Geek & Sundry’s TableTop YouTube show, starring Wil Wheaton, has electrified the hobby game business, causing huge spikes in sales on the games featured (see "Five Times the Sales"). The show is currently running a promotion with Target, but is planning a promotion for hobby game stores this fall. We caught up with TableTop Associate Producer Bo Radakovich, who laid out the plan and gave us some background on the show.
Tell us about the plans for involving the hobby retailer in the TableTop world.
In the fall we’re going to do a big promotion to help the hobby retail stores and those kinds of guys; we’ll be doing a National TableTop Day in November. Details haven’t been finalized yet but you can look for that. We’re going to run that through the stores and also there will be some sort of retail pack that you can get through your distributor. You’ll get awesome Geek & Sundry logos and cool stuff like shelf talkers. I’ll probably end up doing a video to help you sell the games and teach you about the products that are on our show.
We’ve always viewed the hobby retail store as a community center. Originally I wanted to have the program squared away for the hobby retailers and Target just came up first, that’s all.
Will that be for games on all the shows that have aired?
Yes, basically. For the retailer, they’ll need to focus on the accessories. Target’s never going to carry Settlers Seafarers 5-6. So the Target deal helps create new gamers, new people who are interested and once they realize how awesome the game is they will come looking for more players, they’ll go to the game stores, and that’s where you can get them. You can sell them the expansions and make sure they have everything they need to complete their collection, find new friends and engage in this community. Tabletop also provides the retailer a good opportunity to talk and build rapport with the customer because now they have something shared, especially if they’re a new customer.
What’s your season consist of--how many shows? How far in advance of each show do you know the games being played?
We filmed 20 episodes for Season One and the episodes come out every other Thursday. Retailers will know what the next game is at the end of the last episode. What’s important is to watch the end card; at the very end of the episode it will tell you what the next episode is. Right now is the Say Anything episode. If you watch at the end you’ll see it says Elder Sign is the next episode. So every retailer has exactly two weeks’ notice to place their orders, get ready, do special promotions in stores, or demos, or whatever they need to do to get people excited about it. It should be enough time to talk to your distributor and get all that stuff done. The distributors have the list of all the games that are on the show so they should be your main point of contact.
So distributors know more than two weeks in advance?
They know all the games that are on the show [all season]. They already have the stock so they should not be surprised.
So they know which games, they just don’t know which weeks?
Exactly. Early on it was difficult to predict what sort of effect Tabletop would have on sales. Originally I was thinking maybe 30% or 50% increase would be delightful and it’s orders of magnitude higher.
How does it vary?
The biggest thing is having the inventory, so on smaller games--[the] ones that didn’t have the visibility of say Ticket to Ride or Settlers--they just go out of stock. So that’s a problem on the publisher side, although it’s a good problem. On games like Tsuro, Gloom, Zombie Dice--those have a dramatic increase in sales, so basically we raise the visibility and the games that have good visibility, like Small World, are also raised higher. If you view TableTop as the tide that raises all boats, some of the bigger boats aren’t moved as much. So Settlers had a bump, but it was not as dramatic as, say, Get Bit. When we put on Get Bit, it just evaporated.
We have a good effect on retailers. We have new gamers coming into the community so it helps everybody.
Is there any reason not to put out the full season’s schedule right away? You know what all the shows are, right?
We do, but they also change, and we want to make sure that part of it is a surprise. People tune in every other week to find out what is being played and so on. It’s intentional. If retailers really feel like they need to know when all these episodes are going to air, I might give that list to the distributors and that way they know.
Talk a little bit about what Tabletop is.
It’s easy to describe Tabletop as an Internet gaming show where people play board games, but that’s not really the secret. The board game is the vehicle for us to have fun, so it’s a way for us to share common experience and for the viewer to have fun with the players. It’s like Dinner for Five--there is a meal that’s the excuse for us to get together but it’s not about the food, it’s about us having fun and joking-- everything that we do on game nights.
How does Tabletop rank in the Geek & Sundry shows?
We’re ranked number one.
We do a lot to promote Tabletop. Within the channel we try to promote all the shows, but I think Wil [Wheaton] does definitely bring his own audience. Felicia [Day] has also been on the show a couple of times and both of them have like two million Twitter followers, so together it just makes it even stronger.
Plus, I feel like my connection to the industry lets me leverage some of this so I can get booth spaces and panels and make sure the publishers are doing alright and that the distributors know about it. Maybe with the other shows we don’t have that; we don’t have someone who can give them the inside track.
--Interview by Milton Griepp
--Interview by Milton Griepp