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 discusses the ongoing trend of publishers timing their distribution releases with Gen Con releases.

We saw a continuation this year of what has become a small trend during Gen Con.  Publishers have been arranging to have their products release to distribution so that they arrive on store shelves at the same time as the publisher releases them at Gen Con.  Paizo has done this with Pathfinder products for the past several years and did so again this year with the second edition of the Pathfinder RPG, the Bestiary and a slew of supplements for the new edition.  AEG did it this year with Curio, Point Salad, Walking in Burano, and the new expansion for Smash Up, World Tour Culture Shock, allowing stores to preorder the four so as to have them in stock for when Gen Con started (see " 'Culture Shock' Is Second Stop on 'Smash Up: World Tour'").  Stores that preordered a sufficient quantity of each would also receive promo pins to give away and stores could also sign up to participate in an in-store version of AEG’s Big Game Night, which the company hosts at Gen Con every year to debut new releases (see "Alderac Introduces 'Big Game Night Box'").  This is the first year, however, that AEG has offered stores the opportunity to run a version of Big Game Night at the same time.  I, and most other stores, hope that both companies continue to offer early release of their products when the product has a major convention release.  A number of board game companies offer early release of new games, generally tied to the purchase of a certainly quantity of the game.

All three of the major trading card game companies offer at least some form of early release of their product, tied to participation in their Organized Play program.  Generally, the company’s product releases on Friday and participating stores get permission to offer it for sale prior to that date.  Konami allows OTS (Official Tournament Stores) stores (which is rather redundant come to think of it) to release new Yu-Gi-Oh! products a day earlier than they go on sale at non-OTS locations or in the mass market.  Although an extra day may not seem like much, a hot Yu-Gi-Oh! release going on sale a day early definitely draws in the avid Yu-Gi-Oh! player.  If a store has OTS standing, its distributors can ship Yu-Gi-Oh! product to land in time for the Thursday release.

Pokemon’s early release program is even more generous as stores participating in its organized play program can sell a new release the Monday before the general release of a new set.  This applies to boosters, decks, gift sets and even any remaining pre-release kits.

Wizards of the Coast’s early presale program is the most convoluted of the three, and I'm not sure if we will see any additional changes with Throne of Eldraine (see "Rolling for Initiative -- 15 Changes Coming with 'M20'").  Currently, stores order up to a given quantity of booster boxes of the new Magic: The Gathering set and may sell full boxes, assuming the store signed up to host a prerelease, during the weekend before the release of the set.  The stores then have to take all of the product off sale for the Monday through Thursday after prerelease weekend, and then may put everything back out for sale on Friday.  For the Core Set 2020 release, stores also received displays of the Intro/Planeswalker decks to sell during the Magic Open House the weekend before the prerelease, but they had to pull any remaining product off the shelf after the end of the Open House.  It appears WOTC may have new plans for the Open House, so we shall see what happens.

One prerelease that most stores would like to see return is the early sale by WPN stores of new Dungeons & Dragons products.  WPN sanctioned stores would receive new D&D products about 3 weeks ahead of their release online and to the mass market.  WOTC mitigated the change by retaining the hobby game store only covers, but if it comes to choosing between an exclusive cover and a three week jump on the mass market, most stores will take the three week lead time.

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