wants to pop that bubble with some dangerous, sharp edged new things.

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