Thursday, January 28, 2016

Free Comic Book Day Release

Hey there, Alan Tudyk here. (That's me in the pilot seat above -- pretty handsome, huh?)

I wish I was there to show you a back mole. It is a concern. It's probably nothing, but these things ... you never know.
Also, I would like to show you a comic book series I co-wrote. The comic is called Back Mole. Sorry, it is actually calledSpectrum. There it is now! Over on the right. The first issue comes out on Free Comic Book Day from Automatic Publishing and the marketing guys keep telling me to give you this code number: JAN160018. I hope that means something to you.

Spectrum was the "show within a show" in Con Man, the comedy series Nathan Fillion and Ireleased on Vimeo. The "Con" in Con Manstands for comic conventions and it's about that world. We crowd-funded it and raised a little over three million bucks. It broke records and shit. 46,000 people contributed so we could write this comic. I think you should stock it so those folks can buy it. Totally.

I just looked at the mole in a mirror -- it's a zit. I'm relieved and a little disgusted.

Anyone who liked our work on the TV show Firefly will be interested -- that inspired a lot of what we did on Con Man. But Spectrum is a cool sci-fi series on its own. It's got a gritty premise (a little girl is trying to prevent the complete destruction of the universe with the help of an alien, a handsome captain, and a spaceship built by a madman) and memorable characters with a lot of mystery and intrigue.   

We believe in it enough to put out the first issue of the four-issue mini-series for free, and I think you will like it. Nathan Fillion’s mug is on the cover. Sarah Stone did an amazing job illustrating for us. Shannon Denton is curating. Sci-fi novelist PJ Haarsma is co-writing it with me. There are some preview pages at the bottom of this email here.

There are no back moles and/or backne in the comic.

Yours partially,
Alan "Wash Lives" Tudyk
Alan Tudyk On His Spectrum Comic For Free Comic Book Day
That's me talking comics in the video above. I'm into this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Changes to WOTC Pre-releases

Another week, however, and another controversy.  WotC has told distributors they can no longer offer incentives in order to get retailers to purchase pre-release tournament products through them.  It appears WotC wants the focus on the pre-release and the story surrounding it rather than on individual items that not all stores will have available for players.

Even though Wizards of the Coast has not announced this policy change publicly, distributors’ release announcements for Shadows over Innistrad make no mention of any pre-release specials tied to ordering the pre-release from that distributor, which is a noticeable change from past pre-releases.

For those not familiar with how pre-releases are handled, stores in good standing with WotC are allowed to host pre-release events for each new Magic release.  All pre-release products come from WotC and are allocated to stores based mainly upon how many players the store had attend a prior pre-release.  However, stores have the option of ordering their pre-release product directly from WotC or one of about a dozen distributors.  WotC even facilitates the choice by offering the list of approved distributors to stores.  Each distributor, or WotC itself, sells the pre-release products to the store at a specified discount.

As pre-releases can account for hundreds of thousands of dollars of sales in a short period of time, distributors have found it lucrative to convince retailers to sign with them by offering incentives for doing so.  Such incentives have included discounts on other WotC products, free sleeves and deck boxes, and limited edition items such as the store-branded playmats ACD offered a few years ago, or the POP figure from Southern Hobby.  Now, WotC wants to end the practice.  Due to the amount of cash a pre-release brings in during such a short amount of time, neither stores nor distributors will want to push back against this and risk losing the ability to host a pre-release.  Ergo, unique promo items will go by the wayside and distributors will find some other ways with which to compete on pre-releases.

Response from WOTC via ICV2.
We asked Wizards of the Coast to confirm whether it had asked distributors to eliminate incentives for pre-release orders.  A spokesperson responded:

“Although we do not disclose the terms of distribution agreements, we want to ensure every retailer that we do not prevent distributors (or retailers) from marketing prerelease products. Rather, we ask distributors to refrain from certain incentives and conduct that detract from the player experience and damage the brand. For example, in the past we’ve demanded distributors stop offering playmats with explicit images of our characters or from withholding Magic product unless stores buy other nonrelated items.

“It is best for retailers and our fans when distributors compete on effective distribution, price and customer service; our policies reflect this.” 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WOTC Stance on Proxies

As the 800 pound gorilla in the gaming industry, pretty much anything Wizards of the Coast does is news, as I pointed out in last week’s column regarding the coming changes in the Organized Play program for Dungeons & Dragons and the controversy that erupted last week when the company announced players could no longer use proxy cards in non-sanctioned in-store Magic tournaments (see "Rolling for Initiative--WotC's Changes to 'D&D' OP a Death Knell for the Program?").  Near as I can tell, after the resulting tizzy, tournament proxy use remained at status quo (see "WotC Clarifies Proxy Position on 'Magic'").

Players, as before, still cannot use proxies in sanctioned tournaments, except under VERY restricted conditions.  Players, as before, can use "playtest cards," cards clearly marked as representing another card in a deck in non-sanctioned play (i.e., writing "Black Lotus" on a Swamp card and using that in an unsanctioned tournament).

WotC wants to discourage its players from using the high quality counterfeits that have hit the market in recent years, often listed as "suitable for proxy use," thus trying to legally skirt the counterfeiting issue.  WotC wants it made extremely clear that this form of "proxy" violates its copyright, infringes on its intellectual property and damages tournament play and the value of collectors’ legitimate cards by adding counterfeit cards to the available pool.  With a moderately played Unlimited Black Lotus selling for between $3000 and $5000, collectors have a vested interest in stopping the introduction of counterfeits to the available card pool.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Upcoming Munchkin Releases

Munchkin Marvel Universe
Prepare for Battle! Unleash your Superpowers with Munchkin Marvel Edition, an all-new Munchkin game that fuses the classic card game fun of monster-slaying and roleplaying with the most iconic characters from the Marvel universe. Created under license from Steve Jackson Games and in conjunction with Marvel, Munchkin Marvel Edition features new monsters (villains), allies (heroes), and custom S.H.I.E.L.D. Identification Cards. This boxed set comes complete with six oversized S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent role cards, 168 Cards (including Door cards and Treasure cards), six level trackers, a custom die, and game rules.
SKU: PSI MU011-000
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin Card Game (Mass Market Edition)
Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run. Designed by Steve Jackson, the Munchkin card game captures the essence of the dungeon experience as you and your friends compete to kill monsters and grab magic items. And it`s illustrated (now in full color!) by John Kovalic! NOTE: This product is identical to SJG 1408 except for the outer box.
SKU: SJG 1408M
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin Fu: Guest Artist Edition (John Kovalic)
Everybody's Kung Fu fighting in classic Munchkin style! Join John Kovalic for his distinct take on the Dragon Tooth Katana and polish up your Drunken Monkey Kung Fu - those mooks and demons aren't going to kill themselves! Learn new styles, kill those monsters, take their stuff, and level up Kung Fu style with Munchkin Fu, featuring high-flying, martial arts action at its goofiest!
SKU: SJG 1517
SRP: $29.95

Star Munchkin: Guest Artist Edition (Len Peralta)
Celebrate 15 years of Munchkin with special Guest Artist Editions! Featuring far-out card illustrations by Len Peralta (TenState, Exterminite), the classic space expansion for Munchkin gets a whole, new makeover that's out of this world! In Star Munchkin, players are now Mutants, Cyborgs, and Cat People grabbing Lasers, Vibroswords, and Nova Grenades fighting Fanged Fuzzballs, Bionic Bimbos, and the fiendish Brain in a Jar!
SKU: SJG 1518
SRP: $29.95

Munchkin Steampunk
                Grab your gears, put on your top hat, whack the monsters, and grab the treasure...with the power of SCIENCE! Featuring brand-new art by Phil Foglio (Girl Genius), Munchkin Steampunk brings the zaniness of Munchkin to the pseudo-Victorian steampunk era. Bully! Tea service not included (maybe)!
SKU: SJG 1531
SRP: $24.95

Munchkin 6.5: Terrible Tombs
                More Chaotic Chasms! More Violent Vastnesses! More Abysmal Abysses! Fully compatible with Munchkin 6 - Demented Dungeons, Munchkin 6.5 - Terrible Tombs introduces 20 new Dungeons to delve and 16 new Portals to get you there.
SKU: SJG 1541
SRP: $11.95

Munchkin: Puppies Blister Pack
The latest in Steve Jackson Games' series of Munchkin booster packs is also the newest double-booster featuring 30 cards focusing on adorable, cuddly, evil puppies! Developed by Devin Lewis and illustrated by Katie Cook, the hit team behind Munchkin Kittens, this expansion is the perfect companion for every Munchkin game!
SKU: SJG 4216
SRP: $9.95

Munchkin: Knights Blister Pack
Get ready for Knights to remember! Enhance your Munchkin merriment with a cavalier attitude with this booster pack of 15 new knight-themed cards. Perfect for backstabbing fun at round tables everywhere, this expansion features amazing art by Ian McGinty and new a-sword-ed monsters and Treasures for your Munchkin game.
SKU: SJG 4253
SRP: $5.95

Munchkin Meeples
Ever play some other board game and think "This isn't Munchkin enough!"? Now you can have your Munchkin fandom invade other games with Munchkin Meeples! These classic-style wooden game pieces come in six different designs that feature all your favorite Munchkin characters. Each version comes with four regular-sized meeples and one MEGA Meeple, and feature in-game bonuses when used in Munchkin!
SKU: SJG 5596
SRP: $19.95

Munchkin Playmat: Spyke Gets Suckered
                Don't be suckered by other non-Munchkin mats! This gorgeous playmat acts as a handy reference for the game (including a bonus Cheat! space) and features fantastic art by Ian McGinty.
SKU: SJG 5596
SRP: $16.95

Friday, January 22, 2016

All Quiet on the Martian Front

Blaine Pardoe has a detailed look at the failure of All Quiet on the Martian Front from Alien Dungeon, as well as some comments on the care and feeding of Kickstarter campaigns.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

GW Sales Down

For those of you interested in the business side of the industry, Games Workshop reports the company expects a sales shortfall for 2015 but ended the year with 12 more stores open than last May.

Fantasy Flight February Releases

Coming in February from Fantasy Flight Games:

New Releases:

ADN31Android: Netrunner LCG: Business First
GT04A Game of Thrones LCG 2nd Edition: The King's Peace
SWC26Star Wars LCG: The Forest Moon
WHK11Warhammer 40,000: Conquest LCG: Deadly Salvage


DJ07Descent 2nd Edition: Shadow of Nerekhall
DJ08Descent 2nd Edition: Dice Pack
DJ16Descent 2nd Edition: Raythen Lieutenant
DJ17Descent 2nd Edition: Serena Lieutenant
DJ18Descent 2nd Edition: Ariad Lieutenant
DJ19Descent 2nd Edition: Queen Ariad Lieutenant
FFS32FFG Supply: Plastic Stands
MEC08Lord of the Rings LCG: Khazad-Dum Campaign
MEC32Lord of the Rings LCG: The Black Riders
SWA31Star Wars: Age of Rebellion: Desperate Allies
SWE04Star Wars: Roleplaying Dice
SWE12Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Fly Casual
SWI10Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Twin Shadows
SWI11Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Boba Fett
SWI12Star Wars: Imperial Assault: R2-D2 and C-3PO
SWI13Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Kayn Somos
SWI19Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Return to Hoth
TM11Talisman: The Firelands
TM15Talisman: The Harbinger
WHF01Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
WHF03Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Dice Acessory Pack

Monday, January 18, 2016

Changes to D&D OP

Some thoughts in this week's column on ICV2 about the changes coming to the D&D Organized Play program.  Here's a hint, I don't think they bode well for the longevity of D&D OP.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Firefly Fluxx Coming

Announcing Firefly™ Fluxx!

It's shiny!

Join Mal, Wash, Zoë, Inara, Kaylee, Jayne, Simon, River, and Book as Fluxx enters the 'Verse at full speed. With the rules constantly changing, Firefly™ Fluxx is just as unpredictable as misbehaving in space! Featuring sumptuous art by Adam Levermore, Firefly™ Fluxx is perfect for fans and collectors of both Firefly™ and Fluxx.

Firefly™ Fluxx
Street Date: March 18, 2016
SKU: LOO-070
UPC: 857848004352 
MSRP: $20

Dungeon Masters Guild

You may have heard that WOTC has launched the Dungeon Master's Guild. Here is some more information on it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mayfair Loses Catan

The Catan line of games, which has been licensed and produced by Mayfair Games since time immoral here in the states, or at least since the early 1990s, will move to the newly formed Catan Studios, part of Asmodee NA. What does this mean?

For customers, probably very little, though you might see more discounting of Catan products in the future.  Mayfar Games has a pretty strong MAP program and enforced it pretty consistently, meaning you wouldn't find Catan discounted often below Mayfair's 20% allowed MAP.  The games published by the companies making up Asmodee NA, Days of Wonder, Asmodee and Fantasy Flight, were much less concerned about the discounting of their products to the ultimate consumer. There is no indication yet as to whether this situation will continue under the newly formed Asmodee NA. Customers may see much deeper discount prices on Catan or a tightening up on discounting across all of the lines.

For retailers, it means easier access to the Catan line. For a number of years, Alliance Distribution had an exclusive agreement with Mayfair Games, meaning if a store wanted to carry Catan, it had to have an account with Alliance Distribution.  Now, companies wanting to carry Catan will be able to purchase it from one of 5 distributors, meaning if one has run out of stock, a store can turn to another.

For the five distributors carrying the Asmodee NA lines, it is also good news as Catan is still a very strong game brand. It was out second best selling line in terms of number sold, only bested by Cards Against Humanity. Distributors having access to Catan, as well as the other Asmodee NA games, should see an increase in their bottom lines.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Fun with Surveys

The “Game Stores Booming” survey that ICV2 published earlier this week raised a mild kerfluffle among game stores in a couple of online industry groups, unlike the comic retailer survey published just before that was greeted with a collective “Meh”.

The main concerns raised were 1) Who participated in the survey and 2) How was the data collected. Who participated in the survey is an especially valid question, given that the article gives no indication as to how many stores were contacted. Sample size, as I taught students in a statistics class many moons ago, is vitally important in determining the validity of a survey. I can take a survey of 10 stores, have 8 of them say they are doing great and voila “80% of stores contacted in my survey said they are doing great.” Very hard to generalize that to the industry as a whole, especially when we are looking at somewhere between 1500-5000 stores, depending on what criteria you use. Now if a larger number a number of stores were contacted, my old statistics textbooks said a minimum of 30 to come up with any generalizable numbers but the more the better, so if we are looking at 75 to 200 stores contacted then that over 80% number looks a lot more reasonable. Incidentally, this is why a lot of scientific studies testing nutritional supplements and assorted diets don’t hold up under close examination. Their results are based on studies of the effects of a diet or supplement on only a few dozen people, meaning it takes on a small number of positive responses to show a significant percentage of improvement.

Secondly, how was the data collected? Ideally and to made the data most generalizable to the overall population, ICV2 used a random sample. From a large pool of game store contacts, the surveyor uses some form of randomizer, comes to mind, and contacts a group of stores selected at random. The fact that almost all game retailers still have land lines and have listings in the white pages makes this a much easier proposition that those poor pollsters who have to contact individuals for polls, since there is no central list for cell phones, as of yet, as there is for land lines. More than likely however, ICV2 used what is called a “convenience sample”. Whoever conducted the survey likely said, “Hand me that list of stores we have tucked away. We will call some number of them to see how they did in 2015.” The results are certainly reflective of stores within that pool. The problem is that the results are only reflective of that pool and must be used with caution if anyone tries to generalize the results to the overall populations.  That is why academic studies using a convenience sample always state so in the study limitations.

All that being said and being curious myself, I took a quick convenience self-selected sample, meaning that I posted a survey and other stores could respond or not. Of those stores responding, just over 90% indicated they were up at least 1% over 2014 and just over 75% indicated a sales increase of over 10% for the same time frame, correlating with ICV2’s results. Now, I didn’t break out length of time open, size of store, location of store, number of stores or if there had been any remodeling or expansion, all of which could affect sales increases. There is also the possibility that stores with sales declines didn’t want to respond. Still, the similar results give me hope for a good 2016. Please feel free to send your comments to ICV2.