Monday, September 12, 2005

Game Store Confidential ~ The Pre-order List


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“BFD Games, this is DW”

“Yo! Hey dude! This is Justin. You got the new expansion in yet?”

“Every week.”

“Huh?”

“I get new expansions in every week. In fact, I believe the entire game industry has devolved to a publishing niche built solely on expansions. I haven’t sold a core rulebook or basic game for any product now for going on 6 months.”

“Oh.”

Ten seconds transpire with just the sound of Justin breathing.

I guess now is the point in the conversation where I’m supposed to be Mr. Friendly Local Game Store Guy.

“So… which expansion are you after?”

“Who me? Oh, yeah… heh…heh – Marcy!!! Will you turn down that program??? You know I hate Walker: Texas Ranger!!!”

Ten seconds transpire with just the sound of Justin breathing.

I guess now is the point in the conversation where I’m supposed to be Mr. Friendly Local Game Store Guy.

“So… which expansion are you after?”

“Oh yeah, uuhhh… the new one for Dungeon Delving For Dragons & Such… it’s the Uber-Powered Mega Psionic Undernight God Kit! It’s supposed to be in all the stores right now!!”

“Ahhh. You mean the one by FUBAR Games, the fine publishers of DDFD&S Version 7.3... nope. It’s not out yet.”

“Huh?”

“It’s not out yet.”

“Sure it is dude, I saw it on the internet, I was just on their website man, and they said it was available in all better stores in July. This is July.”

“You are correct; your calendar skills are superb. But this is also July the 2nd. That means FUBAR has another 29 days to get the game to all the better stores.”

“Oh. I guess so. Okay, then can I pre-order a copy?”

And so the story goes. Another name on another list for another expansion that is listed on the internet but not exactly available in all the better stores.

Three more times that day the phone rings and I add more names to the list. Over the next week I build the pre-order list to ten names. By mid-July I have 15 names on the list and now I’m getting anxious looking gamers cruising through the store asking about the Uber expansion.

Then Fred comes in. Man. I hate it when Fred comes in. Every game store has a Fred. They are created in vast numbers by Satan and then sown on earth to torment people like myself, who's only crime was trying to bring a little happiness and joy to Geeks everywhere. I'm lucky because I only got one Fred, and my Fred covers two other stores in the area. In major metro areas there are scores and scores of Freds, sometimes each store will have several that belong to it alone.

My Fred is about 6'2", thick glasses, always wears slacks and black lace-up shoes... even with Munchkin t-shirts... he has thinning hair and a large nose that doubles as a breathing device and handy storage compartment for his index finger. He also has a degree in Theater Arts, a semi-deep booming voice, a job at the airport parking lot and he walks like his spine was welded into a column. Fred knows absolutely everything and is completely invulnerable to viewpoints other than his own.

“Greetings DW! I’m here to get my copy of FUBAR’s new Uber Mega expansion for DDFD&S.”

“Excellent Fred. But it’s not out yet.”

“Au contraire Monsieur DW! It is out in all the better stores everywhere!”

“Let me guess Fred, you saw it on the internet, right?”

“Correct-e-mundo Herr Tripp! It has been blasted across the net for the last 11 hours. People across the globe have their copies and are already posting reviews, errata, commentary and upgrade tips for the Uber Powers that will bring the qualities of the Gods to one’s character.”

Man. I hate it when Fred comes in.

“So, here’s the deal Fred. FUBAR ships out of Seattle, and the local distributors in Seattle get it the day it’s released. They then blatantly ignore street dates and give it to local Seattle retailers the same day who, in turn, blatantly ignore street dates and sell the Uber expansion to people like…like, well, like you Fred. And those people rush back to their mean little hovels and read the book while simultaneously posting in all the hot threads about the Uber expansion on somewhere between 6 and 20 role-playing websites.”

Fred was looking at me with the same moronic smile Fred always had smugly plastered across his face. So I continued.

“But, unlike all the Fred clones who live in Seattle, the real Fred, that would be you, lives in Podunk, Idaho, the state made famous for selling potatoes to McDonald’s and having entire counties where, despite the fact that we have all the rifles and trucks, the gray wolf population exceeds the human population by a large percentage.”

“Hah! That’s why I enjoy your company good sir. Always quick with a quip or a snappy retort. So, do you have it or not?”

“Fred. The street date is Friday. Today is Tuesday. That means my distributor won’t have it until tomorrow, which means it will ship then and transit via the Big Brown Truck out here to BFD games and be available for you to enjoy on Friday. Which also happens to be the official street date for the God-like Uber expansion”

“Well then, I guess that about settles the matter. My thanks to you and yours my good man. I shall see you on Friday!”

Spinning on the balls of his feet Fred executes a perfect military style turn, with heel-click and all, and proceeds out the door in his usual rigid posture. Man. That guy just drives me nuts.

The next day I get the expected call from Shane, my cheery distributor rep.

“So DW, how many of FUBAR’s new paper weight do you want?”

“Well, I have 15 pre-orders so 18 ought to do it for the first week. How’s the supply on them.”

“Let me just say this, if we actually sell all of these turkeys before I retire I’ll consider it a blessing.”

“That sounds pretty grim Shane, considering that you’re not even 30 yet.”

“Yeah, well DW, I’ll put it this way, we have three pallets of FUBAR’s DDFD&S Version 7.3 collecting dust in the warehouse and if I was you I’d cut my orders on this stinker expansion by half and then call me for more next week. If you actually need more... which you won't”

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Friday Afternoon
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“Hullo.”

“Hey Justin, this is DW down at BFD games. I got that copy of FUBAR’s new Uber-Powered Mega Psionic Undernight God Kit that you pre-ordered.”

“Uhhhh… you did?”

“Yes indeed Justin. Your name is on the pre-order list and I have one on hold for you.”

“Uhhhh… well, uhhhh – Marcy!!! Turn that damned TV down, you know I can’t stand Touched by An Angel!!!”

Ten seconds transpire with just the sound of Justin breathing.

I guess now is the point in the conversation where I’m supposed to be Mr. Friendly Local Game Store Guy.

“So anyway Justin, did you want to swing by and pick yours up?”

“Uhhhh… nah, I don’t think so dude. I was checking out all the forums on the net and everybody says this one both sucks and blows.”

It was starting to look like sales were going the way my Rep had suggested, not many people really wanted God-like qualities in their characters.

I resigned myself to the inevitable, knowing that it was just a matter of time before Fred arrived to spread his own particular style of Fredness around. Sure enough, not 20 minutes later the door swung open and in marched Fred, stiff as a board, with the usual idiotic grin on his face.

“Ah! Senor Trippster! I have business to conduct with you before I must to go to deal with my minions in tonight’s game.”

"FUBAR’s new Uber-Powered Mega Psionic Undernight God Kit? I have it right here Fred.”

“Nay! I say nay to that under-powered, poorly edited, re-hash of all that has gone before and was worthless when new. I wouldn’t touch that pile of rendered tree pulp with a ten foot D20!”

“Uh, Fred? You were clamoring for this thing three days ago.”

“So true Mister Game Store Man, your calendar skills are superb. But much has transpired on the net these last 72 hours and the newest FUBAR release has been unmasked and revealed for what it really is… and that, my fine friend, is a product that both sucks and blows.”

Man. I hate this guy.

“So now to business! I am seeking a copy of the latest expansion from Dem Goimans game company. It’s the new expansion for their best-selling, record-breaking board game that comes equipped with an additional 750 tiny wooden pieces, 1200 new tiles to sort and bag and a rules update in 7 languages by the undisputed master of game design, Herr Tuber Rniezia himself.”

“You mean the Drugs & Guns expansion for the Smugglers of Corleone?”

“The very one my good man.”

“That’s not due until next Wednesday Fred.”

“Perhaps DW, perhaps. But, having spent the morning Wardriving I chanced upon numerous mentions of copies being available copiously in finer retail stores everywhere. And... you need a better firewall my good fellow, I've been using your network for the last 20 minutes”

Ten seconds transpire with just the sound me not breathing.

"So, do you have it or not?"

I think I need a career change.

8 comments:

Shannon Appelcline said...

What happened to manufacturers doing staggered shipments so that the different parts of the country actually got a product at the same time?

I know that's what we used to do. East coast on Monday, midwest on Tuesday, etc.

DWTripp said...

Shannon ~ that was also the way TSR handled shipping in the 80's and early 90's. As the internet grew and the number of wholesalers declined it became obvious that a store in the same city as a distributor could access the product up to three days before stores further away... Idaho being a good example.

Thus "street dates" were adapted from the comic, game software, book and video industries.

Except that street dates are broken in almost every case. Not to mention, the big online merchants like Amazon and B&N have access to key products, like core RPG books, sometimes a week in advance of the "street date" and I have had customers show me their books days before they were actually in my distributors warehouse.

The only company I'm aware of that absolutely will not tolerate these hijinks is Games Workshop and they have very fine control over when a new release arrives in any store.

Shannon Appelcline said...

I think the problem is that street dates only work if the manufacturer actually has leverage. Most gaming companies live so hand-to-mouth, and so desperately, that they couldn't conceive of cutting off a distributor or store that violated their street dates, and so they end up being meaningless. And thus the companies end up only punishing the good retailers who won't violate a promise.

gamesgrandpa said...

DW --

You definitely should compile these blogs into a book -- a hilarious book.

Thanks for another good laugh -- at your writing, not your circumstances.....

Kevin Wood (kvn299) said...

Thanks for all the great stories, DW. How about a story about a fond memory for a change? You've gotta have some, otherwise I'll begin to question your sanity!

DWTripp said...

Uhhh...Kevin, these are the fond memories.

Kratrina said...

If DW didn't have these types of fond memories, he wouldn't be the sarcastic, loud mouth, game store owner that he is.

Thanks for another great story DW.

Anonymous said...

Dude that was funny but i feel so sorry 4 u.