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Game Distributors Closing Down; RPG Publishers Affected

It's not just conventions which are getting cancelled; the pandemic is affecting the whole tabletop RPG industry. Distributors, such as Alliance, are closing down temporarily, meaning that many tabletop RPGs are not reaching stores; of course the stores themselves are also closed in most places. To make things worse, at least one distributor of RPGs has halted payments to publishers.

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This puts a lot of tabletop game publishers in a very precarious position. Many of them have shut down warehouse operations, or put employees on furlough.

However, digital sales are still working, and they are an excellent way to help ensure your favourite publishers make it though this crisis. Obviously, buy essentials first. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. But if you can, consider buying digital products (PDFs and the like) from your favourite publishers.

If possible try to purchase direct from the publisher, as they will get to keep the whole purchase price rather than giving a substantial percentage to a secondary seller.

Here's a letter from Diamond, a comic-book distributor which is also a distributor for many tabletop RPG companies:

Dear Diamond Vendor:
As the world responds to the outbreak of COVID-19, our focus is on protecting employees, understanding the risks to our business, evaluating the risks to our industry and examining the Federal Government resources available. While the full impact of this epidemic is still unknown, one thing is certain: supply chain disruptions have cash flow implications across the extended industry that can’t be underestimated.
While we work to understand the current industry landscape, the unfortunate truth is that we are no longer receiving consistent payments from our customers. This requires that at this time, we hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week. This is a difficult decision and not one we make lightly. As this situation continues to evolve, we are committed to building out a plan for payment and will have more information to share later this week.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during these difficult times.
Stan Heidmann
President, Geppi Family Enterprises

Many small publishers are struggling right now. We at EN Publishing literally just sent our first ever major stock shipment to the US.

So, if you can afford it, and if your necessities are taken care of first, consider buying digital products directly from publishers. It might be their only income stream at the moment. Sign up to their Patreons, buy PDFs, watch streams, support Kickstarters if you can.

Additionally, many local game stores may be still doing mail order. If you can, and your local store is doing it, order directly from them. It could make the difference in helping them through this difficult time.

The CEO of Alliance (which has the same ownership as Diamond) said, a week ago "...in the interest of employee safety and to comply with direction from local governments... Any orders not shipped by that time will not be processed until further notice."
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments


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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It's important to release the whole downhill stream for this. What's happening is this:

Game stores are closed --> game stores aren't paying the distributor --> distributor isn't paying publishers --> publishers struggle to pay employees and freelancers. In many cases for those small publishers at the end of that chain, this could be their only source of income.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Its going to be brutal. I guarantee my local store is not going to survive this, they were barely hanging on as it was. Thankfully Miniature Market should be able to weather this.
 


Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
And that means your store might not pay for stock, which means everybody down the chain as far as the freelancers is screwed.
Yep, though their stock had gotten so stale lately the impact will be a lot less than a really healthy store shutting down. But the retail industry is going to see so many failings and bankruptcies its going to reverberate up and down the chain. A lot of supplies are going to be left holding the bill, which will lead to some of them failing as well, which will push it on to the creators of course. The longer the lockdown lasts the more devastated the retail market is going to be. But even then we aren't going to see a true recovery until there is some kind of vaccine. Hard times ahead.

Well at least I just ordered some MDF from Noble Knight Games to help them out.

Sucks since my wargaming group meets there and its close by with a lot of tables. Thats on hold for a while to say the least.
 

A stronger focus on digital publishing is going to be essential for the companies that pull through.
The thing is most smaller publishers already do digital - for the smallest I'd say it's their main channel. Everyone from Paizo to Green Ronin to Modiphius to most of the RPG names you can think of already have a significant digital product line. WOTC is really the only one that doesn't do PDFs of their current product line. That's been reported as being due to a) licensing agreements for video games as somehow someway blocking the publication of PDFs due to being an "electronic product" and b) piracy fears .. .which seems less likely these days but you never know.

That makes me wonder how WotC will keep 5e moving forward. I don't waste my time with MTG stuff, so I don't know how their digital MTG is working for them, but unless they've got another product generating lots of money, I'd say WotC is in worse shape than some companies that have a strong focus on digital products.
WOTC being part of Hasbro and having a relatively small staff should be fine. The next 5E book is what, end of May/early June? It will sell one way or another. They have big new physical MTG products coming (controversy for the win!) plus their newer online component, Arena, seems to be doing very well. I wouldn't worry about them just yet. The FLGS is going to get hammered first.
 

These are going to be skinny cow years, bad years for economy, for all no on-line enternaiment industry, even for big fishes as Disney. This is not only closed shops, but also lots of fans who can't allow themself to spend so many money for their hobby because there are troubles with their jobs and the have to save.

Some 3PPs could be closed, or be bought by a biger fish, for example WotC.

If God wants things will be better after this summer, beause sunny and warmer days help to stop this, or hopes to find a cure.
 
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Skinny cows years are the years of bad economy and poverty. Haven't you readen Joseph's story in the Biblie with the Pharaon's dream about seven fat cows and seven skinny cows?
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Speaking as the owner of a Comic and Game store... stuff is rough out there right now. I'm probably going to be able to ride it out, but we're losing at least several hundred dollars every day. Our expenses will drop drastically with Diamond not shipping comics (which is why they're doing it, aside from the uncertainty of if they'll be able to even get shipping companies to go, or if they can even open their own warehouses.)

My store's not closed, but it's open only to curbside pickup, and seeing as we've been told definitively to "stay home" we only get around four customers per day for that.

... It sure ate into what otherwise would have been amazing sales with Wildemount and new WizKids minis in the last few weeks, game-wise.
Damn. I wonder if you could deliver products to people’s doorsteps?

idk, I’m really worried for my locals. We have 3 in a metro area of less than half a million people. Them, the used bookstores, and other little shops like the costume store down the street from me...I don’t know. It’s gonna be rough.

I hope you get through it in one piece, neighbor.
 

Isn't this an opportunity for one-(wo)man shops to make some money? The post here is still running, the postal pickup service for businesses is still running.
Selling product "by post" for a small shop consists of actually taking packages to a post office, and standing in line. Does that sound safe to you? The more of us try to switch to that model, the longer the ques get. Sure, you can line 'em up six feet apart, but still, you're not exactly reducing risk for spreading illness by switching to selling by post than you would be by implementing a "one or two" people in the brick-and-mortar store (and most of those are being told to shut down.)

My point isn't that we shouldn't try to do some shipping - just that it's not quite as easy (during a pandemic) as just switching to shipping out. (Not that I mean to suggest that you thought it would be.)
 

1) Damn. I wonder if you could deliver products to people’s doorsteps?
2) idk, I’m really worried for my locals. We have 3 in a metro area of less than half a million people. Them, the used bookstores, and other little shops like the costume store down the street from me...I don’t know. It’s gonna be rough.
3) I hope you get through it in one piece, neighbor.
1) I am going to look into doing that, actually!

2) I feel for them. Not everyone's little business is gonna make it, and I think that's very sad.

3) Thank you. I really appreciate it!
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
Selling product "by post" for a small shop consists of actually taking packages to a post office, and standing in line. Does that sound safe to you?
Doesn't your postalservice offer pickup contracts for businesses? Going to the postaloffice to ship (many) packages is a bad idea. How do webstores do this, I doubt they go to the post office for a bunch of packages...
 

Doesn't your postalservice offer pickup contracts for businesses? Going to the postaloffice to ship (many) packages is a bad idea. How do webstores do this, I doubt they go to the post office for a bunch of packages...
That's all about volume. If you do a LOT of shipping out, sure, it's worth paying for pick-ups. (Or if your customer base is okay with really expensive shipping costs, like some crazy e-bay people) but to ship out a few things here and there, or when you're getting started? Everyone I know has to go to the post office. I don't know how it is everywhere in the world, though, I admit.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Isn't this an opportunity for one-(wo)man shops to make some money? The post here is still running, the postal pickup service for businesses is still running. A small POD shop could do printing on it's own (as long as there are supplies) and ship to one-(wo)man stores directly, who can supply customers by post. So publisher => POD shop => store => customer. Publishers could even do some direct sales that way. Or you could do stuff directly from China (Aliexpress orders are arriving again), produce it there and let a distribution center so shipping from there...
I can actually print and bound small books at a reduced price, but postage costs are very high in my country. So, I end up with a book/mag that costs cents to print but requires 4-8 dollars to mail.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
That's all about volume. If you do a LOT of shipping out, sure, it's worth paying for pick-ups.
Have you actually checked that? I'm seeing €6,55 (ex. VAT) in buildup areas for pickup with a two hour window when they can pick it up. That's not per package, that's for a whole mailbag (those aren't small). If your small, you can do pickup once a week, if you so small you can't fill up a mailbag once a week, your too small to run a business.

We're going to get to situations where the big webstores can't ship anymore because distributors are closed and the depth of stock is limited for their operation. FLGS are sitting on a trove op product. So maybe ask a bit higher price for shipping. It's either that or no sales at all. THAT is what I mean by creative, business operating out of their (known) comfort zone... Or you can take the pickup shipping hit, some income is better then no income...

It of course depends on local options and prices, but I was surprised how cheap it is. Not that strange btw. There are already vans driving around picking up post all over town, so an additional stop shouldn't have to be that expensive...

@MoonSong Of course! Your located in the heart of the moon, I'm not surprised shipping is so expensive over there... ;-)
 

Have you actually checked that?
Well, I admit I haven't checked into it lately, and that I absolutely will be looking into all the options, but I helped one of my customers start an online comic store (I wan't worried about competition, as my customer-base is usually happy to come in), and as far as I know, he pays about $7 (Canadian, so 4.5 euros) per shipment, and has to do it at a post office, as the best possible price he could get here. I trust that he looked into it. I'm not talking about one comic in an envelope here, though.

(I'll let you know if I find out I'm wrong.)

There's a reason why I'll probably start with driving around delivering stuff to customers myself! My time would normally be worth more money, but at least gas is cheap, and most of my customers live within 10 km of my store, I expect.
 

Votan

Explorer
Well, I admit I haven't checked into it lately, and that I absolutely will be looking into all the options, but I helped one of my customers start an online comic store (I wan't worried about competition, as my customer-base is usually happy to come in), and as far as I know, he pays about $7 (Canadian, so 4.5 euros) per shipment, and has to do it at a post office, as the best possible price he could get here. I trust that he looked into it. I'm not talking about one comic in an envelope here, though.
I suspect it will depend a fair bit on the local postal rules and any adaptions that are made to them as time passes. In Canada they are talking about July as optimistic, and I suspect we'll see a lot of innovation if it continues to December in how businesses operate.
 

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