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Subject: Origins, GenCon and Invisible Games rss

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Wallace E. Friedel II
United States
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This post was inspired by a forum I read yesterday ranking various e-tailers selling board games for price, service and other assorted shopping preferences. It got me thinking about how many games and how much money I have spent with e-tailers in the past year. When I did it turned out to be quite a bit. The gaming club I am part of orders once or twice a month. I have been ordering about $30, $50 or even a $100 in games with every order. It’s nice with so many people ordering that we can always order enough to get free shipping. Anyway, it also got me thinking about where I buy games. Now I am not instigating another e-tailer vs. flgs debate.

The summer convention season is upon us and I am thinking about Origins and GenCon. In past years I have purchased a lot of games at both of those conventions. In fact, at one time they were certainly the majority of my annual game purchases. Now I can say I am a regular and frequent buyer at the e-tailers. I know my willingness to buy games at the conventions will more limited knowing that at the conventions I will be likely to pay full manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP). Whereas, at the e-tailer my purchase will likely start at 20% off of MSRP and go as high as 50% depending on title and vendor. I feel that this situation is a double-edged sword.

On one hand I want to support the conventions and the manufacturers who attend them. On the other hand I work as hard for my cash as any other gamer and would like to get the most bang for my buck. I think that situation is most clearly illustrated at Origins. As a long-time attendee I have taken note of many manufacturers who no longer attend or simply send product along with a retail representative. I am sure the motivation for this is that those manufacturers have not been making money at Origins. One might say this is a good business decision; i.e., the purpose of a business is to make money. Going to a convention where you don’t make money would seem like a poor decision.

In reality I think that conventions are truly a unique advertising opportunity. For this reason, I think it is a good decision for a manufacturer to attend regardless of weather one makes money directly at the convention. In my opinion, when you have thousands of alpha gamers who are at a convention to buy and play games I would think one would want to do whatever it takes to get their games into alpha gamer hands. I think this is true even if it means (dare I say it) selling at a discount. I think the gamers that attend the conventions are the best advertising one could want to promote their game. I know this is anecdotal, but I know I can name at least a dozen games I purchased at conventions, introduced to others back at home and at least 6 people purchased the game after playing it. One might suggest that your neighborhood flgs store can do the same thing. Yes they can. However, if they did it well I think those stores would be flourishing and we know that the evidence is to the contrary; look to the letter written by the president of GW to his stockholders.

I am sure I could be seen as someone who is just bucking the status quo at conventions and cruising for discounts. If that were true then I could simply be told to keep buying from my e-tailer and taking those discounts. Well, could anyone think of a more difficult way to get games into the hands of new players than an e-tailing site? Games are viral. Old players introduce games to the uninitiated to get new players. I think few gamers are spontaneously created. I mean can you imagine someone who only ever played Monopoly and Risk going to an e-tailing site unprompted, looking at a listing for Tigris and Euphrates and breaking into the hobby? I’m sure it’s possible, but would you base the business plan of your game manufacturing company on that idea?

All I can say to manufacturers who are shunning gaming conventions is I truly wish you no ill will. I just hope that if you really have a great game that I happen to notice it. If the only place I am going to see it is on some e-tailer’s listing with the 350 other games that will be released in any given year we can only hope for the best. I can also imagine that I won’t be looking for unheard of games for the next few months. I’m sure that I will be looking for games that I played at Origins and GenCon. Probably the ones I wanted and would have purchased on the spot, but didn't want to pay MSRP. Anyway, if you have a great game then I truly hope yours is one that I will have played.
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