Bryan Winter of I'm Board! Games & Family Fun in Middleton, Wisconsin read Scott Thorne's column wishing that Cards Against Humanity was avialable through game distributors (see "Rolling for Initiative--Things I Would Like for Christmas") and had this to say.
The number one "unavailable" game that was most requested at my store this is holiday season was Cards Against Humanity, the highly vulgar and offensive Apples to Apples clone. This was not a surprise to me; I've been getting requests for that game for months. And for months I have attempted to contact the folks who make the game, as have many other stores and suppliers, in an attempt to bring the game to my shelves, with no luck. I've even brought out my patented "I have a big bag of money and I want to give you some" speech. They were, and continue to be, uninterested in offering this game at wholesale. I'm personally not sure of the reasoning behind that. It could be that they think they would get "all the money" (my personal opinion). It could be that they simply were not prepared to handle "real game" fulfillment (doubtful, but realistic). It could be that their lawyers said no (possible, but unlikely). I don't know--the curt emails I've received from them indicate that they are entirely disinterested in talking to retailers. And in doing so, they have missed a tremendous opportunity to have a game that could have been exponentially more successful that what they currently have.
This game was a "nice to have" product for my shelves this year. I wasn't desperate for it, even though I am exceedingly confident that I could have moved dozens, if not hundreds, of copies. Customers asked about this game nearly every day for the past 6 months. I started fielding calls in November from people who were obviously calling around trying to find a physical copy in a real store. I calmly and politely told every single one of them exactly why it is not on my shelves, and instructed my staff to do the same. When I got to the part where I explain that "they won't make it available to stores, only through their own Amazon store," the reaction was almost always a suprised "Why?"
Why indeed. I'm amazed that the folks behind the game aren't jumping at this golden opportunity. They remain irreverent and inside-jokey, but the joke's on them. If they stopped treating their product like an indie band's .mp3 download and started acting like a real company, they would have a tremendous hit on their hands. They apparently don't realize how many people simply do not buy online, or prefer to support their local store. Whether they have the ability to keep the interest level high, now that the holidays are over, has yet to be seen. I think it can be salvaged, if they simply be mature about their immature product.
Another trend that personally made my eyes to roll was the practice of some stores buying this game at full retail and then jack up the price. This (to me) was equally exasperating, as it not only played right into the manufacturer's hands, but it did a disservice to those customers. Because our industry is so (lamentably) driven by Magic speculation, this kind of practice may have seemed like a smart move to these retailers. It was not. My "telling it like it is" has been a tremendous image success--my customers see me even more as a reliable resource who can be trusted to play fair. If more retailers looked beyond the few bucks they make from a single product then we won't have as many foolish companies being rewarded for acting foolishly.
- Bryan Winter is a long-time game industry participant, from retailer to designer to distributor and back again, who owns I'm Board! Games & Family Fun in Middleton, Wisconsin. He used to write for ICv1, back in the day.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.