Monday, March 23, 2009

The Gaming Economy - From a chat at TABScon

Thank God I work for AIG!Hmmm, what else is on my mind...

I had a chat with one of the vendors at TABScon this past weekend. After I was admiring his stock for a few hours he offered me a copy of Valley Games' Titan for $50 tax included. I hemmed and hawed and decided this was too good a deal to miss out on so I grabbed it. The gentleman asked for my help packing his full boxes and carrying them to his car and I happily obliged.

We chatted things up a bit as we packed and he made a comment about the economy. I asked him how bad business was. Was it down 10%? 20%? 30%? I couldn't conceive of a business surviving a hit as bad a third. He said that last year at this time, he sold literally every copy of every game he got into stock.

This year, he's sold 1 out of 10.

Ninety freakin' percent DOWN!


Luckily this individual was a bit diversified in his income so he wasn't dependent on his boardgaming sideline. But 90%! Jeeeez.

What does this mean for ASL and wargames? I'm not suggesting, as President Bush did a few years ago in the wake of 9/11's depressive effects on the economy, that you to go buy stuff to single-handedly keep the economy afloat. Profligate spending is not the answer (and this is no more true than amongst ASL fanatics); but I think that wiser spending by all involved will keep the hobby healthy.

I'm thinking that if nothing else, the downturn in the economy will force the truly committed wargaming companies and retailers to better service and prices. Gone are the salad days when anything will sell. Granted wargaming has been undergoing this kind of darwinism for years. We need to support the companies that make great games and have good service -- not every Tom, Dick and Harry with a hex map and countersheet. Have a little patience for the companies like MMP and GMT, the two "big" players in the wargaming space these days who themselves are tiptoeing carefully around surprising spikes in costs. [Those unafraid of ConsimWorld should check out the fun banter regarding the business practices of MMP in the Support Folder. Wow! Always a good time...]

Off the top of my head, the people I still don't mind giving my hard-earned money to? The creme of the crop for ASL is of course MMP, Bounding Fire, Lone Canuck Publishing, Schwerpunkt... You'll have your favourites too. For wargames in general? GMT has earned a top spot in my books and Simmons Games -- that man is a G-A-M-E-R! Consider your pre-orders. Wargaming is infamous for this financial necessity. Use a little discretion. DO patronize the games you want to see. DON'T pre-order everything under the sun.

For Internet retailers? Scott Blanton's Gamers Armory, and Jason Russ' Wargames Depot (and Paul Paterson's for you Eurogamers out there -- tell them I sent you).

If you're careful about your money you're probably already doing this, at least subconsciously asking yourself: Do I really need this ASL-related game from a company I don't think puts out the best stuff? Do I want yet another Bulge game from this company that doesn't seem as committed as they should? This company's service has been mediocre -- why am I still buying their stuff?

Press your FLGS too. Retailers have more to lose. Demand good service. That snot-nosed punk that actually knows the games and has a great customer rapport vs. the store on the otherside of town that's run by that refined gentleman who looks down at you for checking out the wargame half-shelf to the detriment of their Magic card sales -- you decide. Demand better prices. Bargain or haggle a bit. Shop around. An economic downturn means that your dollars will have that much more impact.

Anyways, that's just some more mutterings of this madman.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great advice for not just war games. This is a chance for the service and quality of the products to improve across the board (pun intended).

There is money to be made for quality, there always has and always will be. Let the pruning begin!