Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks for the missing TableTop bump.

Season 4 of TableTop released about two weeks ago with not much of a bang or even that much of a whimper, just a quick announcement that, after announcing that this season would launch behind the Alpha paywall, the first two episodes would stream for free on YouTube and the Geek and Sundry website with subsequent episodes moving behind the paywall until sometime in 2017.

The first episode features Lanterns with Wil Wheaton and staff members from the Game The Game show playing, while the second show features, along with Wheaton,  Chris Kluwe, Marisha Raye and TableTop veteran Alison Haislip playing Grey Fox Games’ Champions of Midgard.  As of this writing, Lanterns has almost 420,000 views in a bit over a week while Champions of Midgard sits just below 290,000 after only 3 days.

Yet I have not had a single person in asking for Champions of Midgard and most stores have not reported any increased sales from the vaunted "TableTop bump" of Seasons 1 and 2 (and to a much reduced effect in Season 3) for Lanterns.  Renegade Games’ Lanterns is a steadily selling game and a favorite here at the store, both among the staff and customers but so were Ticket to Ride and Small World, both of which saw significant upturns in sales nationwide after appearances on TableTop.  So why no TableTop bump?

1.  Wearout -- For the first two seasons, TableTop was quite a novelty.  Here we had a show with a celebrity, playing the games that your FLGS stocked, with other celebrities.  One thought that went through people’s minds: "Hey, I recognize those people, and hey, I recognize that type of game that they are playing."  The customer might not know the exact game they were playing but it sure looked similar to other games they had played, like Catan and Carcassonne.   By Season 4 though, the new shiny has worn off and the customer is now familiar with those types of games, likely already having picked them up before they appear on TableTop.  In fact, if you look at the list of games scheduled to appear on Season 4, most have been in stores for two or three years.

2.  Ease of ordering -- During the first couple of seasons of TableTop, Geek & Sundry and company took a lot of flack from retailers for posting handy dandy links on the videos for ordering the games from Amazon and Target.  I know a number of retailers that, before reposting the links, went to the effort of stripping out the ordering links before posting the video.  Two years later, people watching TableTop are much more comfortable ordering from their phones, with 70+% of Millennials saying they have placed an order from a mobile device.  We regularly have customers that come in, find a game, pull out their phone, tap it a few times and make a comment to the effect of "Be here in two days."  People are still buying the games featured, just not in the FLGS.

3.  Paywall -- As indicated above, Season 4 was supposed to launch behind a paywall.  So, the announcement that the first two episodes would stream for free caught most people by surprise.  I know I expected to wait until 2017 before seeing any of the episodes.  Delaying the availability of the episodes really dampened enthusiasm for them, and while they have gotten a lot of views, the excitement for the series just isn’t there.

I do hope we see more enthusiasm build for Season 4 as I remain a big fan of the series and its potential to introduce new games to current players, but it will likely need a much bigger promotional push to achieve this.

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