Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois.  This week Thorne shares his 2011 Wish List for the hobby games biz.

Given that we’ve bid farewell to 2010 and have entered 2011, I’ve given some thought to things I’d like see happen in the upcoming year.  I doubt that all of them will, but hey, a retailer can wish.  Since we currently do online sales only sporadically (through eBay), these all come from the brick and mortar perspective.  

1)  More publishers participating in the Bits and Mortar program.  For those not familiar with it, Bits and Mortar is a program set up by almost 20 (at last count) RPG publishers--including Cubicle 7 (publisher of Victoriana and Doctor Who), Evil Hat (Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files), Pelgrane Press (Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu and Mutant City Blues)--allows retailers to send a free PDF of any paper RPG from the participating publisher.  The store sells the hard copy, gets the customer’s email and can immediately send them a PDF.  We’ve sold a number of Evil Hat products as a result of this program.  Ideally, we’d see heavy sellers of PDFs such as Steve Jackson Games and Paizo Publishing join the program.  I have spoken to some people at SJG, notably Jackson himself, and he seemed interested, saying he would look into it.  Paizo seemed less so, likely because Pathfinder PDFs are a steady revenue stream for them.

2)  States make more of a push to collect sales tax from online sellers.  Cash strapped states are going to start looking more closely at online retailers who should collect and remit sales tax to the state in which the customer resides.  Brick and mortar stores are expected to collect and remit sales taxes to the appropriate agency of states in which we do business.  Online retailers should have to do the same.  As far as any difficulty collecting and remitting sales tax to every state in which online retailers have customers, Staples collects sales tax from me whenever we order office and cleaning supplies for the store.  Seems that having to pay for software upgrades to calculate and remit sales taxes to those states that collect it should be a cost of doing business.

3)  New Games Day.  Much like Wednesday is new comics day at comic shops and Tuesday sees new releases books and DVDs, I’d love to see a standard day of the week that customers could to expect to see new games arrive.  That probably won’t happen anytime soon as long as we have multiple distributors within the industry.  Even Wizards of the Coast doesn’t even have a standard day of the week for releases of its new products.

4)  Publisher communications will have correct release information.  Even after all these years, we still have problems with publishers posting blurbs on their Websites such as “Available Now” or “In Stores Now” when we still don’t have it and won’t for a week or so, due to the delay caused by the shipping channel.  A customer walks in, tells me the publisher’s Website says the book or game is in stores now when it has actually shipped from the publisher to the distributor, then to us, a process taking a week or so.  Don’t announce to consumers that it’s available now or will release on this date, unless it actually will.  Publisher release dates and in-store dates are usually two different days.  Publishers have worked to improve the situation and we have much less difficulty with different release dates than we did five years ago.  However it still happens often enough that it still presents problems.
That’s my wish list for the year.  Of the four, I expect to see #1 and #4 improve over the course of the year, #2 will take 2-4 years, and #3, well as I noted earlier, a store owner can hope.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely  those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of