07 July 2006

Still No CotHR (or "Where's the Cheese for my Whine?")

Despite the fact that BI has attested to sending out the comps of Children of the Horned Rat (as well as Terror in Talabheim), I still haven't seen a copy. I'd say I'm not complaining, but I guess I am. At this rate, I'll be paid for the projects before I see them in finished form (which is something I wouldn't actually complain about, really).

I got out of work early today so that I could pick my boy up at his grandmother's. He and I drove to the local (meaning: less than 20 minutes away) game shop, and the child konked out on the way there. I put him on my shoulder after we'd arrived, and he slept quite peacefully as I browsed the store shelves.

They've got every WFRP title produced thus far at the store, right up to Barony of the Damned, but nothing newer. I sighed, shrugged carefully so as not to wake up the boy, and browsed the board games. The guy behind the counter asked if I was looking for anything specific, and I told him.

First off, he's not familiar with RPGs, and I can cut him slack for it. I know the guy from back when I worked at Game Towne; he was a very loyal customer, and now he's semi-retired and works at this store to pass the time and stay tuned to one of his favorite hobbies. Knowing him, I also know that he's much more a wargamer than anything else. That's fine, since the hobby isn't exactly limited to my own narrow slice of it. So when I mentioned the title, he wasn't familiar with it.

Still, what he said basically boiled down to this: it's not lucrative for the store to buy stock of most RPGs because they don't sell. He offered to order the book for me, in which case I'd get a copy within a week's time.

I thanked him, but since I'm supposed to have a number of complimentary copies coming my way, I'd be better off saving my money for a book that I didn't help to author.

So we get back to the double-edged sword of supporting the friendly local game store (FLGS). I'll be honest: about the only thing I buy at local game stores are minis (collectible and non-collectible), and dice. That's it. I will occasionally buy a board game or card game, because it's generally more economical to buy those locally. I've even been known to buy RPG products at a FLGS; I'm not against it, mind you, but I'm a self-admitted penny pincher.

It makes me wonder, perhaps the only reason the store's got all those spanking new WFRP titles on the shelf is because they don't sell, and they've made a decision to refrain from buying future releases because it's waste of their money since the books end up collecting dust. So, as an alternative, they'll offer to special order the books that you want. This means you have to wait up to a week to even browse the title, and then when you buy it, you're paying full cover price plus local sales tax.

As an alternative, I can order the same book from Amazon.com at a substantial discount, it will arrive within 2-3 business days, and I'm not paying sales tax (at least, not yet).

It's a tough choice. I don't want to see the local shops dry up and blow away, but I'm also an economically-challenged freelance writer with a family to feed, clothe, and house. Saving even a few bucks, especially on the things I deem to be luxury items, really does add up in the end. Given the choice of buying online or eating Top Ramen every other day, I'll take the online purchases.

If the crowds of boisterous tweens is any indication, this particular game store (which isn't the one I ranted about previously; you remember, the one where the manager got annoyed because I interrupted his EverQuest game to ask if I could book a table for my four-hour TW playtest, and was subsequently told that I couldn't because there was a Pokemon tournie that weekend) has a seemingly healthy corner on the local CCG market. CCGs are renewable income, and the tournaments provide additional cash payments. Are they close enough to bankruptcy that supporting the local RPG community is out of the question?

Which leads me to wonder, is there a local RPG community? If there is, are they not supporting local shops? And if they aren't, are their reasons in any way similar to my own?

It seems that the slippery slope gets slipperier. I hate to be a lukewarm supporter of my local game stores, but it's hard to get behind them when they don't support me, either as an author (by not carrying the products I work on) or as a gamer (by not carrying the products I may be willing to buy).

Not to mention Game Empire, which won't even give up valuable table space to cater to the RPG crowd.

I love the hobby, but I'm a bit frustrated. It's not like this is news, particularly, but it still annoys the snot out of me, and I had to vent a little.


Silverhand said...

I don't think the RPG industry is fairing too well at the FLGS. It's a sad reflection of the sea change that is happening - the diversifiction of the stores themselves into CCG's and associated nightly tournaments, comics, DVD's, etc - items that make them a lot more cash, and the fact that the RPG industry is like the music industry did about 10 years ago, moving toward the home publication concept as supported by places like DriveThruRPG.

This reduces costs for the publishers/distributers at the expense of the game stores.

I expect the trend will continue until a store comes up with the ability to print on demand great pdf's and have them bound all at little extra cost to the buyer.

Brant said...

Agreed overall. The Internet, with its plethora of reviews, order discounts, and multiple communication methods, is forcing FLGS's more and more into niche markets to survive.

Online sites can already print to order and ship, though, so really FLGS's have two main markets left to profit from: niches and people who don't have Internet access and/or their own credit cards to purchase online with.

Alan said...

As an RPG consumer, I have yet to find a truly 'FLGS' since Game Towne in Carlsbad disappeared several years ago. I like the idea of the FLGS, but in reality they end up being somewhat clique-ish and isolating once a core group of people form around the store.

Furthermore, I just don't think that there is a large enough market for RPGs right now. I also realize that marketing RPGs only to current RPG players will not grow the market at all - it's a bit of a catch-22 situation.