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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

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
@MoonSong Of course! Your located in the heart of the moon, I'm not surprised shipping is so expensive over there... ;-)
That is the meaning of the country's name -and the capital city, and the valley surrounding that city and the state where that valley is, and the name of the language the name is in, and one of the names of the ruling tribe before the European conquest, but more like they took the name of the place after they conquered the other tribes-.
In - co
the heart (ok, this one is actually core, center or navel but the idea is the same)- xictli
Moon - Meztli

Now, in this language compounds are made with the first syllable of each root. So, Metzxicco

Bonus fact, the ancestral name of the land Anahuac, means "The land between the waters(the oceans)" So middle land or Middle Earth.

However not all hope is lost, there is a local provider that can be quite helpful. They offer the Amazon treatment, you can send product to their warehouses and they provide the delivery, you just need to provide volume. If I have enough money after this all settles and Diamond -or a replacement- opens again, I could see myself opening a small mail service for comics and rpg books.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
Definitely stay in touch with the local post office, as they are well practiced as an organization at adapting to adverse situations.

They may offer safe drop-off solutions, either by appointment (no line) or have areas set uplike at banks right now, where lines are 6-10 feet apart, even if that means wrapping around the building, or even drop off services where you set the whole thing up and pay online and they send someone out with a mailbag, or something else more creative than any of that.

But like you say, gas is fairly cheap right now. Curbside personal dropoff is a hell of an op for maintaining customer loyalty and generating continued sales!
 

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.
I've heard that too. That excuse gets sillier every year.

PDF sales of RPG books have been a "thing" for almost 20 years now. Any contract on the issue written in at least the last decade that didn't differentiate between e-books and video games would be painfully negligent in its wording.

You'd think that the next time D&D product licenses are being negotiated, that the license for video games would stipulate that e-book/pdf versions of tabletop D&D products would not fall under that license and WotC would retain those rights. It would almost certainly be a trivial thing to add as a clause to a licensing agreement the next time licensing out those rights became an issue.
 


Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
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...
Due to 9/11, in US any envelope over a certain weight, and any box package over a certain size (maybe all) have to be dropped off at a USPS window.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
I think I need to order the games from Miniature Market that I want before it's too late.

One of my FLGS' was trying to do curb side assistance but our mayor put a squash to that, saying that all non-essential places must close down for the time being. Which really stunk because I wanted to help my FLGS out.
 


Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I think I need to order the games from Miniature Market that I want before it's too late.

One of my FLGS' was trying to do curb side assistance but our mayor put a squash to that, saying that all non-essential places must close down for the time being. Which really stunk because I wanted to help my FLGS out.
You can buy gift certificates with them (I do it by paypal-ing them some money, and then they put it in a bag for me once this is all over).
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
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 had to check this myself lately, pickup is really cheap, Canada post wants $3.50 CAD for one-time unlimited number of packages, or $7.50/wk-free depending on how much you ship in a year. Now, whether it's the best option in the current situation ie; liability, cost, essential-ness, etc. that's impossible to say right now.

Parcel pickup and delivery for businesses | Business
 
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I had to check this myself lately, pickup is really cheap, Canada post wants $3.50 CAD for one-time unlimited number of packages, or $7.50/wk-free depending on how much you ship in a year. Now, whether it's the best option in the current situation ie; liability, cost, essential-ness, etc. that's impossible to say right now.

Parcel pickup and delivery for businesses | Business
Hey, that's not bad. Thanks! (Agree with your last sentence, too. Still a lot to ponder.)
 

Rygar

Explorer
Hopefully, the stores will qualify for the loan money from the government, but I don't know how that is going to work. One major fact remains, the industry is going to go through a major period of change. A stronger focus on digital publishing is going to be essential for the companies that pull through. 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.

Gen Con might very well still happen and if so, a lot of companies are going to be praying for good con attendance so as to sell product. Some of the smaller cons that actually get to happen might very well see more than the usual publisher presence if the companies think they can move physical product at those cons.
I'm very late to the party, but I've been thinking about this topic for a while.

I'm strongly of the opinion that this will be catastrophic to the store model and this tipped over a market that was already on the edge of failing. My reasoning is based on the fact that the gameshop Industry was completely dependent on Magic the Gathering.

So once Covid passes, there's all of these stores that need to stay afloat. People will not flock right back to stores the moment it clears. They'll get their core audience back mostly, but their casual audience won't return for awhile, if they return at all. Take recent studies with movie theaters as an example, pegging attendance for movies at between 30% and 70% of the pre-Covid volumes when they reopen.

Why is that a big deal? Because Magic the Gathering requires minimum volumes of attendees. You can't play if you have less than 8 people for an FNM, tournaments with less than around 16 people are pretty pointless. So if the playgroup in a store was 10 people, and only 7 show, then 10 customers are lost.

It's a huge issue for gamestores, if Magic the Gathering attendance stays down for just a few months, they're bankrupt. D&D and Boardgames don't bring in significant cash flow like Mtg does. Comics won't save them, like they did when Urza's collapsed Magic rapidly, that Industry has been driving out customers for awhile.

Those loans won't save them either. Taking on additional debt to stay afloat while they're waiting for people to come back won't save them, it means greater expenses even when they do come back, assuming they come back.

Gamestores have been a failing model for years now, this is just going to accelerate the inevitable, the collapse of the model everywhere except the very largest dense cities.
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
ETA: Sorry for the unnecessary sarcasm

...
Gamestores have been a failing model for years now, this is just going to accelerate the inevitable, the collapse of the model everywhere except the very largest dense cities.
Yeah, the past decade+ of constant growth in their sales has really shown the collapse is inevitable... Game stores are less dependent on CCGs than before, as Boardgames and RPGs have grown much faster. Out here in the middle of nowhere we have game stores cropping up all over and existing game stores expanding, and apparently the number of stores is increasing on the whole, not just here.
 

Jimmy Dick

Explorer
I'm very late to the party, but I've been thinking about this topic for a while.

I'm strongly of the opinion that this will be catastrophic to the store model and this tipped over a market that was already on the edge of failing. My reasoning is based on the fact that the gameshop Industry was completely dependent on Magic the Gathering.

So once Covid passes, there's all of these stores that need to stay afloat. People will not flock right back to stores the moment it clears. They'll get their core audience back mostly, but their casual audience won't return for awhile, if they return at all. Take recent studies with movie theaters as an example, pegging attendance for movies at between 30% and 70% of the pre-Covid volumes when they reopen.

Why is that a big deal? Because Magic the Gathering requires minimum volumes of attendees. You can't play if you have less than 8 people for an FNM, tournaments with less than around 16 people are pretty pointless. So if the playgroup in a store was 10 people, and only 7 show, then 10 customers are lost.

It's a huge issue for gamestores, if Magic the Gathering attendance stays down for just a few months, they're bankrupt. D&D and Boardgames don't bring in significant cash flow like Mtg does. Comics won't save them, like they did when Urza's collapsed Magic rapidly, that Industry has been driving out customers for awhile.

Those loans won't save them either. Taking on additional debt to stay afloat while they're waiting for people to come back won't save them, it means greater expenses even when they do come back, assuming they come back.

Gamestores have been a failing model for years now, this is just going to accelerate the inevitable, the collapse of the model everywhere except the very largest dense cities.
I think some stores will survive because they're in better financial shape, but others will close down permanently. You're right, this is going to have a huge negative impact on the FLGS across the country. It's going to hit some publishers pretty hard too. Most of them have a better chance at recovering though. Retail is a changing industry anyway and the FLGS that emerge out of this might end up diversifying beyond the game industry.

We're going to see and have to adapt to a lot of changes when this is over. History shows us significant events like this create tremendous social changes and this one is pretty big. I also don't expect to see the economy spring back magically. It's going to be a lot slower coming back than many people think.
 

Gamestores have been a failing model for years now, this is just going to accelerate the inevitable, the collapse of the model everywhere except the very largest dense cities.
Thanks for making me feel better about the future of my store! (Sorry for the unnecessary sarcasm). :p

On a brighter note, my particular FLGS had a record year in 2019 with highest sales in the 27 years I've been in business. It was actually the only year in the 27 that I didn't worry about it's future prospects. (We've always done well, aside from the late '90's, where I had a 2nd job, but I always worry anyway.)

...Obviously this event has been far worse than anything I ever worried about - but at least I'm not alone!

Game stores are less dependent on CCGs than before, as Boardgames and RPGs have grown much faster.
Yeah, my store doesn't rely on MTG at all, I mean, we sell it of course, but it's just one aspect. I think I might sell more $ worth of 5e hardcovers in a year, but I'd have to double-check that. At any rate, with Board Games at an all-time high, and D&D, Pathfinder, WizKids minis, and Warhammer, we do well (when we are not forced by pandemics to be closed). Games is only a third of my store, Comics is two-thirds, and what we've lost in slumping new comics sales, we've been making up in increased back-issue sales.

I think some stores will survive because they're in better financial shape, but others will close down permanently. You're right, this is going to have a huge negative impact on the FLGS across the country.
Across the WORLD, my friend.

We're going to see and have to adapt to a lot of changes when this is over. History shows us significant events like this create tremendous social changes and this one is pretty big. I also don't expect to see the economy spring back magically. It's going to be a lot slower coming back than many people think.
One thing I've already noticed, and who knows how long this will last, is an increased desire to "support local". Our biggest competitor is AMAZON, really (undercut us vastly on D&D books and Graphic Novels), but even now a lot of customers who may have normally ordered online are placing orders with us out of a sense of community. This social change might end up being the thing that saves us.

Of course, a big push to digital will take some of that away, too, and I think that's pretty inevitable.

Who knows what the future holds. All I know is that I will never give up. I like my store!
 

Jimmy Dick

Explorer
One thing I've already noticed, and who knows how long this will last, is an increased desire to "support local". Our biggest competitor is AMAZON, really (undercut us vastly on D&D books and Graphic Novels), but even now a lot of customers who may have normally ordered online are placing orders with us out of a sense of community. This social change might end up being the thing that saves us.

Of course, a big push to digital will take some of that away, too, and I think that's pretty inevitable.

Who knows what the future holds. All I know is that I will never give up. I like my store!
Glad to see you are not giving up! That's always important in the neverending battle to survive and thrive in the retail world. I agree that Amazon and online shopping is the biggest competitor you will face. I also think that those who use proactive thinking and planning will have a major advantage when they reopen. I organize PFS2 game days for my store in Columbia, so I'm already preparing to lay the groundwork for a big day when we can go back and play.

Interestingly, that store focuses pretty hard on minis, dice, paints, etc. type point of purchase items used in gaming. I think they make a lot more money from those types of things than they do on the books themselves. We've been picking up plenty of Pathfinder Second Edition books from them, but I always see our players picking up $20 or $30 worth of dice and minis every game day.
 

Interestingly, that store focuses pretty hard on minis, dice, paints, etc. type point of purchase items used in gaming. I think they make a lot more money from those types of things than they do on the books themselves. We've been picking up plenty of Pathfinder Second Edition books from them, but I always see our players picking up $20 or $30 worth of dice and minis every game day.
Just before everyone went into isolation, we had a HUGE uptick in our sales on miniatures, paints, and painting accessories. A LOT of people had the idea to stay at home and paint minis. A good use of their time, I'd say.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It’s unfortunate that everybody is passing the pain down the line, because the end of that line is freelancers. I would say if there is some way to pay suppliers, try to do it. Even if it means borrowing.
 

It’s unfortunate that everybody is passing the pain down the line, because the end of that line is freelancers. I would say if there is some way to pay suppliers, try to do it. Even if it means borrowing.
I've been having a hard time understanding why so many businesses have had trouble paying their bills already. I completely understand why people will have trouble next month, or the month after that, but it seems like a lot of stuff has been run pretty darn close to the wire if they can't pay bills already. Diamond Comics Distributors told the comics publishers that they weren't going to pay them... the same week that they stopped shipping new comics. ONE week and they are out of money. Seems quick to me. Maybe the owner should reconsider his mansion.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Diamond Comics Distributors told the comics publishers that they weren't going to pay them... the same week that they stopped shipping new comics.
Not just comics -- remember that Diamond distributes tabletop RPGs too. And Alliance - same ownership - is one of the major RPG distributors.
 

Not just comics -- remember that Diamond distributes tabletop RPGs too. And Alliance - same ownership - is one of the major RPG distributors.
Oh, I know! You're right, of course. (Though, I've never liked Alliance - I use other games distributors myself, so they don't come immediately to mind when I think of Diamond, it's true.)
 

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