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 wonders whether Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons & Dragons releases are targeting the right part of the market.

Sitting here in the evening after a long busy day (Enterplay offered us the opportunity to host a My Little Pony Regional tournament which took a decent amount of co-ordination to prepare), and thinking about tomorrow when we celebrate 26 years in business.  As I may have mentioned before, we actually opened on Valentine's Day in 1990 but St. Valentine's Day is too big a holiday, properly promoted, on its own for us to try to shoehorn a second event in with it.  Better to celebrate on a different day of the month and create an event to draw customers in on what might otherwise be a regular sales day.

That is a great advantage game stores have over many other types of stores.  We can schedule events monthly, weekly or even daily and target the event towards different market segments.  A Pokemon tournament will draw a different crowd from a Dungeons & Dragons game day, which in turn draws a different crowd from a King of Tokyo store tournament.  Making a day special is one way to draw in customers.

Stocking specific products targeting a particular segment is another way.  I know stores that carry disc golf supplies to target one market segment while others stock in 200+ different POP! figures to attract another.  We still have an amazing number of people who come in specifically looking for Cards Against Humanity and Superfight that have lived in Carbondale for years and have never come through the store's doors in the 26 years we've been open.

Speaking of targeting a market, Wizards of the Coast has me just a mite confused with the marketing strategy they have in place for D&D 5th Edition.  I get that they do not want to glut the market as happened with Dungeons & Dragons 3rd, 3.5 and 4th Editions and as Paizo Inc. apparently wants to do with Pathfinder, with four to six new releases hitting the shelves every month.  Still, since D&D 5th hit the shelves, we have seen:  Dungeon Masters Guide, D&D Starter Set, DM Screen, Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, Monster Manual and, by my count, four adventures: Dragon Queen, Tiamat, Elemental Evil and Apocalypse, with the new Curse of Strahd coming in April.  Do you see a problem here?  From a store and player's perspective, there certainly is.

Of the ten items released by WotC since summer of 2014, three, that's 3, have targeted players with the D&D Starter Set, rather an iffy call.  At most tables, the breakdown is one Dungeon Master and four to eight players.  Looking at it another way, in most cases a table will have 80% players and 20% or less Dungeon Masters. Meanwhile, WotC's release schedule has skewed 70% Dungeon Master-oriented products and only 30% player-oriented ones, while the players are the largest segment of the market.

In our store, Player's Handbooks and Starter Sets outsell the other books by a factor of four to one, while the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide gets reordered almost every week.  I really like the frequency of WotC's release schedule as it keeps customers hungry for the next item.  I just wish they would target the larger market.

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