Exclusive Deals Suck!

Dragon Flame


So in 2012 hobby game stores saw a lot of growth in the board game realm. MTG is also up.  We saw a new show hosted by Wil Wheaton bring some people into our hobby world. Things should be going well, right? Not so much.

2012 saw Target and Toys R Us enter our turf to join the likes of Barnes and Noble and others already encroaching on our domain.  The worst part is that Target and others are getting some EXCLUSIVE deals from publishers. Star Trek Catan and the $9.95 Fluxx at Target for example. Target now sells Ticket to Ride, Catan, Pandemic, and more bread-and-butter games from our industry. Add to that their Christmas sales that broke minimum price deals that we as a game store would be cut off for doing ($29.99 Catan) and their having stock when we couldn’t even get the games!

Which brings me to the Distributor Exclusive deals that happened this year with Z-Man, Mayfair, Days of Wonder, Wizkids, and others. They told us this would be good for the industry, they told us this would help them keep product in the warehouse (and thus on our shelves), they told us …

What happened? We couldn’t restock games for most of the 4th quarter. Games like Ticket To Ride (Days of Wonder), Pandemic (Z-Man), Catan (Mayfair) even ran out. To add insult to injury, the cost to stock these games slid higher.

So if all the exclusive companies are now costing us more, hard to stock in our store, are being sold in big box stores, how again is this good for our hobby industry?  Target has just announced it plans to match Amazon pricing – so I guess I’ll start restocking from them instead of our distributor?

This industry’s distribution system is seeming more and more broken every year. And now we have to deal with Kickstarter selling direct to all our customers (How many people who bought 250 miniatures direct from Reaper do you expect in your stores this year?)

So knock off the lies folks. We know you’re doing these exclusives to help your company so stop telling us something different.

Dragon Flame


  1. Yeah, there is no easy solution, I think its going to be very difficult to hold on to traditional retail models in the face of tech changes, the same issue that the music industry (and small music stores) had.

    Kickstarter is great for game companies, since we get to keep an additional 50% of the MSRP, losing only 10% and we get to charge more, and we get all of this money in advance, rather than dealing with a solicitation cycle of 3-4 months, a quarterly payment process. Plus you lose all the hassles of fulfillment house, distributor to game store. I love my local game store but I can’t see us giving this up.

    The only thing I can suggest is to do what walmart did when Itunes started cutting into thier music cd sales they started selling Itunes gift cards. I would love to see Kickstarter gift cards and DrivethruRpg/RpgNow gift cards in game stores (I also think WotC should get you gift cards for Magic the Gathering Online, but that’s just me).

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  2. For years game companies have complained about distribution problems and inefficiencies. Distributors were the clog in the system that needed remedy. So what exclusives have done is remove that excuse from publishers. Great, you’re exclusive, now let’s see what you can do. Apparently, not very much. Their earlier arguments appear invalid. What has been holding them back is themselves.

  3. JeremyR on

    And yet the most popular PDF store for PRGs, RPGNow has exclusivity deals, even though the store doesn’t even work for everyone (doesn’t seem to like my ISP).

    I guess in this case, some people might not have targets around. But it’s annoying when someone puts up a product you want to buy and you have no ability to get it because it’s only on RPGNow…

  4. MichaelB on

    Toys’R’Us “moving in” on your turf? Haven’t they been around since the early 80’s??

    • James Mathe on

      Not selling the invetentory that we hobby game stores sell. But now they are starting too.

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