In case you missed the announcement earlier this week, Z-Man Games announced that, on March 15, it would end the exclusive distribution deal it has had in place for several years with Alliance Game Distribution, broadening its distribution channel to include not only Alliance but also Southern Hobby, ACD, GTS and Peachtree Distribution. Z-Man Games is probably best known for its Pandemic line of co-operative board games but the company also produces the Carcassonne, Agricola, Stone Age, Tragedy Looper as well as Camel Up and Dark Stories.
Z-man Games is part of the F2Z Entertainment publishing house, which also publishes the Plaid Hat, Pretzel and Filosofia lines of games and the success of Plaid Hat Games and Pretzel Games in using multiple distributors is what likely encouraged the company to end the exclusive arrangement with Alliance and move to a less exclusive arrangement with the other four distributors, which still leaves out smaller and regional distributors such as Aladdin’s and Mad Al.
By my calculations, this leaves about four publishers exclusive to one distributor or another. Alliance Game Distribution still maintains an exclusive relationship with WizKids Games, publisher of the HeroClix line of collectable superhero miniatures games; and Twilight Creations, best known as the publisher of Zombies! and its dozen or so expansions. ACD has an exclusive arrangement with Playroom, publisher of Geek Out and Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (if it ever gets back into print, copies are going for over $100 on eBay); and Personally Incorrect, a card game similar to Cards Against Humanity, is distributed exclusively by Lion Rampant Imports.Looney Labs Cuts Distributors”), and added a third, GTS, six months ago; while whoever publishes Kittens In A Blender had an exclusive arrangement with GTS, though I am not sure if that was a permanent arrangement or just for the first (and only) reprinting of the game.
So far, WizKids seems pretty happy with how Alliance has handled distribution of their lines and, especially with HeroClix's heavy reliance on distribution of Organized Play materials to drive participation in OP events and hence sales of HeroClix products, I see no reason to expect WizKids to end the exclusive relationship now and since, from what I understand, money is involved in the ACD/Playroom deal, it is doubtful that one will change any time soon.
However, I would not be particularly surprised to hear an announcement from Looney Labs that they will expand their distribution channels from ACD, Alliance, and GTS to encompass the other two distributors as well. It would give them greater access to retailers that do not have one of their current three distributors as one of their first choices and would make it much easier for stores to restock products like Fluxx and Just Desserts as they will not have to hold off putting in an order until time to place one with one of Looney Labs' current distributors.
The thing that concerns me most about the expansion of Z-Man to additional distributors is the company’s notorious out of stock problem. Though Pandemic and its expansions remained in stock through this holiday season, this has not been the case in past years and the need to bump up production to supply the needs of four additional distributors may prove problematic for the company. I am hoping we don’t see a return to the days of Z-Man’s popular games out of stock for weeks or months again.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.