Jeffrey Lunsford of Spud's Emporium of Comics and Games in Ottumwa, Iowa saw the news of WizKids' exclusive distribution deal with Alliance and Diamond (see 'WizKids Goes Exclusive') and shares his views:


In light of the recent distribution announcement, does WizKids really think that the industry will accept another shotgun marriage?


Most of the comic and game stores had no choice in the mid-90s.  With the collapse of the comic (and sports card) market, it was a change foisted on the retailers who, after much anger were simply forced to concede and accept it, if they wanted to continue to do business.  This will not be the case with the game industry.


Gamers tend to be much more protective creatures, especially when their industry is threatened (from within or without).  Look at historically the boycotts and walkouts against the very companies that manufacture a product when they have offended/attacked (intentionally or unintentionally) their customer base.  The game buying populace will not take this lightly, as evidenced by the recent closing of the WizKids forums on their Website.  Come on, does it take their IT people three plus days for maintenance?  Or has the negative backlash taken aback even the people in charge?


So, faced with this new reality, I have a question for WizKids.  Why do they no longer want me to sell their product?  I'm really the person they want to sell their line.  I'm that dealer that runs events at comic conventions (traditional non-gamer ground) trying to reach new customers.  I'm the dealer that asks my distributor (ACD for the record) for large consignment orders when going to Wizard World Chicago or other non-game conventions.  I don't deep discount and have pushed their product from the beginning.  Being the only store left for my part of the state, I have become a bastion for their merchandise--product lines I no longer feel compelled to carry because I no longer have freedom of choice.


I went with my current game distributor (ACD) because I was won over by their customer support, knowledge and fill rates.  My rep took the time to get to know me, what my store needed and how we could best do business together.  The stories and support are countless but it all boils down to a good working, respected partnership. I have never gotten this from Alliance or Diamond.  From Diamond, I currently don't even have a sales representative.  She quit or moved on at the end of November and has yet to be replaced.  And WizKids wants to go with Diamond/Alliance to better connect and deal with us retailers?  Please, I get more creative insults from my customers.


So, where does this leave me?  Well, my organized play is probably shot. My manager, hot for HorrorClix, has dropped the game because he feels personally betrayed by WizKids.  Having spent many conversations with all levels of management (Mr. Chandra and Mr. Tuttle included) at the recent Diamond Retail Summits and ACD's Open House, he expressed his excitement with the product line.  When questioned by these individuals about service, fill rates and all other aspects of our distributor he had nothing but a glowing report on ACD and how helpful they have been.  I received written notice from him that like WizKids, effective immediately, he will no longer be running HorrorClix events for my store. If I make it a required part of his job, he'll simply quit.  I've yet to hear from my Envoys on the subject.  I suspect they have grown tired of the constant two-step shuffle from WizKids and will answer appropriately.


So where does this leave me?  At this point in time, I'm looking for a new product line to take up the prominent space across from my register that WizKids used to occupy.  And wondering if the flowers I picked up for this shotgun marriage will last long enough for the funeral.


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