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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

Votan

Explorer
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.
I wonder how much of this is delaying bills to try and hold cash in reserve to survive the multiple month freeze of non-essential retail. If it works out, maybe some of this outstanding debt will be worked out quickly?
 

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I wonder how much of this is delaying bills to try and hold cash in reserve to survive the multiple month freeze of non-essential retail. If it works out, maybe some of this outstanding debt will be worked out quickly?
That's probably a lot of it, you're right. No one knows how much money they will need in one, two, three month's time. No one wants to spend it now, in case they need it later. That makes sense. Because if they don't have the money now... I hate to see how they'll be doing by then.
 

Votan

Explorer
That's probably a lot of it, you're right. No one knows how much money they will need in one, two, three month's time. No one wants to spend it now, in case they need it later. That makes sense. Because if they don't have the money now... I hate to see how they'll be doing by then.
I think you are absolutely correct. If they don't have any cash on hand right now than I presume they are already dead after a month or two without revenue, unless the government provides an awesome bailout.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I wonder how much of this is delaying bills to try and hold cash in reserve to survive the multiple month freeze of non-essential retail.
The problem with that is that you’re passing your problems on to somebody else (ultimately, a freelancer at the end of the chain waiting for payments to buy groceries with). Delaying bills doesn’t make the problem go away, it just makes it the next person in line’s problem.

When I have to pay my freelancers, I pay them whatever. If I have to whip out my credit card and go into debt because my distributor didn’t pay me, because stores didn’t pay them, I’ll still pay my freelancers.

It’s not easy for anybody.
 

Votan

Explorer
The problem with that is that you’re passing your problems on to somebody else (ultimately, a freelancer at the end of the chain waiting for payments to buy groceries with). Delaying bills doesn’t make the problem go away, it just makes it the next person in line’s problem.

When I have to pay my freelancers, I pay them whatever. If I have to whip out my credit card because my distributor didn’t pay me, because stores didn’t pay them, I’ll still pay my freelancers.
Oh, to be clear, I am trying to explain the behavior not to justify it. Many people do things under pressure that don't show them at their best. But I think that is the most likely scenario for why the bills stopped being paid so fast. I hope freelancers remember your better behavior when the market restarts.
 

Eltab

Hero
After dawdling for a while, I pulled the trigger on two Dark Sun real-paper books with which to plan out a campaign. Noble Knight and somebody through Amazon got my money. Whatever I buy next (waiting for end of "non-essential business" suppression) will go through my FLGS, so they can claim a cut.

Fitz, I'd like to run a purchase through your hands, too. Can you provide contact information to browse your website? (Not sure of EnWorld policy about such request / action.)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Fitz, I'd like to run a purchase through your hands, too. Can you provide contact information to browse your website? (Not sure of EnWorld policy about such request / action.)
If it’s currently in print, buy from the publisher direct at this time if you can. They’re not currently getting paid otherwise. And if given a choice between a secondary seller and the creator, go to the creator if you can, so they get the full sale price.
 

The problem with that is that you’re passing your problems on to somebody else (ultimately, a freelancer at the end of the chain waiting for payments to buy groceries with). Delaying bills doesn’t make the problem go away, it just makes it the next person in line’s problem.

When I have to pay my freelancers, I pay them whatever. If I have to whip out my credit card and go into debt because my distributor didn’t pay me, because stores didn’t pay them, I’ll still pay my freelancers.

It’s not easy for anybody.
I'm with you. My store is small enough to only have myself and three employees. But I'll pay my employees before I pay myself, because I know that I have savings, a credit rating (I can get a loan), room on my credit cards, and other ways to get by. They are younger and/or poorer than I am and therefore will get screwed a lot faster. If I can do it, and I'm decidedly lower-middle class, you'd think some of the CEOs of the bigger companies can help out a bit, wouldn't you? I guess we'll see.
 

If it’s currently in print, buy from the publisher direct at this time if you can. They’re not currently getting paid otherwise. And if given a choice between a secondary seller and the creator, go to the creator if you can, so they get the full sale price.
This is good advice, even if it cuts me out! I think it depends on the publisher when it comes to how much you'd be helping out the "little guy", but the creators are almost always the littlest guy - if you can support creators directly (they often have copies of their work, even if they work for a big publisher - that they get the full value out of selling.)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
This is good advice, even if it cuts me out! I think it depends on the publisher when it comes to how much you'd be helping out the "little guy"
Oh, of course. If we’re talking Hasbro or the like, don’t worry about it. They’ll be fine. But most of the RPG industry is tiny companies of 1-3 employees.
 

Oh, of course. If we’re talking Hasbro or the like, don’t worry about it. They’ll be fine. But most of the RPG industry is tiny companies of 1-3 employees.
Certainly when the Publisher and the Creator are the same person (or a team) then absolutely - support them! No one has more love for the subject than that.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

The only silver lining I can see coming from this (I'm trying to be a "glass half-full" guy here...) is that less RPG stuff will result in more DM's using their own imaginations and making their own stuff up, and more Players suggesting ideas for new spells, races, abilities, etc that they think would be cool to roleplay with.

What sucks the most, to me, is knowing that there are families of "commoners" who are getting hit hard; the designer? Sure. The owner? Yup. But who I always think of is the other folks. The ones behind the scenes. The secretary who handles all the orders that come in. The warehouse workers who pick stuff out and package them up for shipment. The delivery driver who drops off 50lb boxes of books/comics/toys to the stores all day long. Those people are just as important as the store owners and the writers/designers/artists. I hope they all manage to come out of this thing alive (quite literally, in this case I guess). :(

So..CHEERS! To the unsung heroes that lurk in the shadows, keeping the gears of RPG'ing and general geekdom alive! 🍻😎

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


MGibster

Hero
I happen to like the FLGS here in Little Rock. I make most of my purchases through them because I think their customer service is aces. As of today they're still open though they've cancelled all events and closed down their gaming area to the public. I've gone there twice in the last three weeks spending about $130 to stock up on paints and supplies so I could finally get around to painting my Space Marines. I don't know how they're doing overall but I plan on continuing to shop there for as long as I can.

Iron Fists.JPG
 

... The warehouse workers who pick stuff out and package them up for shipment. The delivery driver who drops off 50lb boxes of books/comics/toys to the stores all day long.
I wholeheartedly agree with the main thrust of what you're saying. However, (and it's a small however) warehouse workers and delivery drivers are doing just fine (work-wise), as far as I can tell. Of course, they are endangering their health in some cases, so there's that...

Technically, not everyone is suffering, economy-wise. Places like Walmart and Costco and other grocery stores and supply chains are raking in money from panic-shoppers. The employees risk their health for minimum wage (in a lot of cases), but they're not out of work. Shipping and delivery is the same.

... Though if you're specifically thinking of the comic or game industry warehouse-workers, yeah, I think a lot of them might be getting the axe.
 



If it’s currently in print, buy from the publisher direct at this time if you can. They’re not currently getting paid otherwise. And if given a choice between a secondary seller and the creator, go to the creator if you can, so they get the full sale price.
I don't know... I mean I get this. But the distributor/secondary seller still has bills to pay, and employees to pay.

So skipping middle-men helps the creator/source, but it doesn't help the rest of the supply chain.

Take a look at your original post, at one point you say buy direct, then at the end you say buy from your FLGS. FLGS store-owners are just another middle man, part of the supply chain that can be skipped.

I don't have a moral/ethical answer, but it's not as simple as 'buy direct'
 

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