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 asks whether people are getting ripped off by prices that are two or three times the MSRP on this hot new game.

In case you missed it, Gloomhaven released in verrrrry limited quantities about a month for so at an MSRP of $120 and promptly sold out at that price.  Very quickly after that, the people who backed it on Kickstarter got their copies and then a fairly limited number of copies of the game made it into distribution with an allocation of less than 10%.  Meaning that if you ordered 10 copies, a store could reasonably expect to get one.

Currently, copies are selling online for anywhere from $200 to $500 for a game with an MSRP of $120.  Are people getting ripped off?  Despite some comment, no, for two reasons:

Reason #1:  Supply and Demand.  As noted above, there is a very limited number of copies of the game available for sale and the law of supply tells us that, when there is a restricted supply, the price increases, as long as there is sufficient demand to drive the price up.  Scarcity of a product, whether perceived or actual, means an increase in prices, which in the case of bottled water or plywood after a serious storm along the Coast often gets considered price gouging.  Is it price gouging for sellers to raise the asking price of Gloomhaven to two or even three times the MSRP?  Possibly and the buyer may feel so after the purchase but on the other hand…

Reason #2:  Perceived value.  Nobody is making anyone buy Gloomhaven.  The people paying the increased price are doing so because they feel owning the game is a better use of their money than doing other things with it.  If you don't like the price, you don't have to buy the game.

However, Cephalofair Games recently announced plans for a second printing of the game with additional pieces and a second edition set of rules, funded by a Kickstarter campaign later this year.  In addition, Cephalofair solicited orders through distributors and distributors solicited pre-orders from retailers with the promise that all members of the channel will get the quantities pre-ordered.  Stores do not know if Cephalofair can produce enough to meet all of the demand (I know of stores that pre-ordered 30+ copies) and when it will release.  Dates bandied about so far include June, August and December.

So, the question for sellers and stores becomes, "Do I speculate on the second printing and what happens with pricing on the first printing?"  As a firmer release date gets announced, perceived value tells us that pricing on the 1st edition game will drop and customers decide they want the presumably better 2nd edition.  This will happen pretty quickly if the new edition releases in June as that is not a particularly long time to wait for it.  However, if December, the price will decline much more slowly as customers decide they would rather have it now than wait nine more months.

The other worrisome point for stores putting in pre-orders now is, will Cephalofair meet its full fulfillment of pre-ordered games and will demand remain high to absorb them?  If not, then scarcity and supply and demand kick in again and prices remain high, making speculators happy.  If so, and stores over-ordered for a demand that is quickly satiated, expect to see stores dumping the game at significant discounts to cover the bills coming due.

Given that distributors and stores have to set orders now, with no idea when the new edition will ship, putting these orders in now for the game is a very dicey matter.

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