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A Historical Perspective on Changes Announced by Asmodee North America

W. Eric Martin
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April 1, 2016 is almost here, with that date being the start of Asmodee North America's new sales policies for U.S. hobby game retailers, whether brick-or-mortar retailer, online retailer, or both, so I thought I'd reflect on what's changing and why. These statements are my own (except when I quote someone) and are based on my experience in the industry and multiple interviews on and off the record; they do not reflect the opinion of my employer, BoardGameGeek LLC. With that in mind, let's go...

•••

In its March 2016 issue, Inc. profiled Pharma­packs, a $70 million retail business in the U.S. that sells a somewhat random assortment of items through the online marketplaces on eBay, Walmart.com, Overstock, and (most importantly) Amazon.com, from which Pharma­packs earns 40% of its revenue. Here's an excerpt from Burt Helm's article:

Quote:
[T]hey discovered that selling on a platform like Amazon was totally different from running their drugstore or even a standalone website... They could sell whatever they wanted, at whatever price, for whatever period of time. A marketplace vendor doesn't worry about stocking a full line of shampoos, or whether certain soaps are always on sale. If they want to sell lotion one week and hairspray the next, they can do that.

Early on, the guys decided that it would be easiest to offer whatever their suppliers had in stock. They built each online listing, and had a developer code a script that scraped the suppliers' databases to enter each product's information. When a customer ordered something, they in turn would order it from the supplier, pick it up, and then pack and ship it. That's still the model, more or less, though nowadays they order in bulk using sales projections and need three trucks and a van to pick everything up. Inventory often stays in their warehouse only for a few hours before going right back out the door. The business is less like traditional merchandising than it is like a commodities trader from a bygone era, buying and selling well-known goods and turning a profit on each transaction.

The article notes that Pharmapacks averages a 3-6% net profit margin per item that it sells, while making 570,000 shipments each month on an inventory of 25,000 different products.

What does this have to do with games? Well, let's turn the clock back to December 2015 when the newly-formed Asmodee North America announced that as of the start of 2016 it would allow only five distributors in the U.S. — ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply — to distribute its products to retailers within the country and that ANA "will be very selective as to which online merchants will be authorized to sell our products". While Pharmapacks doesn't retail games (as far as I can tell), it's an example of the type of company that ANA doesn't want handling its products — a business interested in short-term sales numbers with no consideration for long-term growth of the gaming hobby. To excerpt once again from the Inc. article:

Quote:
The next time you buy some humdrum product on Amazon, pause for a moment and check the Other Sellers listed on the right side of the page. That lip balm? Thirteen vendors offer it. Those vitamins? Twenty. As you click and shop, a battle rages in that little box, fought every day by entrepreneurs like [Pharmapacks'] Vagenas and Tramunti on practically every one of Amazon's 410 million product pages.

This is the Amazon Marketplace, where anybody can sell just about anything right alongside Amazon's own wares. Unlike eBay, where each vendor maintains a separate listings page, Amazon tidily groups its Marketplace sellers by item, hiding away the inferior offers, to showcase the best deals up front. (In seller parlance, landing the number-one spot is called "getting the buy box.") What looks so clean on your screen obscures the messy and massive jungle of the Marketplace: There are now more than two million sellers on Amazon. While the Seattle-based giant still sells the most popular items on the site itself, Marketplace sellers now ship nearly half of the products — about two billion items each year, all told — and those sales are growing twice as fast as Amazon's, according to the consultancy ChannelAdvisor. The Marketplace started in 2000 selling used books. In 2016, it's a retail phenomenon as significant as any in the past 50 years — together these sellers ring up what ChannelAdvisor estimates to be $132 billion in sales each year. That's more than Walmart sold in 1997. Yet we know so little about who they are.

For the most part, buyers are comfortable not knowing who is selling them these products. They want Product X at the cheapest price possible — or (alternatively) a cheap price convinces them that Product X will be a fine replacement for Product Y or Z — and they know that if something goes wrong, Amazon will reimburse them for the purchase price.

Manufacturers, on the other hand, may not be comfortable having their goods sold for bargain basement prices. As ANA CEO Christian T. Petersen stated in an interview with ICv2 in Dec. 2015: "When we, or one of our publishing partners, start development of a game product, we do so with a conviction that the product will have a certain value to the gamer, the consumer. On the basis of this expected value, we invest in design, creative inputs, safety testing, manufacturing, marketing, licensing, and the many other aspects of successfully getting a game to market." Having games sold a few percentage points over cost diminishes the perceived value of the item, especially when a retailer (or a distributor acting as a retailer, which has happened in the past) dumps overstock, thereby tanking the market for that game, which necessitates dumping by all the other distributors as well in order not to get stuck with dead goods.

Part of "successfully getting a game to market" involves that final step of getting the game into the hands of players. While Fantasy Flight Games (which Asmodee acquired in Nov. 2014) and Days of Wonder (bought by Asmodee in August 2014) sell games directly through their websites, for the most part these brands and parent company Asmodee North America sell product either directly to mass-market vendors (Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble) or indirectly to retailers through distributors, and once those vendors or distributors get hold of the games, there's no telling where they'll end up for sale or for how much — and that's part of what ANA intends to change through the imposition of its new sales policies. (Note that all of these changes affect the U.S. only, despite the "North America" in the company's name.)

By cutting the number of distributors it works with — and more importantly by requiring each brick-and-mortar retailer to agree to the terms of its Asmodee North America Specialty Retail Policy (PDF) and become an "Asmodee Specialty Retailer" — ANA has an easier time tracking who's buying what. By requiring online hobby retailers to purchase items directly from ANA, the publisher will have similar knowledge on that section of the marketplace.

(During a 45-minute off-camera interview at GAMA Trade Show in March 2016, Petersen noted to me that some online retailers would effectively by buying from ANA via proxy, as with, say, CoolStuffInc, which is almost adjacent to a warehouse owned by GTS Distribution. In cases like those, Petersen said it made sense to take advantage of the proximity of the distributor to serve that customer more directly. Petersen also acknowledged that online retail outlets with an established brick-and-mortar presence, such as CSI, could continue both operations under the new ANA policies as long as the businesses are legally separated and the inventory for each business kept distinct. ANA CMO Steve Horvath and ANA VP of Marketing Aaron Elliott also participated in this interview.)

What's more, ANA is changing the discounts at which games are available to its B&M and online clients, with B&M purchasing games at roughly a 45% discount off MSRP (based on their purchase volume with the distributor) and with online receiving a substantially lower (albeit unpublicized) discount off MSRP. At GTS 2016 as part of the ANA Keynote Address, Petersen spent fifteen minutes laying out his explanation for why ANA is changing its discount policy, reaching back to the 1980s to identify how stores used to be the hub for how people discovered and learned more about games. Petersen said that game publishers adopted a discount policy at that time similar to the comic industry due to games often being sold through those same distributors, and despite all the changes that have taken place over the last thirty years, that discount policy has never been revisited, even though (in Petersen's view) online sellers provide little service to buyers beyond the mere availability to games. (Detractors view this change in discount as something designed to "prop up" B&M stores; Petersen would counter that the online retailers are the ones who have been propped up by a discount that outweighs their service to buyers and this change will balance discount for services provided.)

Brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, enable the long-term success of ANA based on the availability of games, the introduction of games to people not already in the hobby, the introduction of new games to those already in the hobby, and the development of a gaming community based on shared playing spaces and events. Fantasy Flight Games, for example, has supported organized play events for years for multiple games. In 2015 alone, FFG sold more than 33,000 event kits to B&M retailers, with Elliott estimating that "between two and three times as many kit-less events occur, putting the total number of global events easily above 100,000 for 2015". Asmodee started its own organized play program titled AsmoPlay in 2015, and it's expanding that program in 2016. Organized play programs are designed to encourage B&M retailers to promote these titles to new and existing players, and if ANA has a better idea of which stores are selling which games (which it will), it can in the future tailor event programs to match those sales records or reach out to stores to encourage more participation in such events.

In our interview, Petersen stated that ANA doesn't have hard numbers for the breakdown of sales via B&M and sales via online outlets (something they hope to change once these policies go into effect), but I believe — and multiple talks with people at various levels of the hobby have confirmed — that the vast majority of game sales are made through B&M outlets. Why change discount policies if this is true? For the same reason that Mayfair Games instituted similar changes in 2007, and to cover that history lesson, I present this lengthy column that I published on BoardgameNews.com on October 30, 2007:

•••

Mayfair Games has announced a discount cap for its line of board and card games. What's relevant from the end user's point of view is that retailers must now offer no more than a 20% discount on Mayfair products or else risk losing the ability to carry Mayfair titles in the future. For reference, here's the announcement as it appeared on game industry forums:

Quote:
Dear Trade Customers,

Greetings from Mayfair Games! Our team wishes you all well. After all, we wouldn't be looking forward to our 27th year of publishing fine games without your strong, enduring support.

We're writing to you to outline our retail pricing policy. Our manufacturer's suggested retail prices ("MSRPs") reflect our firm belief in a healthy balance between "free trade" and "fair trade." Mayfair Games embraces and supports healthy competition. We feel that in order for our market — and thus our company — to prosper now and over the long term all our partners in the distribution chain need to respect this balance.

Whenever a firm threatens healthy competition among our trade customers, and thus endangers this balance, we must act in a vigorous, even-handed fashion to police the distribution and sale of our fine products. Mayfair Games doesn't intend to specifically dictate how its customers do business...but we will act in cases of predatory, irrational, or patently detrimental trade activity...

So, it's important that all of our trade customers know where we stand on pricing and discounting...

• Distributors should sell Mayfair Games products at no less than a 25% margin or no more than a 50% discount off MSRP.
• Retailers should sell Mayfair Games products at no more than a 20% discount off MSRP, or the appropriate ratio given exchange rates.

Trade customers that violate these guidelines shall be subject to sanctions. If necessary, we will cut them off.

We're well aware of the fact that our individual customers operate under individual circumstances. Some are more profitable than others. Some seek to establish themselves or need to acquire some critical market share. Mayfair Games understands, and sympathizes with, this reality.

At the same time, we've been in business long enough to know that that it's far better for us to encourage healthy competition rather than cutthroat discounting. Ours is not a mass-market business, nor is it a business based on inter-changeable widgets. Our wares are special, unique, premium games. Savage discounting is unnecessary and counter-productive for everyone in the mid-to-long term. While some individual consumers might benefit in the short-run, rabid discounting only acts to erode the profits and incentives necessary to keep our market healthy.

As it is, consumers receive great entertainment value for full MSRP. It's unnecessary — and even a bit insane — to subsidize folks who already enjoy a good deal. It is far healthier for us, our distributors, and our retailers to derive a healthy profit from the sale of our games than it is for us to see them dumped into the marketplace. Every viable firm in our distribution chain should collect its fair profit and have an incentive to further promote, buy, and sell our games.

Our trade customers should endeavor to increase their profit margins, not their discounts. They can thus improve service, which — along with the high quality of our games — should be the principal means of growing our market.

Mayfair Games asks all its trade customers to understand that we are partners in growing a healthy games market. Again, we want free and fair trade. It's healthy...for all of us. It's in our best interest...and in the best interest of the entire social game industry.

That's all for now. Take care.

For Mayfair Games,
Pete Fenlon
(CEO, Mayfair Games, Inc.)

The targets of this policy change — deep-discount online retailers — are clear (although anonymous), and the terms used to describe them and their practices are damning: "predatory, irrational, or patently detrimental"; "savage"; "rabid"; "a bit insane".

Response to the Mayfair announcement has been all over the place. BoardsandBits.com and Thoughthammer.com have announced that they'll abide by the new discount policy, while Boulder Games has vowed to stop carrying Mayfair titles. Retailers on one industry forum I frequent have applauded Mayfair and said that they'll demo the company's titles — such as the Catan line that relaunches in early November 2007 — more heavily over the holidays and beyond. Hardcore gamers on BoardGameGeek have run the gamut from personal boycotts to shoulder-shrugging. Casual gamers have no response because they don't even know about the policy change.

What's fascinated me the most are the predictions that gamers have posted on BoardGameGeek, most of which, quite frankly, are from people talking through their non-existent hats. Gamers with no retail business experience have posted ludicrous scenarios of how the Mayfair policy change will play out in the years ahead: Mayfair's sales will plummet, Mayfair will raise prices to make up for lower sales, Mayfair will have trouble signing designers due to lower sales, Mayfair will publish worse games in the future because other publishers won't want to license games to it due to its (say it with me now) lower sale volume.

How do I know these people have no retail business experience? Because they start their arguments with claims that contradict reality, and the surest way to reach faulty conclusions is to start with nonsense.

Chad Ellis of Your Move Games posted a long note on BGG detailing how retail works within the game industry, which I'll summarize for your education: Publishers typically sell product to distributors at 40% of the MSRP; distributors typically sell product to retailers at 50-60% of MSRP (with the discount dependent on the volume of business from the retailer and the goods purchased); retailers sell the product at 65%-100% of MSRP to customers.

Deep-discount online retailers are at the 65% end of the scale, offering customers 35% off the MSRP because they have relatively low fixed costs and want to encourage frequent, large, low-margin purchases. They make money on volume, so they want to move goods out the door as quickly as possible. Brick-and-mortar retailers fall on the 100% end of the scale, charging MSRP because they need the high margin on sales to cover their relatively high fixed costs. They make money on service, giving customers side benefits beyond the game itself to encourage repeat business.

Admittedly not all retail stores provide side benefits. Some of them feature no gaming space, no bulletin boards to find local gamers, no tournaments or open game days, employees or owners who don't know the games, poor return policies, no food or drinks for sale, no loyalty program, no preorder or special order program, and prices over MSRP. Some people have no game store at all within driving distance. Many people do have such stores nearby, however, and for these stores providing these types of services — along with electricity, garbage service, retail association fees, and so on — is part of the cost of doing business, a cost that must be covered by the margin on the products they sale.

Mayfair Games' open support for retail stores isn't new. In a May 2007 essay on ICv2, former CEO Will Niebling noted:

Quote:
The game market needs a healthy balance of core market and broad market retailers. The former serve as our consistent retail foundation, the latter as a means of occasionally reaching out to a broader audience. Titles that appeal to the latter still sell in the core market; however, it's not a two-way street. This means that in order to sell the games that generate much if not most of the profit that keeps the industry alive and healthy, manufacturers rely on shops both within and without the core game trade.

Online game discounters cater to a subset of the core hobby gamer. These individuals know which games are new, what the BGG ratings on these games are, and what BGG even is. They tend to be very price-conscious and view anything that will cost them more money as a personal affront. (Such as, oh, I don't know, convention previews that take hundreds of hours of work...) Their view of this announcement is that Mayfair is gouging them, that Mayfair is adding a premium to the cost of its games, that Mayfair is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage, that Mayfair is engaging in price-fixing and short-sighted business practices.

Hogwash, says I.

Starting with the last claim and working backwards, "price-fixing" refers to sellers who collectively decide to charge a set price for an item, a practice that typically happens with a highly desirable item in short supply. A hypothetical example: When Zooloretto won Spiel des Jahres, for example, and retailers became aware that the game was in short supply from Rio Grande, if they had talked amongst one another and decided to sell the few copies still in stock at $60, that would be an example of price-fixing.

Every company that provides product to retailers, either directly or indirectly, sells the product under certain conditions, some of which are spelled out in business contracts and some of which are implied. Retailers can't, for example, add a label to a product that promises something not included within the packaging.

One thing that companies can do in their business contracts is specify pricing terms for the products to be sold. Why are Apple computers and iPods the same price no matter where they're sold? Look to the contracts that Apple signs with distributors and retailers. Yes, a retailer still has the ability to sell a product at whatever price it chooses, but if it's violating the terms of the business contract it signed to get that product, it shouldn't expect to get more stock in the future. The retailer knows the terms going in, and if it disagrees with the terms, it shouldn't carry the product.

Why do companies set pricing terms? For multiple reasons, but two are important for this discussion. First, they want give their products a certain image. An article on the Starbucks coffee chain that I read recently noted that you'll never see sales or discounts for its drinks. A quote from the article: "[Starbucks chairman Howard] Schultz wants you to view his product as the epitome of opulence."

Take this line from the Mayfair press release: "Our wares are special, unique, premium games." You might disagree with this assessment, but that's the image Mayfair wants to present. Mayfair can't compete on price with Hasbro because it doesn't produce games in the millions; what's more, it doesn't even want to pretend to compete on price. It has a specialty item unavailable elsewhere (in English) and it wants buyers to think of its products in those terms.

Mayfair isn't alone in this regard. The typical Spiel des Jahres winner is heavily discounted during the holidays and available in hundreds of non-game stores across Germany. When Ticket to Ride won SdJ in 2004, Days of Wonder refused to adopt a deep discount policy and offered the game to retailers only on its standard terms. Many retailers balked, and the game appeared in fewer locations than most SdJ winners. Days of Wonder doesn't want to sell discount games to looky-loos on the hunt for a bargain; it wants to sell beautiful games to customers again and again.

Besides, what would customers think when Ticket to Ride: Europe debuted at €40 after they saw Ticket to Ride advertised for, say, €25 all over the place? They'd probably feel like they were being taken advantage of, a feeling that gamers have today when thinking about being charged (gasp!) only 20% off the MSRP of Mayfair products.

As for the impact of this reduced retailer discount, how does it actually play out in practical terms? For a game with a $50 retail, a 20% discount equals $40 while a 35% discount brings the price down to $32.50 — a difference of $7.50. That's what all the fuss is about?! I don't know about the rest of you, but my wife and I spend far more than that when we go out for dinner — or even just for ice cream after dinner. Skip a $5 appetizer at some family restaurant and after tax and tip are worked in, you'll have saved the $7.50 needed to pay the exorbitant price now charged for a Mayfair big box game (not to mention saving yourself and your family the negative health effects of a deep-fried Texas Tonion). Alternatively, don't take a flyer on some cheap card game (just because it's cheap), and you'll be able to get the game you really want.

If you bought three Mayfair games per year, you'd spend maybe $20 more — or the equivalent of one game, for those who automatically equate money with games. (I'll admit to doing so.) Mayfair is gambling that people have enough room in their budget to spend an extra $20 annually, a safe bet I feel sure.

As for the second reason that companies set pricing terms, they want to develop and perpetuate a certain business environment for the sale and continued growth of their games. Mayfair Games believes that brick-and-mortar stores provide a better environment for the introduction of its games to new players, so it's adopting policies to put that belief into action — or rather it's continuing such policies. Mayfair has already had a demo game program in which stores that order a certain small number of games can receive a free copy to be used for demonstration purposes.

Many gamers can give examples of people who they personally introduced to hobby games, and some present themselves as individuals who discovered hobby games through an online retailer. Great, wonderful — but you are not representative of game buyers en masse. Most people will not find hobby games through a random Internet search, and even those who are taught their first hobby game by a friend will benefit from the services of a real world game store. As Chad Ellis wrote in his BGG post, "My sales to people who already know about Battleground is probably only helped by discounters...but my ability to grow the market of Battleground players is hurt whenever a FLGS decides not to carry it."

In general, brick-and-mortar stores do a wonderful job of "gamer education", converting interested passers-by into gamers. Educating customers takes employee time, which equals money, and a retailer hopes that investment pays off so that customers learn how to navigate a store on their own, leaving employees free to assist and educate new customers. If customers head to deep-discount online retailers as they become more educated, the stores lose out on that investment and will be less willing or able to offer it in the future.

Mayfair undoubtedly has a better handle on the game industry and what it needs to do to ensure its future than any handful of people whose experience consists solely of purchasing and playing games. Its policy change has already engendered notices of support from multiple retailers who have said they'll demo Mayfair games more because they'll be less likely in the future to lose customers solely on the basis of price.

Sure, Mayfair might lose a few customers in the short term, but those who make purchasing decisions solely or primarily on the basis of price are the worst kind of customer that a business can have. These customers want low-cost goods, but they complain if the goods look or feel low-cost; they have no loyalty and make each decision on a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately basis; they value a great deal over a great product; their cheapness is matched only by their volume when complaining about how they were done wrong by some predatory company.

Businesses can't make decisions based on the whims of this unreliable group. From Mayfair's point of view, these people make up a small percentage of BGG visitors, who are themselves a speck among the number of people who play games worldwide. When you're hunting for elephants, you can't let yourself be bothered by the swarming of gnats...

P.S.: Marcus King, owner of Titan Games & Music, posted the following story in an industry forum that devotes a lot of resources and advice to game retailers. I reprint the story (lightly edited) with his permission:

Quote:
On a not completely unrelated topic, last evening, after posting the earlier thanks to Mayfair, I had a couple come into my store and ask the sales clerk on duty: "Uh, we are looking for a settlers of Cat-On."

Since my sales clerk is not as knowledgable on games as I am, I stepped out and had a good conversation with the couple, in their late 40s, who wanted to find the Cat-On Game.

I showed them the game, discussed its playability, and asked how they heard of it. It was for their son, returning from a tour in Iraq, and he wanted it. They then expressed absolute sticker shock when I showed them it was $38.00.

The father was a bit surprised that a "game" could cost $38.00. Why they had just bought a nephew a set of Monopoly for $14.99 at a TRU in Kalamazoo!! How could this (smaller) game be worth more money!?!?

I asked them how often they played their favorite game. They were a bit surprised by the question, so I asked them whether they played cards, bowled, bingo, paintball or volleyball. This confused them more. I explained that all of these were examples of "playing a game" — though the games were far different, they were all games.

I went on to explain that Monopoly and Settlers of Catan were not competing products. That Settlers of Catan was a game product that competed for their time with a video rental, or maybe playing Euchre with friends. I also said, "I am not sure I really like this game, I haven't decided yet. I have played it only about 500 times." They laughed, then I explained that I was not exaggerating — I had played Settlers about two or three times a week for about four years.

They asked why I wasn't bored with the game, so I went into the replayability factor of having a randomly generated board with the tiles, and how starting positions were taken, etc. I further went on to say that if they played Catan only ten times, it would have cost them less than $2 per player, per game. I also mentioned that most people who played and enjoyed the Catan series of games played it more than ten times.

Then I closed with my best pitch: "If you buy this game and play it — and decide you don't like it — I will take a return on it, opened and played, for a full refund."

They bought two copies, one for their son and one for them. They are coming to our next game night to play Pillars of the Earth, too.

•••

Okay, that was a long diversion — yet it wasn't a diversion at all as everything that I stated in that column is still true. Far from going out of business due to people boycotting its titles, Mayfair Games increased sales of Catan year after year after year. In 2013, Mayfair Games decreased retailers' maximum advertised discount to 10%, and in January 2016 it sold the English-language publishing rights to Catan to ANA. (The purchase price has not been announced; one figure I've heard — $20 million — would equal roughly $1 per Catan item sold since its debut in 1995 as Catan GmbH reports sales of more than 23 million copies Catan items, including expansions. Fenton, by the way, now heads Catan Studio, a publishing studio within ANA that oversees all things Catan.)

Asmodee North America will likely be similarly affected after lowering the discount at which online retailers can purchase ANA titles — and by "similarly affected", I mean "barely affected at all". ANA has stated that it will not "institute or impose official price floors or 'minimum advertised price' policies" on its authorized retailers, but the effect of lowering discounts works roughly the same way as a MAP, lowering the discount at which an online retailer will offer games to buyers.

Petersen understands that some people will buy fewer ANA titles as a result of these changes. At GTS 2016, ANA Executive Projects Manager Anton Torres got in hot water when he stated on livestream broadcasts from both The Dice Tower and BGG that ANA would prefer that people buy two games under the new policy than ten under the old. While I understand the point he was trying to make — better a small number of enthusiastic fans than a mass of indifferent volume buyers — Petersen refuted Torres' statement, noting that Torres is not part of the business-side of ANA and stating that he is fine with people buying however many games they want, whether they treat them as doorstops or actually play the games.

At the same time, Petersen says that ANA isn't looking solely at sales volume when trying to determine what's best for its long-term health. More specifically, he said, "If all we cared about was moving units, we could sell games direct to buyers for 50% off MSRP and move far more than we do now." That's not ideal for long-term growth, though, because all you're doing with an operation like that is selling to an existing customer base instead of working with retailers to introduce your games to new people. To quote Petersen again from the ICv2 article:

Quote:
The most significant obstacle in the growth and perceived value of the gaming business is the need for players to find other players, and for new players to enter the hobby. I estimate that the hobby loses between 10-20% of its players every year, so the creation of new players into the hobby is vital for every participant to have a thriving marketplace and have exciting new products developed.

Petersen understands that some will boycott ANA based on these new policies, but he doesn't care. Okay, he probably wouldn't say that directly, instead stating that this is a business decision that reflects long-term goals, yada yada yada, but this would be my interpretation of his statement: "You do whatever you feel is necessary when determining which games to purchase, just as you've always done in the past with everything else you've purchased, whether game, soap, cereal, or slacks. For our part, we need to do whatever we feel is necessary when determining how much to charge for the games that we produce so that we can be in a position to continue to produce games far into the future. Ideally you'll still buy our games, and we'll do our best to produce games that merit your attention, but if not, I hope you can at least understand what we're trying to do."

As I stated in the Mayfair Games post, people who announce such boycotts and stick to them "make up a small percentage of BGG visitors, who are themselves a speck among the number of people who play games worldwide". Yes, BoardGameGeek is the largest game site in the world, with more than 3.5 million users in any thirty day period, with a plugged-in userbase that often knows more about what's coming out when from which designers than those who own the game stores in their town — but these BGG users are not representative of the larger world of game buyers because most games are bought by people who have never heard of BGG.

In a March 2016 BGG News post, for example, I quoted designer Fréderic Moyersoen saying that sales in the Saboteur line have reached a total of 1,400,000 copies, and a BGG user subsequently noted that BGGers list ownership of only 27,121 of those copies, roughly 2% of the total. Similarly, at Spielwarenmesse 2016 Mayfair Games noted to me that Moyersoen's Nuns on the Run — a game rarely talked about or logged as played on BGG — is on its sixth printing and such a consistent seller that the publisher is considering an expansion for the future. Catan, as mentioned earlier, has sales of more than 23 million items across the line, whereas BGG ownership for all of Catan is roughly 300,000 items — just over 1%. Heck, as I noted in the initial ANA announcement about its sales policy changes, Days of Wonder claims to have sold more than three million Ticket to Ride games, while no more than 175,000 TtR items of any type are listed as owned by BGG users.

No, not all BGGers record their collection online, but if you double these figures, the larger point remains: The pool of existing gamers is vast, far beyond what we see on our ever-busy site, and the pool of potential gamers-to-be dwarfs this number multiple times over. That larger pool of gamers and potential gamers is who ANA is shooting to serve years down the road by instituting these policies, and however much some people might complain or wish otherwise, the problems of some percentage of these three million little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that...
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