Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and teaches marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne talks about some recent game releases.

Since they hit the shelves so closely, it’s interesting to compare our store sales of the two new TCG releases, Extreme Victory for Yu-Gi-Oh! and New Phyrexia for Magic: The Gathering.  I’m not particularly surprised that sale of New Phyrexia surpassed Extreme Victory as the player base for Magic outstrips Yu-Gi-Oh! in terms of both number of players and amount of discretionary income.  What has surprised me, however, is how much New Phyrexia sales have dwarfed those of Extreme Victory.  Including Pre-Releases, Sneak Peeks, and Launch Parties, we have gone through about 16 displays of New Phyrexia boosters and 2 cases of Fat Packs in 2 days.  Compare that to 4 displays sold through of Extreme Victory in five days.  While this is abnormally low for a new Yu-Gi-Oh! release for us, the huge difference in sales volumes for us this time emphasized the difference between the levels of support each company offers to drive sales at release time.  

Wizards of the Coast supports two launch events, Konami supports one.  WotC offers the new set in three different formats, Konami offers its new set in one format.  WotC offers a “Buy It By The Box” promotional card to drive sales of full booster displays, Konami doesn’t (though the company has offered case toppers of giant cards and promotional card boxes when purchasing a case of boosters).  While not complaining about the money Yu-Gi-Oh! generates for the store, Konami certainly leaves money on the table by not coming out with other products to capitalize on the customer excitement surrounding a new product release.  Making something similar to a Fat Pack available concurrent with the launch of a new product would certainly help satisfy all of the requests we get weekly for an officially sanctioned Yu-Gi-Oh! deck box.

Speaking of notable new releases, Games Workshop just released its revamped Tomb Kings army figures, along with the updated army book for the line, in the hardback format that Games Workshop has moved to for its army books.  Making the books hardback has added almost $10 to the price but does not appear to have affected sales of them at all, mainly due to the size of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle market compared to that for Warhammer 40,000.  In the U.S., sales of Warhammer 40,000 dwarf those of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which, conversely, makes the Warhammer Fantasy Battle customer more willing to accept cosmetic price hikes, such as the hardback treatment for army books, since they have a smaller pool of new product releases from which to select.  Tellingly, Games Workshop has indicated no plans to move to a hardback upgrade for the Warhammer 40,000 codex line, the company’s bread and butter.

And in the “We’re not dead” category, Palladium Books released another book for their Rifts line: Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy. Palladium Books, along with Chaosium, is one of the oldest companies still relying on role-playing games for the bulk of its sales, and even Chaosium has a thriving side business publishing Cthulian-themed books and collections, so it’s nice to see Palladium proving a company can still use RPG sales as the basis for a long term business model.  Finding a niche, building a brand and marketing to that niche still works, as Palladium has proved.

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