Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not to rant but... business matters

Many gamers recoil from the statement above like a vampire from sunlight. Game companies are SUPPOSED to operate on whisper-thin margins where a single mistake (or a single distributor who runs off with your money) leads to certain bankruptcy.

Then you have their RESPECT, and when you go out of business, they can sit around and talk about how awesome your books were, and how great it would be if you were still around.

Example #4,579 of this behavior is right here: a gamer starts a thread and says "hey, no random minis please".

The thread goes on for a bit with a lot of people basically chiming in and saying "yeah! random minis are an evil corporate scam! way to rake in stupid dollars hasbro!".

Then, Charles freaking Ryan, former brand manager for D&D at WOTC steps in and says "guys, they have to be random, or else we have to guess what minis will sell, then the distributor has to guess, then the retailer has to guess and prices would rise by 50% and every step along the chain is choked with unsold product and there are no more minis to buy, it wouldn't be worth it".
That last part is really really important. If they sold them that way, they wouldn't be selling them. The line would be as dead as Julius Caesar. Or in other words, it would be Alternity.

And then... everyone completely ignores Charles Ryan's post.

They don't even deign to respond with a "nuh-uh!"

They just continue on like no one ever posted with "random minis suck!"

Like two pages later you get a response, the first I've noticed so far with "distribution is the problem, now go fix it".

Except they freaking did! Randomized minis fixes it!

And then someone else pointed out that WOTC offered a non-random pack of that most common of all monsters, the orc, which was pulled because distributors weren't ordering them.

Followed by a bunch more posts "random minis suck!"


Am I losing my mind?

Basically this entire thread boils down to a bunch of customers saying "I want X product packaged in X way". The company says "if we sold X product in X way we'd go out of business". And the customer responds "yeah but *I* personally would buy them if you sold them that way, staying in business, that's YOUR job".


Larry Clapp said...

So I read a couple of Ryan's posts. He argues that the distribution channel is part of the problem. I thought, maybe WotC could offer direct sales, online only. Then people could get their non-random minis, and it wouldn't choke the distribution channels. But then I thought, So then WotC has to deal with all the problems with keeping an inventory and dealing directly with Joe Consumer, and kills off an (I assume) profitable secondary market (that already exists and some people are just too stupid or squeamish to use) in the bargain.

Stay the course, WotC! :)

Larry Clapp said...

Oh, and remember, most gamers aren't, um, our age. :)

(Or are they? Has the hobby aged that much?)

Anyway, my theory is: Many gamers a) haven't had to support themselves by the sweat of their brow, and have unrealistic expectations for businesses, and/or b) are awash in free software (Open Source or what-have-you) and other easily copiable digital content, have internalized the "everything is easily copyable and easily distributable all but instantaneously" meme, and whether they realize it or not think that this "should" apply to physical objects, too.

And then, of course, there's always option C) the people in the thread are just stupid. The ones that know better just shake their heads in awe and wonder, and move on.

But on the other hand, what do I know. The closest I come to the gamer community is reading your blog. :)

Chuck said...

Yeah, at some point someone says to the original poster "you think non-random minis are the thing, get a business plan, get a loan, start a business".

And he replies "I can Monday morning QB all I want! And besides, I have bills to pay! If you give me 2 million I'd try it though".

So he has bills to pay, unlike the people who run businesses.

But if you give him YOUR money, he'll start a business with it.

But HIS money? Risk HIS money?!?!?

That's crazy talk.

He has bills to pay.

Larry Clapp said...

So you're going with option C, then? :)

And anyway, I bet he's lying: if you gave him $2 million, he still wouldn't start a non-random mini business, he'd a) go pay his bills, and then b) move to Tahiti. (And (a) is only optional.)

Chuck said...

Heh, you might be right. If someone gave me two million dollars I sure as hell wouldn't start a non-random minis business with it.

I might, as Kid Rock once advised me (not me personally, but in the course of one of his tasty jams) start an escort service "for all the right reasons", but I wouldn't start a non-random minis business.

My larger point was that yes, everyone, including this clown, has the right to Monday Morning QB WOTC or any other business of their choice.

But if you're willing to risk someone else's money (ala the $2 million) but not your money, THEN you lose credibility.

It's not so much that he was unwilling to get a loan and start a business.

It's that he was only willing to do it with someone ELSE'S money. Which was, in effect, what he was telling WOTC to do in the thread: spend their money.

Daniel M. Perez said...

Yeah, I read that thread after Charles Ryan's comment was highlighted on the front page of EN World, and I had to laugh (because the alternative would have been to rant like you did and I was just having a crappy day as it was).

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