3rd Horseman of the Apocalypse: 4E Hits the Bargain Bin
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    3rd Horseman of the Apocalypse: 4E Hits the Bargain Bin

    The Third Horseman of the Apocalypse: 4<sup>th</sup> Edition hits the Bargain Bin

    It’s happened before (and it will happen again): an edition of the D&D game is phased out and the product and its associated accessories inevitably hit the clearance shelves, significantly marked down in price. With the announcement earlier this year that 5<sup>th</sup> Edition is officially in the works, the impact of that announcement on the book and hobby trade has been predictable. I can confirm that the effect of that announcement is now showing up at the retail street level.

    Once the announcement of a new edition is made, distributors of products start getting very nervous that they will be left holding a lot of inventory they will not be able to sell at all. While WotC has much greater control in the United States of the sales of its books and accessories in the hobby trade, they do not have anywhere near that same level of control in the book trade. And it appears that the book trade has pulled that trigger and is now aggressively dumping inventory -- in Canada at least. I can’t imagine this is a unique situation confined to Toronto. If you live in the USA, it's happening where you live too -- or it soon will be.

    A little over a week ago, a large volume of 4<sup>th</sup> Edition shrink-wrapped material started appearing on the shelves of a used bookstore chain in Toronto, priced at between 25% to 50% of the normal cover price. To be clear, the prices skewed to the 33% side of the equation at clearance, which means this inventory is being liquidated at a price far lower than that – probably 10-20% of cover price. The manager of the BMV Books chain I spoke with admitted that they don’t usually get too much of this type of inventory, but advised me that it was appearing in their usual distribution channels for new clearance inventory. BMV dipped a toe in the water to see if it would sell. He confirmed to me that “there was a lot more where that came from.”

    Priced to clear, brand new 4<sup>th</sup> Ed hardcovers are selling for between $8.99 and $12.99 with over a dozen individual titles on the shelf. Adventures were also available for about $7.99. While I’m not a great fan of 4E adventures, there aren’t too many full color adventures with maps written for ANY RPG system which aren’t worth $7.99, if for no other reason than for the maps and inspiration alone. So hell yes, I grabbed a few.

    It's not just a bargain for 4E players. Pathfinder RPG players and 3.xx loyalists should pay particular attention to these sorts of clearance sales as there is more immediately useful inventory being sold off at a fire sale price by the book trade that probably never will get sold at that price in the hobby trade later this year. I picked up 4 copies of the Harrowing Halls D&D 3D-Dungeon Tiles for $5.99 each in the shrink. For those unfamiliar with the product line, D&D Dungeon Tiles are highly useful game accessories that only become MORE useful when you have multiple copies of the same set. For 3D dungeon tiles? That’s a fine price. Sadly, they did not have any boxed master sets at the store I visited, but you can be sure that D&D branded inventory will also hit the market when sourced from the book trade as well. I would advise gamers to keep both eyes open for these products in the coming weeks.

    I don’t know about you, but I would happily drop a $100 on a large collection of D&D Master Set dungeon tiles for $10-$12.99 each. Hobby trade sellers know their products far better and are unlikely to liquidate D&D Dungeon Tiles at that price – but the book sellers will, so watch for this stuff over the coming weeks and months. It surely won’t last long when it hits the shelf. The same thinking – and pricing -- applies to collection of monster counters for those who prefer to use counters during play instead of miniatures or pawns.

    For 4<sup>th</sup> Ed fans, this move to clear inventory by the book trade heralds a deeper sell off by distributors in the hobby and games trade later this spring and summer. My guess is that the usual suspects at Gencon 2012 will be offering hardcovers for $10 a piece or four for $30 as they have in the past at the end of the 3.xx cycle. If you are looking to fill in your 4E collection, the time to do so for cheap is in the next six months. If the price is $10 or so, I wouldn’t look for a lower price – take the title you are missing when you see it. Saving $2 isn’t worth it if you don’t see the title again.

    Lastly, given this sort of liquidation, I would expect that the amount of new product leaving WotC to distributors in the book trade since the announcement of 5E is very low if not approaching zero. While I don’t have reliable reports of the sales to the hobby and game trade, I can’t imagine it’s appreciably higher. Those sorts of anaemic sales that come at the end of any edition of the game simply underscore the urgency of the need to get the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons into gamers’ hands as soon as possible.

    If you are a gamer who is betting that 5<sup>th</sup> Ed won’t be released until 2013? That’s a bet I wouldn’t take – playtesting be damned.
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    Last edited by Steel_Wind; Thursday, 1st March, 2012 at 10:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Considering that they announced 5E about two months ago, this should come as no surprise. 4E sales must have been tanking for a while to already have a new edition in the works.

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    Hmmm.... I'm still selling more 4e than I was 3.5 at the time 4e was announced. (Interestingly 3.5 sells better now than it did just before 4e came along - I think people were tiring of it, but were reinvigorated by the edition wars) Of course, I foolishly blew out a whole lot of 3.5 stock when 4e was announced. That was a mistake.

    Of course, Pathfinder sells better than 3.5 did (near the end - not from the beginning, of course) but I think that's because it's a better game.

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    This is funny considering that WOTC is still releasing new 4E material.

    Off the presses and into the bargain bin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard View Post
    This is funny considering that WOTC is still releasing new 4E material.

    Off the presses and into the bargain bin.
    I didn't say that their most recent books are in the bargain bin already and I certainly did not see ANY evidence of that, but there were titles released from late 2010 and from 2011 that I saw there. Boxed hardcover sets for $16 a piece, too.

    Given that WotC will be very concerned about being stuck with inventory on any new material they release between now and 5E, you can expect print runs on those books to be very conservative in number. If you are a collector, don't get too optimistic about 2012 material for cheap. For releases published prior to 2012? Once it hits $10 a book, get it while the getting is good.
    Last edited by Steel_Wind; Thursday, 1st March, 2012 at 10:12 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ExploderWizard View Post
    This is funny considering that WOTC is still releasing new 4E material.

    Off the presses and into the bargain bin.
    Which leaves the FLGS holding the bag. They paid to get the product at roll out and then the distributors hemorrhage the leftovers to discount outlets.

    I wonder which of the recent edition swaps hurt FLGSs the worst.

    • 3.0 to 3.5 {d20 glut included]
    • Old World of Darkness to N-WoD
    • 3.5 to 4.0
    • 4.Essentials to 5.0

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    I'm going to be buying at the bargain bin.

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    So much for that whole Essentials being the "Evergreen" product....

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    Thanks for the heads-up. I'll need to see if I can pick up the two Eberron hardcovers for a good price!

    Sadly, this was inevitable. It doesn't mean anything about the quality of those products, or of 4e in general. And, if you're a collector or looking to pick up some missing pieces, this is a good thing.

    I just hope D&D has the support needed to ride out the next year or so - I can't see them pulling together 5e in less than 18 months (unless the "open playtest" is a smokescreen, which I don't believe), and if they bring forward the release and do a rush job, that can't bode well for quality.

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    Dungeons & Dragons is pretty much an evergreen product for most game stores, be it AD&D, 2nd Edition, 4th Edition or Pathfinder. I know we'll be stocking 4th edition D&D until we can no longer get it. Even a "bad" edition of D&D sells better than any non-D&D RPG.

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