Thursday, January 30, 2014

Counterfeit Magic Cards

Quite a bit of concern about counterfeit Magic cards over the past few weeks.  It looks as if a set of 55 higher value cards, including Thoughtseize, Tundra and Sword of Fire and Ice has been printed in thousand card lots by at least one Chinese printer and resold, ostensibly as proxies, to online retailers, including the now shuttered, which copied the Star  City Games logo in an attempt to make people think they were dealing with Star City Games.  Unfortunately, Chinese copyright law is both laxer and much more loosely enforced than is US copyright law, as evidenced by the ease with which you can buy a "Coach" purse or "iPad" in mainland China.

In the past, a buyer could relatively easily determine whether a card was counterfeit or not, simply through the bend test.  However, these counterfeits are using the same, or very similar, paper stock on which to print their cards.

It appears the only ways to distinguish the counterfeits form the originals are through very slight spacing changes, discrepancies in font and a different copyright symbol a the bottom of the card. Also, as the Star City Games article points out, only 4 of the Unglued lands were counterfeited, so if someone has a quantity of Unglued Mountains, Swamps, Islands and Plains for sale but no Forests, take care when purchasing them

Monday, January 27, 2014

D&D Movie Going to Trial

Looks as if the trial date to determine who controls the rights to make the next D&D movie will go to trial March 25.  The presiding judge dismissed Hasbro's claims for direct infringement of its rights to D&D last Friday but allows the suit for contributory infringement and the countersuits to continue. 

Here's betting that negotiations continued and something gets worked out between the parties just prior to March 25. It the suit goes to trial, one side loses and neither side wants to be that one.  By setting a trial date, the judge has effectively said "This is the deadline for the two of you to work out your problems.  After that, I decide and it becomes more expensive for both of you."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Execution Matters

With this week falling between the releases of Legacy of the Valiant from Konami and Born of the Gods from WOTC, and with the Superman and the Legend of Super Heroes set from WizKids coming out the middle of February, I started thinking about how each of the three companies handles its new releases.

In our store, these three companies have the strongest following among our customer base, therefore having the greatest turnout for a new release, With the exceptions of AEG,  Fantasy Flight Games and Pokemon, most gaming companies do not appear to want to make an event of a new release of a product and since our customer base for Pokemon and Legend of the Five Rings is miniscule  and they do not get excited about new releases of FFG’s boardgames, at least not to the extent that they pre-order them or show up for events.  However, people do show up for launch events featuring Magic (sorry WOTC, not Kaijudo), Yu Gi Oh! (but not in the numbers they did a year ago), and HeroClix.   Comparing the approach each company takes to launch events provides an interesting perspective on how they appear to view the relative importance of a new release and the avenue chosen by each company.
Take WizKids. Though WizKids has never had “pre-release” events per se, preferring in recent years to focus extensively on OP campaigns such as “No Man’s Land” and “Fear Itself”. New releases in past years came with one or more promotional posters, often used as a case topper or sent out to stores in advance.  As WizKids has chosen over time to invest more in its OP programs, and really nice programs they are, the company leaves it up to the store to run any launch events with pre-releases out of the question.

Moving onto Konami, this company doesn’t run any launch events for new releases, such as Legacy of the Valiant but does run “Sneak Peeks”.  Sneak Peeks take place the weekend before the release of the set and come with enough materials to seat 16 players per kit ordered and two playmats that go to random players.  Very nice for the day of the eventbut Konami lacks in advance promotional material as the kits only arrive a day or two before the Sneak Peek and the only other promotional material sent is a PDF of a promotional flyer for stores to print out meaning stores must develop any other promotional material they wish to use.

Hnads down, WOTC does the best job in the industry in terms of promoting releases of a new expansion set, with the excitement generated by the Helvault promotion for Avacyn Restored a few years ago the ne plus ultra of any promotion within the industry that I remember.  No other launch by WOTC has generated the excitement of that one but the company still puts together a pretty impressive release campaign, starting off about two months before the release sending out teasers regarding the new set to its huge fan base. Then, about two weeks before the pre-release, stores receive a marketing kit with promotional materials including posters and info about the set.  Finally, the week of the pre-release comes materials for the event as well as for the actual launch of the set; including a promotional card for buying a display of boosters (WizKids used to do this with their BITBTB figure program but abandoned it for a Marquee Figure promotion).  Every time, like clockwork, stores can count on WOTC’s promotion of the new set. Sometimes, the company throws in a variation, like the Hero’s Path for Theros or the Dragon’s Maze competition but their basic release schedule stays the same, which really, really helps retailers plan their event schedules over the course of the year.  I really wish more companies would ape the WOTC method of product release of their CCGs (or other produces, for that matter).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Changes Coming to Games Workshop

From talking with other stores and confirmed by my Games Workshop representative, GW players and stores will see a couple of significant changes coming along in the next few months, likely designed to drive customers into stores for new releases moreso than the current business model accommodates.

As a business, and from the company’s owners and shareholders point of view however, Games Workshop has done quite well over the past few years.   As the Masterminis website points out  a share of GW stock purchased in 2008 would have sextupled in value (that’s six times, by the way) over the next five years.  If an investor, that’s a pretty good rate of return.  Unfortunately, what the market gives, it also taketh away.  As Masterminis also notes, on January 16th, after GW released sales figures showing sales for the past six months down 12%, the stock price dropped 24% in one day.   That’s a lot of shareholder value gone bye-bye very quickly.  Imagine going to bed with a nice crisp $100 bill tucked away in your wallet and waking the next morning to find the fairies had replaced it with 3 twenties, a ten, a five and a one. That’s how those stockholders feel.  While Games Workshop management probably did not expect the market to punish them so hard for the 12% sales drop (maybe they did, I do not know), they certainly had to expect some negative response (One of the problems of running a publicly traded company like Games  Workshop is that shareholders expect positive results every quarter or half year, making it much harder to plan strategy for the longer term).  Hence, changes in the business plan designed to turn around the sales decline.

First, Finecast will go away, or at least, from my understanding, only get used for the Hobbit line of figures.  The preponderance of 40K and Fantasy Battle figures will be plastic.  There may be a few metal figures in there but very limited.  

I am glad to see this happening.  The store had numerous complaints about GW’s Finecast figures either breaking or bending, while customer viewed the detailing of the scupts, originally a major selling point for Finecast, as adequate at best.

Second, new releases will now occur weekly, rather than once or twice a month. This accomplishes two things. One,  from the viewpoint of sales, it will bring in GW customers on a weekly basis to check out the new releases and two, from the store’s viewpoint, it means we don’t get hit with a large invoice once week out of the month.  In the months when GW would release a new Codex or Army book, even a smallish store like ours could get hit with an invoice topping $1500 for one week’s order.

Third, and the most noticeable change from the customer’s point of view, GW’s decades old magazine White Dwarf shifts from a $10 monthly  to a $4 weekly, only available through retail stores, with a monthly Warhammer Visions magazine debuting at about the same time.  I felt somewhat leery about this change, given that we have a pretty good sell through on the monthly magazine, but our customers have so far embraced it.  The first issue of the new format hasn’t even shipped yet and we already have three customers adding to their hold lists.  That bodes well, but we will have to see what happens long term.

So far, I like the changes in GW but will have to see how our customers respond as they make the ultimate decisions.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Games Workshop Woes

For those interested in Games Workshop behind the scenes, has a fascinating multi-part series looking at the operations of the company over the past few years, part financial analysis, part fan rant, culminating with Jan 16th's 24% drop in the stock price.

Part  the 1th  GW focuses on maximizing return to shareholders.

Part the 2nd  GW restricts sales to independent stores and quintuples stock price.

Part the 3rd  GW increases sales by supplying internet discount retailers.

Part the 4th  Selling to internet discount retailers cuts into GW profits.  How to fix?  Raise Prices.

Part the 5th  Finecast--a really bad idea. Ditto aggressive to the point of stupidity IP protection.

Part the 6th  No Community Outreach

Part the 7th  The Future of Games Days

Part the 7.5th  Breaking News!  Italian and French Game Day Managers Fired

Part the 8th  24% drop in stock price in one day

Thursday, January 9, 2014

3 Things to Remember about Facebook

1.  Not everyone is seeing what you post on Facebook.  Because of the way Facebook has its algorithms  and software set up, those who are your friends or who follow your page will only see about 15% of your posts.  For example, Castle Perilous Games & Books has just over 1850 of who like us (and for which we GREATLY thank you).  However, any post that we make gets seen by between 200-400 of those people.

2.  You determine what Facebook shows you. Not only can you set Facebook to "Get Notifications" from a page or mark them as a "close friend", which in both cases means you will get notified whenever they post, but you also determine what Facebook shows you in  your news feed through what sorts of posts you "like", comment on, or share.  If, for example, you regularly like photos, Facebook with recognize this and put more photos in your newsfeed.  If you share links, more links will appear and so forth.

3.  Facebook is not a substitute for a website.  Unless you work at it really hard or are willing to pay Facebook money, your Facebook page looks the same as everyone else's page, ergo you lack a lot of flexibility in the design, certainly compared to a webpage.  In addition, your Facebook page is subject to any changes that FB might want to make in the design or way that people receive your page.  The only person who controls the look of your website is you.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Non-approved Comic Sketches

I always wonders about the artists who do sketches or drawings of comic characters such as Wonder Woman, Spider-man and Batman without permission from the comic companies that own the rights to the characters.  I thought they might be able to do it under the concept of "fair use" i.e. as long as they did not produces the sketches for commercial reproduction they were ok.

Turns out I am wrong.  I finally asked an artist friend who produces a quantity of prints of his drawings of DC, Marvel and Image super heroines (as they sell MUCH better than do super hero prints) who does not work for any of the companies that own said rights.  According to him, as long as you do not produce and sell prints of their characters naked or otherwise engaged in erotic acts, the major comic book companies pretty much turn a blind eye to artists creating and selling drawings of their characters.  He has sold prints of his work featuring other companies characters for a number of years now and says that, should he receive a ceases and desist order, he would stop producing them in a minute but so far, he hasn't.