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Subject: On Asmodee and its impact on the boardgame industry rss

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Dom B.
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There has been a lot of comments on BGG forums following the news of the planned acquisition of F2Z Entertainment by Asmodee. Here are some random thoughts on how the company's growth ambitions are reshaping the boardgame industry.
Disclaimers:
◊ I am an outsider to the boardgame industry so it is likely that some statements in this post are misinformed, naive or plain wrong
◊ I know nobody at Asmodee and did not have access to any insider information
◊ I have no knowledge of the history of the video game industry, though there are possibly lessons to be learned from it

On the boardgame industry:
• first and foremost, there are nowadays very low barriers to entry to publishing a game: anybody with an idea and some InDesign skills can do it; contract manufacturers produce the boxes; fulfillment houses and logistics partners handle distribution and the necessary capital is provided through crowdfunding platforms. It is difficult to see how a large company could corner such a market (OK, maybe it could abuse a strong position as distributor)
• in fact IMO the large-scale prefinancing of board game development projects through crowdfunding has excessively shifted the risk of such ventures from the entrepreneur/designer to the customers (and probably lowered the average game quality) but this is another story
• there are reasons to be worried about a bubble taking shape in the hobbyist boardgame market. The sheer number of games published has been growing briskly.

Other warning signs are the prices fetched by OOP games, the large number of NIS games put on the market without having been played and the multiplication of "super deluxe" and "connoisseur" editions. Bubbles in cultural products turned into collectible items do exist and have happened in the past (think comic books)
• an unsettling trend is making boardgames into throwaway products which you can play only once and/or cannot resell. Some reinventions of the boardgame as a narrative experience are clearly interesting and I am aware of the computations of $ per hour of leisure etc. but still: the industry's interest in this is clear, the players' a bit less.
• in a market economy, all economic entities, big and small, act at least in part to make money. Otherwise they disappear and their resources are reallocated to more successful business activities. Then there can be different approaches to how and how much make money, whether you are an owner-manager or a professional manager (especially in a larger company financed by private equity). An owner-manager can keep in print a non-profitable game for a variety of reasons, may have less demanding targets in terms of return on equity but can also throttle the growth of his company (i.e. the money available to invest in new games) because of a lack of capital, a desire not to lose control, a preference for limiting risks as the company represents most of his wealth, a limited access to expertise to sell abroad etc. So small is not always good. And do not forget that the owner-managers acquired by Asmodee will most likely make nice amounts of money (i.e. will cash out on their talent and hard work)
• is Asmodee in competition with Hasbro/Mattel? only partially: Asmodee markets mostly games for adults while the "big 2" market mostly games for kids. In one of the Ludology podcasts, there is an interesting statement by one former "big 2" executive: in the mass-market game publishing decision, there are so many conflicting goals that the game's quality doesn't really matter. Notably, it is purchased by a grandmother in a supermarket based on brand recognition and gifted to a kid who now has to convince his/her friends to play it. FYI in 2015 Asmodee's revenues were €270M (=$297M) while the gaming division of Hasbro had revenues of $1277M (note that in 2009 -a recession year- it was $1341M so no growth here)
• according to Seth from Mayday Games who published a strategic analysis in this post, "the Board Game Publishing industry is NOT a very attractive market to compete in". One way to put this statement to lie is to change the assumptions in two ways: by gaining bargaining power through global size and by integrating publishing and distribution

To understand better why investors decided to put money into Asmodee, we can try to imagine the business analysis made 10 years ago (don't forget that before Eurazeo, there had been a first funding round in 2007 by Montefiore Investment)
• they noted that the penetration rate of board games in USA was significantly lower than in western Europe (FR, DE, UK)
• they noticed that hobby gamers were ready to put a lot of money in their hobby (look at the second-hand price of OOP games, at the time+money budget of attending conventions, at the size of many boardgame collections etc.)
• they liked the demographics of board game players, people with a significant disposable income and whose numbers are swelled by the growing middle classes in former Eastern Europe and emerging countries
• they were convinced that they could grow the market a lot by increasing the penetration (fraction of gamers per country) and the coverage (number of countries where they offer games)
• they observed that the boardgame publishing industry was incredibly fragmented (how many publishers had more than 50 employees?). This and the fact that it was run largely by dedicated people driven by their passion (vs. professionals mostly there for the money) resulted in certain inefficiencies (small size, lack of some technical and management skills, limited access to capital etc.)
• they analyzed the value chain and realized that distribution is reasonably profitable (albeit not as much as publishing), has good economies of scale and requires capital (to finance warehouses and inventory)
• not sure about their analysis of distribution channels: they appear to have concluded that exposure to actual gameplay is important to bring new people to the hobby and to generate sales so a network of local physical stores is important
• they took note that this relatively young industry is still a "people business" where the user community (through websites and conventions) contributes significantly to the success and the branding of a game
• they targeted the digital world as a new way to leverage existing games and to generate new sources of revenue
• they recognized that bestselling games were in fact brands and that you could develop them in a variety of ways
• surprising IMO is the willingness of private equity funds to invest significant money in a business where Intellectual Property Rights are so weakly protected (witness the recent ruling in Texas in the DaVinci vs. Ziko case)
• otoh, the risk of digital piracy which afflicts many other cultural goods is nil
• they concluded (correctly) that someone with a bit of capital to deploy and a plan could quickly reshape the industry

So the business plan may have been roughly along these lines:
• use their cash to consolidate distribution in many countries. In this way they will make money from the successes of smaller publishers and will get to know them (which is a first step towards acquisition, see next item). Investing in distribution also allows to deploy capital in a relatively low-risk activity
• push some of the most popular gateway games to mass market distribution channels (supermarkets etc.)
• put resources in growing the boardgame market in the USA by attracting more customers to the hobby
• industrialize the translation of games in order to bring them to as many countries as possible: a low-risk way to grow the market
• use the bargaining power due to their size to get favorable deals from manufacturers and distributors, in other words increase margins and capture more of the value
• acknowledge that the boardgames business is a bit like Hollywood: there are a few blockbusters and many limited successes, and it is hard to know beforehand which is which. So be ready to outsource game design and snap up the hits. It is also common practice to make sequels (aka expansions) to successful titles.
• rebalance distribution channels in favor of local stores (or to say it in another way, use their bargaining power to reverse the pricing power of OLGS who had the upper hand when dealing with small-size publishers)
• build a stable of in-house publishing studios without losing too much of their talent (i.e. give them freedom. Note that such an approach typically only lasts as long as the financials are good. Then the "industry veterans", the "corporate procedures" and the "cost killers" move in.) Maybe that after the short Marabunta experiment the preference is now for integrating already structured teams together with the rights to their best-selling titles (are you listening, Libellud and Repos Prod ?)
• what are the criteria for a publisher's acquisition? in the case of DoW and FFG it ticked many boxes (USA exposure and profitability for both, TTR and digital nous for DoW, strong licenses and maybe expertise in minis for FFG). The case of Pearl Games is less clear.
• be ready to make investments that will pay in the medium-term and to make bets (they can afford it)
• in terms of branding, Asmodee is mostly a brand sold to investors. Among gamers, they still use the original brands of the publishing houses (FFG, DoW, Pearl games etc.) You wont' find the Asmodee logo on your Eldritch Horror or Five Tribes box. This is consistent with the group's structure: many design studios "with their own DNA" targeting different segments (and probably in mild competition for new project funding) and consolidated, cost-optimized operations for manufacturing, distribution and support (finance, HR, IT)
• note that heavy gamers are not at the core of this strategy: there is a much larger opportunity in attracting families and group of friends to consensual, not-too-long modern boardgames

Finally, speculating about the next 10 years, here are a few things that may (or not!) happen:
• who will be the next acquisition? no clue but if you look at the BGG top 100, you can guess which games they would like to own: 7 Wonders and Dixit (only have distribution rights), Star realms, Dominion, Carcassonne, Codenames and The Resistance
• protests in the BGG community about the culling of lesser-selling titles from the catalog (not sure about it but I believe that many publishing contracts revert the publishing rignts to the designer if the game remains too long OOP?)
• special editions for mass-market retailers (I understand that Target has started to do this with exclusive editions of Evolution, Codenames and other titles)
• many games with "no in-game text" and lots of icons: it is so much simpler and cheaper (print a box and a rulebook) to internationalize
• surprise and in some cases anger at how some bestsellers' brand is stretched across of variety of products
• development of a variety of relationships with game designers, e.g. some granting (for a fee) right of "first refusal" on all their future designs
• a growing "star system" among designers and illustrators (some will make good money, which is good)
• hiring of a full-time "BGG community manager" on ANA's payroll
• product placement of boardgames in movies
• trademarked game names and more generally more lawyers around
• a chain of Asmodee-branded game stores to capture the retail link of the value chain and to reach beyond the geek/core-gamer market by controlling the gaming/purchasing experience and having venues for demonstrating games
• will we see online-customizable, 3D-printed minis?
• when will "Pandemic the movie" be released?
• how will Eurazeo eventually exit Asmodee around 2020? there are 3 possibilities: sale to a larger company (there will be few of them then), stockmarket offering (how about buying some stock of the boardgame behemoth?) or a third buyout (but finding comparable growth opportunities for 6 more years may become a challenge)

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Dom22 wrote:
• not sure about their analysis of distribution channels: they appear to have concluded that exposure to actual gameplay is important to bring new people to the hobby and to generate sales so a network of local physical stores is important

Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.

Also, game stores often cater to teenage boys, so they become "boy-caves", uncomfortable for women.

Dom22 wrote:
• protests in the BGG community about the culling of lesser-selling titles from the catalog (not sure about it but I believe that many publishing contracts revert the publishing rignts to the designer if the game remains too long OOP?)

The negative reaction was not to deliberate culling of titles, but an expectation that the rising prices would reduce sales, reducing volume, further raising prices and/or reducing production quality. The concern was that games from beginning designers would become too expensive to buy speculatively.

As far as OOP, the trick book publishers have been using is to publish a ebook to retain the rights. Whether a print-and-play version of a game would preserve publishing rights, I don't know. But, the other side is that so many new games are available, the publisher doesn't care about a game if it doesn't sell well enough to stay in print.

Another force is App versions of games. A lot of games are relatively simple to program, and after that, reproduction and distribution cost is just a percentage of list price of the App, and the App can be priced so low that impulse purchases will make money. Do I spend time checking with friends to see if an App is good or do I just spend $1-5 to see?
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Alan Kaiser
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Dom22 wrote:

Finally, speculating about the next 10 years, here are a few things that may (or not!) happen:
• who will be the next acquisition? no clue but if you look at the BGG top 100, you can guess which games they would like to own: 7 Wonders and Dixit (only have distribution rights), Star realms, Dominion, Carcassonne, Codenames and The Resistance


7 Wonders, Dixit and Carcassonne are now or soon will be distributed by Asmodee North America. They are already making money off them. No need to rush. Honestly, they will have their hands full just keeping up all the stuff they currently sell and all the new stuff they have in the pipeline.

Quote:
• protests in the BGG community about the culling of lesser-selling titles from the catalog (not sure about it but I believe that many publishing contracts revert the publishing rignts to the designer if the game remains too long OOP?)


Not sure what you mean by this. Doesn't this already happen? A publisher has a so-so game and continues to sell it until their stock is gone and the game never gets a reprint. Happens all the time. If a game doesn't sell very well why would the BGG community be upset if it wasn't reprinted? Look at the rankings. You could play a new game every day for about 11 months and never play a game rated less than a 7. There's plenty of good games around and more flooding out all the time (many rated less than a 7). Why are we worried about some random game rated 5.7 going out of print after it's first and only print run?

Quote:
• surprise and in some cases anger at how some bestsellers' brand is stretched across of variety of products


Just do what you do now. Play what you think is good and avoid the rest. Who cares how many versions of Pandemic there are in 5 years.

Quote:
• development of a variety of relationships with game designers, e.g. some granting (for a fee) right of "first refusal" on all their future designs


I'm sure if this came to be it would be worth it for those designers in financial terms. This is an item that is up to the individual designers to decide and is certainly not up for a general vote by the community. Designers can take care of themselves and know what is in their best interest better than we do. If this leads to the item below then it's all for the better.

Quote:
• a growing "star system" among designers and illustrators (some will make good money, which is good)


Quote:
• hiring of a full-time "BGG community manager" on ANA's payroll


I'm sure this wouldn't be worth their time. The BGG community is tiny compared to the larger community of people willing to play games. Asmodee titles in particular reach a far wider audience than the total number of people on this website.

Quote:
• a chain of Asmodee-branded game stores to capture the retail link of the value chain and to reach beyond the geek/core-gamer market by controlling the gaming/purchasing experience and having venues for demonstrating games


Never happen. With Asmodee now acquiring Z-Man they have reached the mythical level of potential sales currently only held by Wizard's and Magic. Wizard's used to have stores but that operation crashed and burned. They proved that trying to do it all is a receipt for disaster. Why sink the amount of money necessary into something like that when you already have an entire network of stores already pushing your product like crazy. It's easier to make sure those stores have the tools necessary to heavily push your products. Makes no sense.

Quote:
• will we see online-customizable, 3D-printed minis?


This is coming to this industry whether Asmodee wants it to or not. You can play Descent (a cheaper version) with these nicely printed cardboard counters or you can buy our upgrade file and print out your own in your own choice of colors, textures, weights, scale etc etc.


The big one not mentioned: Printing.

One way that Mayfair maintained quality and managed their production chain was to have their own in-house printing. It's hard to keep a wide variety of distribution chains/mass market stores supplied with your product when you have such a long turn around time (just shipping from China is about 2 months). They in fact currently and for the foreseeable future still make Catan even though they don't own it or sell it. We all know that supply issues are a major pain in this industry. FFG has had some major supply issues in the past keeping hot games in stock and getting reprints finished in a timely fashion. One issue with buying more and more companies with popular games is you have to get all those games printed. FFG currently runs a small in-house printing system to supply specific expansion products and all tournament prizes. I would imagine there would by now have been internal talks to get dedicated Asmodee facilities somewhere in the world to supply this increasingly growing company. I recall rumors a while ago about Lucas Arts having not so nice talks with FFG about supply issues of their licensed Star Wars products. At some point keeping a license like Star Wars is worth more than you save by printing at an independent printer in a foreign country.
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Klaus-Gunther Herzog
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I marvel that no one has voiced what should be the major concern here.

Asmodee = Asmodeus = The Devil.

Boardgaming as we know it is going to Hell. Literally.
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alkaiser wrote:
I'm sure this wouldn't be worth their time. The BGG community is tiny compared to the larger community of people willing to play games. Asmodee titles in particular reach a far wider audience than the total number of people on this website.


BGG users are extremely influential. What my non-gaming friends play, what my parents play, what my cousins play etc. is directly related to what I brought over. 99% people who watch superhero movies don't go to Comicon, but that doesn't meant that someone making a superhero movie doesn't have to have a Comicon plan that they invest a lot of time and money into.
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Alan Kaiser
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pharmakon wrote:

BGG users are extremely influential. What my non-gaming friends play, what my parents play, what my cousins play etc. is directly related to what I brought over. 99% people who watch superhero movies don't go to Comicon, but that doesn't meant that someone making a superhero movie doesn't have to have a Comicon plan that they invest a lot of time and money into.


Certainly true. But even that layer of friends and family around every dedicated BGG user is comparatively small. However, as you step out layer after layer (the friends and family of your friends and family etc) then you start reaching a significant number of people. The key is that you are no longer deciding what those outer layers of people are seeing. That is getting filtered by your non-gaming friends and family. If you show your inner circle Dominion, Pandemic Legacy and Codenames they don't turn around and show all those to their friends (just for example). They show them Codenames. There's a reason some good games sell 20,000 copies and some sell 200,000 copies. BGG direct influence might get you to 20,000 but you have to go beyond that to get the better selling games. It might start with BGG but that will only get you so far.
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PlowStr8 wrote:
I marvel that no one has voiced what should be the major concern here.

Asmodee = Asmodeus = The Devil.

Boardgaming as we know it is going to Hell. Literally.


Well I do tend to like hot games.
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alkaiser wrote:
pharmakon wrote:

BGG users are extremely influential. What my non-gaming friends play, what my parents play, what my cousins play etc. is directly related to what I brought over. 99% people who watch superhero movies don't go to Comicon, but that doesn't meant that someone making a superhero movie doesn't have to have a Comicon plan that they invest a lot of time and money into.


Certainly true. But even that layer of friends and family around every dedicated BGG user is comparatively small. However, as you step out layer after layer (the friends and family of your friends and family etc) then you start reaching a significant number of people. The key is that you are no longer deciding what those outer layers of people are seeing. That is getting filtered by your non-gaming friends and family. If you show your inner circle Dominion, Pandemic Legacy and Codenames they don't turn around and show all those to their friends (just for example). They show them Codenames. There's a reason some good games sell 20,000 copies and some sell 200,000 copies. BGG direct influence might get you to 20,000 but you have to go beyond that to get the better selling games. It might start with BGG but that will only get you so far.


Agreed, as with any hobby the hard-core only dictate so much.

For an easy example most hardcore video game players despise the current Call of Duty games, yet they are one of the most sold games. They started the interest in the franchise, but what appeals to the mainstream player simply doesn't appeal to hardcore gamers.

Activision is well aware of this, but are quite aware that appeasing the masses means way more sales than appeasing the hardcore.

Whilst BGG might be an important audience for a new IP, once it's made successful BGG members fail to be the deciding factor to how well it'll do once it has achieved recognition.

We can hate on Cards Against Humanity all we want, but it won't stop it from selling.
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Michael Debije
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I don't give a rat's ass about Asmodee: I have Sierra Madre, GMT and Blast City. Let them penetrate new markets, bubble collapse, or shortprint. Makes absolutely no difference to me.
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Why do I keep seeing people talk about a "bubble"? Why is this thing (and its impending burst) considered a bad thing?

True, if you're making a comparison to things like a bubble in house prices, then it might well be a bad thing for board game producers and vendors, but how is it bad for board gamers?

To be perfectly frank, if every single board game making company ceased to exist today, I simply would not notice. There are tens of thousands of board games already, so the existing supply far outstrips any demand I could ever make, and what innovation there is at the moment I either don't care about or actively dislike.

So where's the badness?
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PlowStr8 wrote:
I marvel that no one has voiced what should be the major concern here.

Asmodee = Asmodeus = The Devil.

Tony Boydell did so already.
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Trent DePonte
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You wrote a lot of words but most of it is opinion, speculation or flat out wrong.
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.


Pulling no punch, I see.
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FellintoOblivion wrote:
You wrote a lot of words but most of it is opinion, speculation or flat out wrong.


Thank you, Captain Obvious, for summing up the OP's disclaimer.

I'd like to say that, despite consisting almost entirely of opinion and speculation, and as such certainly being flat out wrong in parts, I thoroughly enjoyed th OP's musings and found them to be thought provoking and enlightening. Chapeau!
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Nicolas Weiss wrote:
Tall_Walt wrote:
Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.

Pulling no punch, I see.

No, I'm afraid not. Groups I go to have had issues with two game stores and two different issues recently.

In one, the gamers DO NOT HAVE AN "INSIDE VOICE". Despite talking to them, they insist on yelling all the time, which makes it impossible to play any game requiring thought, even Small World or Citadels.

In another case, the problem gamer started throwing game bits in a temper tantrum. The game was not his. One game store lost most of their attendance, then suspended him for a few months. We'll see what happens next.

A third game store has switched to play-for-cash instead of play-to-promote, so we've gone elsewhere.

(My area has a lot of community rooms, and many restaurants are willing to host gaming even if some people don't buy. It's Summer near the beach--we'll see how they are after Summer. Most of my gaming is in community rooms or people's homes.)
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pharmakon wrote:
alkaiser wrote:
I'm sure this wouldn't be worth their time. The BGG community is tiny compared to the larger community of people willing to play games. Asmodee titles in particular reach a far wider audience than the total number of people on this website.


BGG users are extremely influential. What my non-gaming friends play, what my parents play, what my cousins play etc. is directly related to what I brought over. 99% people who watch superhero movies don't go to Comicon, but that doesn't meant that someone making a superhero movie doesn't have to have a Comicon plan that they invest a lot of time and money into.


I don't disagree with you, but I think that circle of effect is fairly small. I have friends who game, never traffic BGG, and don't listen to any of my recommendations, but buy games they find interesting while browsing Target and FLGSes. They never use OLGSes - quite the opposite - unless its really hard to find, they always buy local.

Furthermore, when I stumble upon non-gamers that happened to acquire some modern games - spotting them while visiting their homes, etc. - they never have heard of BGG, nor care to, nor do they have much interest in our recommendations.

So, in a echo chamber, it sure sounds loud, but step away five paces and its silent like a winter's evening.
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Nicolas Weiss wrote:
Tall_Walt wrote:
Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.

Pulling no punch, I see.

No, I'm afraid not. Groups I go to have had issues with two game stores and two different issues recently.

In one, the gamers DO NOT HAVE AN "INSIDE VOICE". Despite talking to them, they insist on yelling all the time, which makes it impossible to play any game requiring thought, even Small World or Citadels.

In another case, the problem gamer started throwing game bits in a temper tantrum. The game was not his. One game store lost most of their attendance, then suspended him for a few months. We'll see what happens next.

A third game store has switched to play-for-cash instead of play-to-promote, so we've gone elsewhere.

(My area has a lot of community rooms, and many restaurants are willing to host gaming even if some people don't buy. It's Summer near the beach--we'll see how they are after Summer. Most of my gaming is in community rooms or people's homes.)


There is no way that I will deny that some game stores are the worst places to play games, socialize, or try to meet fellow gamers. Much like bars, not all of them are great places to hang, depending on the clientele that gather there.

I guess my question is, having been in this hobby for 35+ years now and having seen the boom and the busts, the wealth and dearth of gaming places come and go, how does one solve this issue with the model of "insular gaming groups"....

If one assumes that players will always gravitate to a group that is cut-off from a larger venue, for whatever reasons, without gaming stores as an essential, full-time nexus for gaming, how does one deal with the eventual and possible dissolution of a chosen gaming group?

Where would you go to meet board gamers, with interests that have developed where you are at this stage of the game, if for some reason your local group broke up due to whatever reasons (interpersonal, attrition, relocations)?

What venue would you turn to, in order to rejoin the gaming community? And not just to chat about games, but to find people in your immediate area with whom to play?

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Tall_Walt wrote:
Dom22 wrote:
• not sure about their analysis of distribution channels: they appear to have concluded that exposure to actual gameplay is important to bring new people to the hobby and to generate sales so a network of local physical stores is important

Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.


There are some undesirables at game stores. However there are also many more normal people who don't have BGG accounts and don't already own all of Asmodee's best selling games. I have several game groups which I usually play with at my house or another's. However there are huge amounts of people at meetups at game stores and other public spaces nearby. 10-20 people at each gathering and maybe 1-2 of them are on BGG and play outside of these meetups. This is who Asmodee is trying to bring into the hobby and who they are targeting and why physical stores matter. I've seen it happen many times when I am playing an x-wing tournament(something else that can't be done outside of physical stores). Potential customer comes in checks it out and within a few weeks they are showing to regular meetups and buying games.

My local game store has 1 copy of most hot games, but they always have 3 copies of Catan games, Ticket to Ride Games, Munchkin games, and Pandemic games. Why? Because the people joining aren't the elitists on BGG who play at home and look down upon people who game at stores. Its people who see stuff on tabletop or walk in off the street and see people playing and pick up one of these games and they sell a lot of them.

I prefer to play at home too, but the physical stores help the hobby tremendously. And they are the only place to play in leagues and tournaments with official Asmodee organized play support. Which is another reason they work with these stores. Asmodee's best selling games outside the ones mentioned above are LCGs or miniature games which require physical stores for space and prize kits.
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Richard Keiser

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Tall_Walt wrote:
Nicolas Weiss wrote:
Tall_Walt wrote:
Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.

Pulling no punch, I see.

No, I'm afraid not. Groups I go to have had issues with two game stores and two different issues recently.

In one, the gamers DO NOT HAVE AN "INSIDE VOICE". Despite talking to them, they insist on yelling all the time, which makes it impossible to play any game requiring thought, even Small World or Citadels.

In another case, the problem gamer started throwing game bits in a temper tantrum. The game was not his. One game store lost most of their attendance, then suspended him for a few months. We'll see what happens next.

A third game store has switched to play-for-cash instead of play-to-promote, so we've gone elsewhere.

(My area has a lot of community rooms, and many restaurants are willing to host gaming even if some people don't buy. It's Summer near the beach--we'll see how they are after Summer. Most of my gaming is in community rooms or people's homes.)


I also have to dispute the assumption that all gaming stores blow. Yes, some blow a lot. But there are many excellent gaming stores that I have visited throughout this country. And like any business, I would like to believe that well run businesses will outlive poorly run businesses.. and a factor in this, particularly for a store that has gaming space, is that the tone, vibe, and friendliness of a store will cater to all members of the gaming spectrum. This is an ideal, but I have seen it done very well. How is it done... I have no idea, but I see the proof.

On the flip side of that reality, is that the true diehards may not go to these places, because it is filled with the unenlightened masses (their words, not mine)... but losing gamers with that attitude isn't that big of a loss. For whatever reason, they need the cliquish sub-groups in order to feel comfortable.

So, I feel for those that are surrounded by game stores that suck, and that the only way one can wash out that stain is by NOT supporting that store and encourage another store to open and replace it.

The problem with that dynamic is that potential, quality stores need support and assurances (like any business venture), and any business person with any sense would never touch retail gaming stores under the conditions that existed in the boardgame market since 2008.
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Iori Yagami
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Haha! I heard about a player who literally ripped the cards in his hand in half after an argument.
Man I love, how this reveals the hypocrisy. Each fanatic is singing 'games are not expensive, you cheapskate', 'they offer so much, so it's okay to pay up for cardboard'. Yet at the same time they moan and groan about broken/lost game piece. Well, you don't groan about a deck of playing cards getting old and worn out.

Also, all that was so complicated... is there a translation to simple words? What will happen soon? More diverse games, or less diverse games? Will brand-name games become what is in other markets, where 'coke' costs like 2x more per volume than generic cola-flavoured fizzy drink? It's not a deckbuilder/card layer/meeple pusher/dice roller/, it's Asmodee brandname tm tm tm (r) (r) (r) (c) (c) (c) deckbuilder/card layer/meeple pusher/dice roller!

And yes, BGG is THE SITE when it comes to BG, at least where there games are rare and considered a luxury, not an impulse-buy cute thingie you randomly pickup in the middle of the week. (Second source - BG blogs, which are clearly inferior to robust structured site.) Yep, there is only 1 BG shop around here, and it's always out of stock for any more fancy game, only selling generic unos, monopolies and aliases as well as classic games. OTOH, it is a small market with very little pay-happy customers (I love modern Bgames, but buy little since not much expendable money). That's why we get ignored.
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James Wahl
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alkaiser wrote:
pharmakon wrote:

BGG users are extremely influential. What my non-gaming friends play, what my parents play, what my cousins play etc. is directly related to what I brought over. 99% people who watch superhero movies don't go to Comicon, but that doesn't meant that someone making a superhero movie doesn't have to have a Comicon plan that they invest a lot of time and money into.


Certainly true. But even that layer of friends and family around every dedicated BGG user is comparatively small. However, as you step out layer after layer (the friends and family of your friends and family etc) then you start reaching a significant number of people. The key is that you are no longer deciding what those outer layers of people are seeing. That is getting filtered by your non-gaming friends and family. If you show your inner circle Dominion, Pandemic Legacy and Codenames they don't turn around and show all those to their friends (just for example). They show them Codenames. There's a reason some good games sell 20,000 copies and some sell 200,000 copies. BGG direct influence might get you to 20,000 but you have to go beyond that to get the better selling games. It might start with BGG but that will only get you so far.


Unless there's an alternate way of them discovering new things, the point is that I am actually dictating what they play, arbitrarily. Once you step out of the circle a few steps, people playing the games that I chose don't even know me. You don't sell $40 games by putting them in Target, you sell $40 games when people play them, enjoy them, and they're available at Target.

It's the only reason why Twitter exists. There's a small number of people who are seeking out novelty and new information about particular things (whether it's board games or abortion law in Idaho), and they heavily influence a few dozen people, who introduce the idea to fewer people, and eventually, the idea runs into influencers from other networks who find it interesting.

Probably key to this in my case is that I'm not going to be showing anyone Dominion or Pandemic Legacy. If I'm going to be showing non-heavy hobby gamers anything out of that group, it would be Codenames. Being annoyed by all of the juvenile theming of games, or by the idea that you would destroy a game as you play it with exactly the same people over multiple sessions - those aren't just things that repulse many adult non-gamers, but many gamers (although they get shouted down here.) It's that kind of stuff that keeps my parents out of game stores and reliant on me for recommendations; it had better be in Target or on Amazon, or they aren't going to buy it.

I have Dominion, and found it very enjoyable, and it was extremely innovative and creative; but if I'm bringing something over for semi-gamers to play, it's going to be Trains. Honestly, if I'm putting something on the table, it's going to be Trains. So there are qualities within the games that make them more suitable for a general audience. I don't think that makes BGG users any less influential for Asmodee's sales. It isn't like Eurazeo is concentrating on the Bananagrams and Cards Against Humanity market.

edit: I may have swallowed my point here - 0.1% of the people who I have gotten to buy board games have heard of BGG, none visit, and none care. It doesn't mean that I don't entirely dictate what they buy (within the options that are available at Target or Amazon.)
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DB
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pharmakon wrote:
You don't sell $40 games by putting them in Target, you sell $40 games when people play them, enjoy them, and they're available at Target.


Few people who shop the toy section at Target shop for games the way we do. It's usually a parent or other relative there to buy "a game" for a kid, and they're going on what they're familiar with and what looks good on the shelf. I'm sure the success of Target's hobby game experiment has as much to do with reinforcing their vaguely upmarket and hipsterish brand image as anything else.

It's a really good question how much Target is driving the American hobby game industry right now. They're clearly a big enough player now to commission exclusive editions of popular games. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they have 30-50% of the total hobby inventory in the U.S. on their shelves at any given moment.
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James Wahl
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dpbush wrote:
pharmakon wrote:
You don't sell $40 games by putting them in Target, you sell $40 games when people play them, enjoy them, and they're available at Target.


Few people who shop the toy section at Target shop for games the way we do. It's usually a parent or other relative there to buy "a game" for a kid, and they're going on what they're familiar with and what looks good on the shelf.


I might be reading you wrong, but I don't think many people are buying $50 games from Target on the strength of the way the box is decorated, or as spontaneous unrequested purchases for their kids. I think it's mostly because they encountered them in some other context - such as playing them, or reading some article that mentioned them. Board games are by nature viral. One person brings them, up to half a dozen people who don't own them get to learn them and experience them just as much as the owner. Every time someone brings Ticket to Ride to a family gathering and everybody has a good time - that's up to 4 people who when they're wandering through Target and see it know exactly what they're buying. It's kind of weird to remember that I myself have only racked up maybe a quarter to a third of the plays that my own games have had.

That's the only case I'm really making. Even when the main outlets are Target and Amazon, the first plays of a game are going to be caused by hobby gamers. Related: I think that most of the games that are ending up in big box stores are already established sellers that are looking to level up - games aren't being introduced there that haven't already spent some successful time in the hobby market.
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Jeff Rietveld
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Nicolas Weiss wrote:
Tall_Walt wrote:
Gameplay is important. Physical stores are not. Physical stores are last resort gaming--if you have no access to a better group, that's where you go. As a result, stores attract undesirable players who drive more affluent customers away.

Pulling no punch, I see.

No, I'm afraid not. Groups I go to have had issues with two game stores and two different issues recently.

In one, the gamers DO NOT HAVE AN "INSIDE VOICE". Despite talking to them, they insist on yelling all the time, which makes it impossible to play any game requiring thought, even Small World or Citadels.

In another case, the problem gamer started throwing game bits in a temper tantrum. The game was not his. One game store lost most of their attendance, then suspended him for a few months. We'll see what happens next.

A third game store has switched to play-for-cash instead of play-to-promote, so we've gone elsewhere.

(My area has a lot of community rooms, and many restaurants are willing to host gaming even if some people don't buy. It's Summer near the beach--we'll see how they are after Summer. Most of my gaming is in community rooms or people's homes.)

So the three examples in your area are proof positive of all stores? I wish everything in life could be that simple.
Like Richard said, some (many!) stores are terrible. Unfortunately, so many people here assume their little slice of the world is representative of the entire world.
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Jeff Rietveld
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dpbush wrote:
It wouldn't surprise me at all if they have 30-50% of the total hobby inventory in the U.S. on their shelves at any given moment.
There is absolutely no way - not even close.
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