Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Board Game Analysis (Tradecraft)

Welcome to the annual jumping to conclusions event! I hope you're wearing your special jumping shoes, because I have a tiny sample of my sales data that I'm going to tweak into a narrative that provides me meaning and allows me to sleep at night. Ready?

This came from a discussion in which some game store owners will avoid games that rank highly on Amazon. Some will also avoid game exclusives out of principle or laziness, exclusives being games only sold by one supplier. Publishers will claim exclusives provide various benefits, including brand value protection by implementing control over where their product goes. Is this true? We'll take a look.

I'm also noting games that were crowd funded. This will show whether crowd funded games have penetrated my best sellers, as many believe Kickstarter will be the death of the game trade. I think you'll find that's not quite true.

Below are my top 50 sellers over the last twelve months. Past performance is no indication of future results, so if you're a new store owner, staaaaaaaap. Buy new games going forward and avoid the strong temptation to back fill. This is not a buyers guide.

So what do I see?
  • 14 of my top 50 board games (28%) were crowdfunded. Most are at the bottom of the top 50 though. I've managed to back two of those, despite backing eight board game projects in total. Most were terrible. The other 12 top crowd sourced games came through distribution, making their origin more of a footnote for me. These numbers are significant, so I certainly wouldn't want to be shut out of the Kickstarter market. It's clearly part of the ecosystem. However, my ability to pick winners via crowd funding is sorely lacking. Years ago when I tracked every KS board game product, my conclusion was Kickstarter games were no better ranked nor worse ranked on Boardgamegeek. 
  • There's not much difference between Amazon discounts of distributor exclusive games. The distributor exclusive games average a 15% Amazon discount versus 17% for non exclusive.  Those are averages, however. If you look at very deeply discounted games, more than 20%, you see they are 2:1 more likely to be a game that's not exclusive. With exclusivity we usually see a brand value protection strategy, which for brick and mortar stores is quite welcome.
  • Amazon top selling ranks make no difference.  8 of our top 50 games (16%) are on any of Amazon's top 50 lists. The average ranking of both distributor exclusive and non exclusive games is around 1,000. That might be because Amazon has already saturated that market or perhaps we're a little too niche within the game market. I personally don't look at Amazon rankings for games, although I'm intensely curious about how my book ranks (#144 in starting a business, but anything is possible if you create small enough categories).

So what did we learn? Amazon rankings are meaningless. Kickstarter is important for the board game ecosystem, but my ability to pick winners is poor. Distributor exclusives aren't especially brand value protected online, but those without exclusivity tend to be very deeply discounted.
Betrayal at Baldur's GateNoNo64018%-
Betrayal at House on the HillNoNo3631%-
Dead of WinterNoNo40810%Alliance
Cards Against HumanityYesNo100%CAH
Arkham Horror LCG: Core SetNoNo7417%Alliance
Legend of the Five Rings LCGNoNo58421%Alliance
Twilight ImperiumNoNo177827%Alliance
Mansions of MadnessNoNo16150%Alliance
Codenames: Disney FamilyNoNo5536%-
Stuffed FablesNoNo120320%Alliance
Harry Potter Hogwarts BattlesNoNo4736%-
Star Wars: Imperial AssaultNoNo81910%Alliance
Boss MonsterYesNo20923%-
King of TokyoNoNo10020%-
Warhammer: ShadespireNoNo15%-
Pandemic: Legacy Season 2 - BlNoNo38635%Alliance
Dark SoulsYesYes52345%-
Ticket to RideNoNo2214%Alliance
Dominion NoNo1233%-
7 WondersNoNo15810%Alliance
Terraforming MarsNoNo2780%-
Massive DarknessYesNo3,77021%-
Eldritch HorrorNoNo27923%Alliance
Fallout Board Game NoNo33720%Alliance
7 Wonders: DuelNoNo16510%Alliance
Exploding KittensYesNo20%-
Bears vs BabiesYesNo370%-
Rising SunYesNo76925%-
Near and FarYesNo70136%-
This War of MineYesNo26%-
Century: Spice RoadNoNo132324%GTS
Mice and MysticsNoNo53614%Alliance
Sushi Go!YesNo110%-
Axis & Allies Europe 1940NoNo62729%-
Pandemic: Legacy Season 2 - YeNoNo145221%Alliance
Small World Board GameNoNo105917%Alliance
The Grimm ForestYesYes22133%-
Dist. ExclusiveAvg111315%

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