big-business-board-gameEconomy got you down? Laid off? Business in the tanks? Maybe it’s time to turn your hobby in to a career. I won’t kid you—jobs in tabletop games (at least, the salaried kind) are hard to find. But there are a few. Here’s what I’ve been able to turn up:

People Will Wait in Line for Something They Want

People Will Wait in Line for Something They Want

In the games industry preorder systems serve a variety of purposes. For companies producing niche games within a limited market, the opinions of customers voiced through preorders can help direct development efforts to the highest demand products. If payment is required up front, preorders can also help fund production. And preorder systems can be used to reward loyal customers with discounts or other benefits, while at the same time generating buzz for upcoming products. Also whether intentional or not, I’d be remiss in not pointing out that that the ability to preorder a game may result in a few extra sales, as sometimes it’s easier to punch that button for an order when you know that the money you spend may not be charged to your credit card for quite some time (I speak here from experience).

Of course the terms and conditions for preorders vary by program. Here are some examples:   Read the rest of this entry »

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The Business of Games—Trade Shows

Trade shows are different than consumer-focused gaming conventions. At a trade show for example, industry participants have an opportunity to view the latest product offerings, buyers can meet suppliers and manufacturers and discuss orders, and professionals may attend seminars on how to improve their business—all of this without the pressure of fans filling the booth. While fans might love to attend for access to inside information on upcoming releases, typically attendance requires proof of a business relationship to the industry, whether retailer, publisher, distributer, manufacturer, designer, or member of the press. Some of the trade shows either dedicated to the games business or frequented by game companies include:

  • GAMA Trade Show, aka “GTS” (April, Las Vegas)—A show by the Game Manufacturers Association specifically for the hobby games industry. Incorporates both a seminar program and an exhibit hall. Seminars have covered such topics as copyright and trademark law, selling new game designs to publishers, and how to establish a unique identity for your retail store.
  • Australian Toy Hobby and Nursery Fair (March, Melbourne)
  • Licensing International Expo (June, New York City)—An annual marketplace for brands and intellectual property. Not exclusively a show for games, but noteworthy for the industry nevertheless. Licensing the right property can give a significant boost to a game company. This can also be a good venue for licensing game-based IP to other industries.
  • Collocated TGIFcon and ASTRA Annual Marketplace & Academy (June, Mashantucket, Connecticut)—The former gives designers, developers, and inventors the opportunity to meet with publishers and large retail chains. The latter, run by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, includes seminars targeted to retailers and sales reps.
  • TOY FAIR, aka “New York Toy Fair” (February, New York City)—The premier general toy show in North America, with more than 20,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors.
  • Chicago Toy & Game Fair, aka “Chi-Tag” (November)—Before opening to the public for the last two days, Chi-Tag focuses on game inventors and the educational value of games.
  • Protospiel (July, Okemos, Michigan)—A casual gathering of hobby game designers for cooperative playtesting. Also in attendance are a few publishers.
  • Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair, aka “Nuremberg Toy Fair” (February, Nuremberg)—The largest international toy and game trade show with more than 80,000 visitors and 2,700 exhibitors representing more than 120 countries. Of course, much of that isn’t games. And the games that are on display at Nuremberg are often pre-production versions.
  • China Toy Expo (October, Shanghai)—An opportunity to meet with representatives of manufacturing plants.

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The Business of Games—Job Opportunities

Games are my hobby. But I’ll admit to dreaming about making games my career. I daresay that some of you have as well. As the saying goes, do what you love and you’ll love what you do.

Well, believe it or not, it is possible. A survey of game companies reveals a number of available positions. However, it also reveals a number of important facts to consider. Career employment-type positions are rare and are generally concentrated in customer service, marketing, support services such as accounting and information technology, and production. Development jobs, though they are generally found in-house, are rarer still. Design and graphic illustration, however—the type of work you might think about first when you imagine creating games—are more often left to independent contractors or freelancers (which, hopefully, we’ll cover at a later time). Also, don’t expect to find a wealth of opportunities or high-paying positions—Hasbro and Mattel CEO positions being the exception on the latter. Finally, though you may be interested because you enjoy playing games, the companies who are recruiting expect their employees to take the jobs seriously. They are looking for people with specific skills and experience, and in most cases require successful candidates to relocate.

So, if you’re still interested, this is some of what you can find available right now:

  • Steve Jackson Games is looking for a Production Assistant and a Perl Coder.
  • Fantasy Flight Games is recruiting for a Senior Roleplaying Game Developer.
  • Paizo Publishing has opportunities for a Customer Service Representative, Warehouse Personnel, a Software Developer, and a Copy Editor.
  • “Intern” positions are available at Kenzer & Company. From the description, this appears to be warehouse order processing, but it’s unclear whether or not the positions are paid.
  • At Privateer Press there are jobs for Linux Administrator and Packing/Shipping.
  • Positions at Upper Deck include Financial Analyst, Designer (Entertainment), Lead Artist, Associate Game Designer (WOW Miniatures), Senior Software Engineer, Senior Systems Engineer, Technical Support Specialist, Web Designer/Developer, and Director of Direct Response Marketing.
  • In the UK, Games Workshop has positions available in retail sales support and management. In the United States, opportunities include retail, as well as Administrative Assistant, HR Director, and Trade Account Manager.
  • Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, is recruiting for UI Architect, Software Development Manager, Software Developer, Bilingual Graphic Designer, Game Brand Developer (Japan), and Administrative Assistant.
  • The rest of Hasbro is recruiting for 30 open positions, including 5 in accounting/finance, 5 in engineering, and 4 in graphic arts & design.
  • At Mattel, there are opportunities for Interns in Design/Development and career positions as a Senior Marketing Associate, a Senior Security Investigator, and Senior Financial Analyst.
  • Ravensburger is looking for a Press Advisor, Planning Engineer, Product Manager, and Technical Product Developer/Manufacturer (at least that’s how Babel Fish translates it).

Paper Money #27: Lotta News

Lots of news this week! Hasbro loses Stratego to Spin Master, TRU files IPO, Catalyst Game Labs update, and more. Also, some good listener mail and lots of Ben and Rett talking the business of games and having a good time doing it!

Show Links:
Purple Pawn –
Taharqa’s Corner: The CGL Situation –

Next Show: June 18th. We’ll do a quick preview of Origins and maybe have an interview. Really. We hope. Honest.

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200905062027.jpgBusiness of Games (BoG) is our regular series looking at the business of games from the perspective of the gamer.

Wow – what a difference a month makes! In our monthly review of games sales (using Alliance Distribution’s Game Trade Magazine monthly top 25 list), we see a ton of movement! Nearly half of the titles on the top 25 titles are new to the list. In all fairness, 4 of these new titles are related to the newest release of Magic the Gathering (Alara Reborn) – which should help convince people that Magic is still the king of hobby gaming.

Hobby/designer board and card games had a great showing this month with new BoardGameGeek favorites Le Havre and Smallworld taking spots in the top 5 and recent hits Agricola, Dominion and various Ticket to Ride games holding down the middle of the list. RPGs on the other hand continue to not perform particularly well with only Dungeons and Dragons making the list in a few places, but losing ground overall.

CCGs and CMGs as a whole suffered this month. Non-Magic CCGs faired very poorly, with every game losing ground. CMGs faired even more poorly with the new Star Wars expansion falling in the ratings and the new World of Warcraft expansion debuting lower than the core set’s rating last month!

The biggest improvement this month was DaVinci Games’ Bang! which seems to be the game that just won’t quit (doesn’t everyone already have a copy of this???). On the negative side, the biggest loser was the newest Pokemon expansion (Platinum) – its an interesting movement – do retailers buy in bulk the first month and just let the inventory run through.

Even more interesting is what games didn’t make it to the list this month: Heroclix and Monsterpocalypse (there were a few others that didn’t make the list, but these are particularly interesting). To a large degree, it seems that the soap opera that is the fight over Heroclix is leaving gamers uninterested in continuing to pay for a game that might not ever see another expansion. Monsterpocalypse on the other hand may be suffering from its own complexity and lack of recognizable characters (though the upcoming Voltron expansion might turn this around).

Overall the ratings this month are encouraging – a little over half of the games on the list are collectible (which seems to put the lie to the folklore that gamers don’t like collectible games), but more hobby and designer games performed very well this month. As always, we’d love to have some raw numbers or input from other distributors – if you can help, drop us a line!

Business of Games (BoG) is our regular series looking at the business of games from the perspective of the gamer.

We’re going to try something a bit different this month – we’ve scoured the interwebs for the available retail sales information on hobby gaming (and there isn’t a lot out there to be clear – mad props to Diamond Distribution and Alliance Distribution‘s Game Trade Magazine for actually publishing some data) to try to give you a snap shot of how gaming looks at the moment. A couple of caveats – you won’t see many miniature games on this list – ever. Why? For the most part, miniature games have a large number of SKUs, meaning that individual items sell less (even though one line of products may sell exceptionally well). Also, a lot of miniature companies have special distribution deals or even handle it themselves (we’re looking at you GW…). Enough with the kvetching – on to the results!

TopGamesOfMarch.pngMarch was interesting in that the top four games held onto their spot from the previous month – and all four titles are considered evergreen to boot (technically, individual sets of Magic aren’t evergreen, but the brand itself is). There weren’t a whole lot of winners this month – with Yu-Gi-Oh! proving that silly lawsuits aren’t enough to stop the kiddie juggernaut (I was shocked to see one local games store packed with nothing but Yu-Gi-Oh! players during a time that had been previously the domain of Magic). Wizards is proving that they knew they were doing something right with 4th edition, seeing an increase in demand for the original 4E Player’s Handbook in the same month that they released Player’s Handbook 2!

That said, the majority of movement this month was southward. The biggest drop being the 4th edition of Bang!, the venerable card game plummeted to last place, probably because of the rapid (unexpected?) sell out of the run. The World of Warcraft Miniature Game and Monsterpocalypse continue to hold on to their spots in the top 25, defying the naysayers (I personally think both of them are decent games for the record…). The luster is also coming off of the recent reprinting of Arkham Horror as it starts its descent off the list – if you wanted this game, you probably already own it, ‘k?

The biggest disruptions on the list were the release of the Player’s Handbook 2 for D&D (the only surprise here is that it didn’t debut higher) and the newest World of Warcraft TCG expansion. For a CCG that no one ever seems to play, it seems to be doing just fine… Also interesting was the relatively low debut for the second Monsterpocalypse expansion (which seems a bit light for fans of the game to be honest) and Age of Conan – which may be too expensive or too complex for all but the most hard core (maybe a bit of both?).

Its hard to get a read out on what this means for the health of the hobby overall as we don’t have any raw numbers. At a minimum, its fair to say that the market is being largely dominated by the major players, with even well promoted, popular franchises having difficulty making major progress. For my money, Monsterpocalypse is the interesting one to watch – if Privateer Press can succeed with the new expansion, they may have a winner. Check back next month for the results! (and if you’re a distributor or have access to distributor sales data, we’d love to add your data to the aggregate!)

Business of Games (BoG) is our regular series looking at the business of games from the perspective of the gamer.

us board game sales.jpgThe NPD Group has released the year end sales results for the board game industry and their really quite encouraging. In a year where the overall toy segment was down 3%, board games were up 6%. This has led to a rash of opinions indicating that this is part of the continued rise of board games and that they are now ready to overthrow video games or some such. Before we completely disabuse this notion, its worth pointing out that we’re all very pro-board game around here, just not at the expense of actual facts.

The fact of the matter is that the board game industry had its best year in 2006, with sales of $802.2MM – a solid 13% increase over 2005. Then, in 2007, sales slack off significantly, dropping over 9%. This is the data point that everyone seems to miss – in a year that many consider to have been one of the best in board gaming history, overall sales went down. To be honest, I have no idea what to make of this event – while it certainly corresponds to the beginning of the economic downturn (the publicly visible part at any rate), it makes the 2008 increase fairly surprising – an increase of 6% (just shy of the $800MM mark) [for those who are curious, there aren’t actual numbers for the board game market prior to 2005 as far as I can tell, just the occasional estimate, as low as $400MM in 2003].

Read on for our analysis of the board game market

Games Workshop – Resurgent?

Business of Games (BoG) is our regular series looking at the business of games from the perspective of the gamer.

Six months ago, we brought you word of GW’s announcement that they were raising prices and questioned how GW was doing in the current economy. Well, they’ve just released their second half numbers and the results are very interesting!

The number everyone has been most interested in is the supply cost figure (the formal name is the “input cost”, particularly given the rapid increase in the cost of metals that has been driving up costs across the board in the miniature gaming hobby (no pun intended – I swear!). While these costs aren’t reported directly on earnings statements, you can see their result by looking at margin and the result is impressive. GW somehow managed to increase their gross margin to 71.4% from 70.1% – for those who aren’t mathematically inclined, that means that GW managed to make a bigger profit on each sale than they did last year. A cynic might point out that the company-wide price hike might have had something to do with this increase, but I doubt that’s the whole picture – GW’s supply managers are working some serious magic. All of this is on top of raw sales being up £7.3MM over the previous year.

What else was interesting the last half numbers? Well, we made a rather big deal out of the fact that GW has been operating at a loss lately. Well, they’ve certainly turned a corner on that front as well – going from taking a pre-tax loss to actually turning a profit of 3.1MM. I think its safe to say that if GW can show improvements like this, they may have have finally shrugged off some of their earlier issues. Heck, they even opened more stores than they closed this year – I’m pretty sure that most retailers can’t say the same.

So how is GW using their new found profit? Essentially, they’re using it to pay down debt. There seems to be a little bit of use around expanding hobby centers and some basic reinvestment, but the majority has gone into paying off the debts they’ve accumulated over the past few year (reducing their debt by 4.2MM to 11MM).

So what does this mean for your average gamer? For the most part, things seem good. While you’re not likely to see a drop in prices (things just don’t work that way generally), you’re very likely to see a greatly increased GW presence in your area (though if you’re in the US, that’ll probably be through a hobby shop) with greater levels of support and product. I’d also expect to see the continuation of the recent trend of rapid, high quality releases as this has likely contributed a fair bit to that increase in sales. Bottom line, GW seems to have recovered from their recent illness which is going to make it more likely that you can find product, find gamers and otherwise have a positive hobby experience.

Business of Games (BoG) is our regular series looking at the business of games from the perspective of the gamer.

Is Fantasy Flight Games the next Microsoft?  That’s the question asked in this week’s episode of the Dice Tower, a popular board game podcast by veteran reviewer Tom Vasel and Sam Healey.  At first blush, the idea seems a bit odd – after all, many in the board game world see FFG as something slightly better than Santa Claus, depositing gaming goodness to good little gamers everywhere with amazing consistency.  But are they really the same small company that we grew up loving?

Read on for our look at the FFG of yesterday and today!

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