Board games are booming, why is distribution failing?

Gary Ray of game store Black Diamond Games recently took to his blog to bemoan the lack of popular games on his store’s shelves. “The hottest games of the year are worth nothing to us if we can’t put them on the shelves,” he says.

Here’s the issue that Gary’s been experiencing. He identifies some of the year’s top games, like X-Wing, Dice Masters and D&D 5th Edition, and reliable standbys like Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Carcassonne. He just can’t keep them on the shelves, and that’s a problem. Who’s to blame? “Nobody [and] everybody.”

“Publishers are either frustrated or elated by this increased demand. Some will call a sell out a victory, while others are seriously concerned with satisfying the market. If you’re at a bake sale and you sell all your cookies, that’s a clear win. You have the money and no need to take perishable cookies home.  If you’re the guy in charge of selling the cookies, you’re frustrated that you won’t be taking in any more cookie money. That’s where retailers are right now. No more cookie money.”

Additionally, publishers want game store owners to hold organized play events for their games. That’s a great idea, as it brings more people into the store, but frustrating when those same customers can’t turn around and pick up a copy of the game they just played. The one stalwart, he says, is Magic: The Gathering:

“Oh Magic, you savior of stores. We would run Magic events every day of the week, if we could. Wizards of the Coast almost always has supply. They provide wonderful organized play.”

It’s so successful, in fact, that Gary mentions what he calls “store blight,” meaning so many “craptastic Magic-only stores stinking up the market” offer little else to their communities.

It’s a frustrating position, and I hope it gets resolved. I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: You can sit down and play games at Walmart or Target. Whenever possible, buy games from your local game store. That’s your local gaming community. Keep them in business.

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