Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thoughts on Catan, Asmodee, Fantasy Flight & Origins

Hey all.  Sorry for the lack of bloginess lately, raising a kid and all that.  At any rate, I saw a few articles in the past month and had some thoughts I wanted to get down.

While most of you came here for painting/terrain making tutorials, you know I occasionally feature a board game review.  In reality, for a long, long time, board games were a much bigger part of my gaming than anything else.  In fact, while I was dating my future wife, she introduced me to The Settlers of Catan.  Most of you, even if you don't particularly care for board games, have probably heard of it.  It was the game responsible for introducing most people to the concept of "Eurogames", games that are very different than the type we grew up with (Monopoly, Scrabble, etc).  Although it's been a couple of years since I've played a game of Catan or any of it's variants, it still has a special place in my heart.

It's also no secret that boardgames have exploded in popularity in the past several years, especially among millennials. This trend is so prevalent that my city has had several new stores open that deal almost exclusively in board games, and even supports a dedicated board game parlour. The popularity of Catan means you can even buy gaming tables that are made just for playing Catan.  A few years ago, there was a glut of articles talking about how Silicon Valley had been overtaken by Catan-mania.

So imagine my surprise when I read that Asmodee had acquired the rights for Catan from Mayfair Games.

See, board games are handled similarly to books - the publishing rights can be bought or sold (and in fact are all the time).  And the rights are usually separate for each language/country.

But the English-language rights for Catan are arguably the most valuable cash cow in the entire gaming industry.  This is the board game industry equivalent of J.K. Rowling selling the rights to all the Harry Potter books, or George Lucas selling off Star Wars.

The rights were bought by Asmodee, a french company that also recently merged with one of my favorite publishers, Fantasy Flight, and just a couple of months before that, bought another of my favorite publishers, Days of Wonder.

While this undoubtedly makes Asmodee the new 800-pound-gorilla of the board game industry, what does it mean?  Is it a good deal? Will Mayfair survive?

I don't know.

It's impossible to say without knowing what Asmodee paid for the rights to Catan, and even then, I probably don't know enough to speak with any authority on the subject.

A lot of those articles about the "board game craze" are five or six years old at this point.  One point of view is that Mayfair made a fortune, and was smart to get out before the bubble popped.  The other side could say that Catan is a cash cow that hasn't even begun to be milked, and Asmodee made a smart buy.  Like I said, without in-depth info about the financials, it's all speculation.

One of my main concerns is a bit more personal - Mayfair Games was the premiere sponsor of my favorite annual convention, Origins Game Fair.  Will Mayfair still take this role at Origins?  And will the fans respond to them if they don't have Catan in their portfolio anymore?  This article says:

Catan Studios, Inc. is the name being given to the team that is part of Asmodee. Mayfair isn’t just cutting all ties, though, as they will still help with the coordination of all official events listed for Catan this year, as well as CatanDay, and the Catan World Championship.
This change is part of a management change happening at Mayfair. Such changes include Larry Roznai becoming both President (which he already was) and CEO (formerly held by Pete Fenlon). Alex Yeager will now be the VP of Acquisition & Development, which had been done by S. Coleman Charlton. Various other VP and Director positions have new people in charge of them as well.
A lot of Mayfair's involvement with Origins will probably hinge on Larry Roznai - he's kind of a fixture at Origins.  I have to admit I've talked with him, attended seminars led by him, and always found him to be a pleasant guy.  But, apparently he's been at odds with Origins: a couple of years ago a well-liked member of the GAMA (the company that puts on Origins every year) staff was let go, and he shared a lot of info on Facebook:


(Names and pics obscured to protect the innocent, blah blah blah).  

I'd hate to see Origins move from Columbus, as it's local to me - it's my annual vacation, and I do the bulk of my gaming purchases every year there and at Adepticon.  It's an interesting idea presented by the former employee that Mayfair pulling out of Origins would be a non-issue - I'm not so sure that's true, simply because I don't know who would pick up the slack.  Fantasy Flight hasn't attended Origins in several years.  Rio Grande had a good showing 4 or 5 years ago, but seems to have scaled back their presence in favor of GenCon.  Queen Games has stepped up quite a bit in the past couple of years, but I don't think they have the titles or fan following to be the "major" sponsor.  Looney Labs used to be a major sponsor several years ago but stopped attending due to scheduling issues (and other unspoken but implied reasons). 

Another interesting piece of the puzzle was a recent Asmodee's announcement:

The marketplace has long been distorted by providing one-size-fits-all sales terms to every retail account, regardless of its channel of sale. The growth in demand for games over the last decade, in our view, has been fueled not only by fantastic product, but by the support of specialty retailers who incubate personal connections between players, facilitate tournaments and leagues, provide instant product availability, and increasingly provide a “third place” that is instrumental for so many gamers to enjoy and discover our products. The retailer cost of providing such channel services is significant, and so we’re now making policy changes to ensure that the sales terms provided to those retailers, relative to other channels, are positively reflective of the value they add to our distribution chain. - See more at: http://www.purplepawn.com/2015/12/asmodee-consolidating-operations-in-north-america/#sthash.6SA54g71.dpuf

What does the above marketing-speak mean?  Short short answer: no more cheap online sales of games.  While I'm more willing than a lot of people to spend a little bit more to support my local retailer or vendor at a convention, it's nice to have the option to get stuff online.  What this means as far as going up against Amazon will be an interesting scenario as well.

8 comments:

  1. I suspect Origins will not move for several years at least. The contract with the hotels and the convention center. Finding another city or more likely returning to rotating cities would take a lot of work, and the GAMA staff is all based in Columbus.

    GAMA's primary focus these days is the Las Vegas Trade Show and Origins gets second billing most of the year. Finding additional sponsors and beefing up Origins would not be hard, if GAMA wanted to grow the show.

    I ran some quick numbers based on the cost of the Convention Center, and other items that I have from researching using Columbus for a professional convention. I believe GAMA could easily weather the loss of Mayfair and other sponsors. I believe at this point Origins is probably break even on the pure membership, dealer hall fees, and game fees. I have no inside knowledge, but based on my history in the industry and knowledge - I think they are there. 3 years ago Mayfair dropping sponsorship would have been a big deal. Today I think Origins could survive.

    I think with a bit more love from GAMA Origins could add another 2 to 3,000 additional unique members without an issue. Marketing, putting the event list out earlier, earlier release of the key vendors in the dealers room, and a bit more in the way of social media presence.

    We put our events into the queue for Origins in September, but it is typically April or May before we find out what we are running - meaning I can't advertise at the other conventions we attend or post event schedules well in advance. The one change of accepting games as they come in, would allow event runners to help with the marketing.

    I would not worry about Mayfair pulling out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think with a bit more love from GAMA Origins could add another 2 to 3,000 additional unique members without an issue. Marketing, putting the event list out earlier, earlier release of the key vendors in the dealers room, and a bit more in the way of social media presence. 100 cotton duvet sets , wedding vicky razai set

    ReplyDelete
  3. Spot on with this write-up, I actually suppose this web site needs rather more consideration. I’ll in all probability be again to learn far more, thanks for that info.
    메이저사이트
    온라인경마

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know.
    바카라사이트
    토토사이트

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great info. Thank you for sharing this fascinating information together. I am so blessed to discover this. Feel free to visit my website; 일본야동
    일본야동
    국산야동
    일본야동
    한국야동

    ReplyDelete
  6. How can I fix my Printer not printing black ink?

    The users often get stuck and so they put up questions like why is my Canon Printer not printing black properly? Now, to fix it, you are supposed to check out the latest drivers which are installed for your printer. If you wish to resolve it, you must check out the latest drivers which is installed on your printer, then try to uninstall and then reinstall it and then you should try to change driver settings. Now, try to reconfigure the printer. Once you do follow the steps, you would be able to fix your issues without any fuss.

    Yahoo email is not working?

    If yahoo email is not working then Look through your filters. Yahoo Mail has a function that allows you to categorize messages automatically as soon as they arrive. It's a useful function, but much like spam, it's conceivable that a filter you set up can catch emails you didn't intend. Check the Filters section of your Yahoo Mail settings before going through all of your folders. This will assist you in identifying and fine-tuning any faults with the rules you've established. To assist limit down your search, check your filters to see which folders they utilize.

    Accessing Recall Feature in Outlook Email App

    The application versions of any software makes it easier for the user to access it. You do not have to login or sign in again and again. It seems organized in your phone. We will see how you can use the recalling feature of Outlook app in the app version. You have to login to your account and go to the sent folder for Outlook app recall email. Then select the email you want to recall by double clicking on it. Then, click on the option or recall this email from the menu.

    What is two-factor authentication Facebook 2022?

    Facebook Two-factor authentication is very beneficial in securing and protecting personal information without question. Read more to know how to achieve two-step verification on Facebook. First of all, open the Facebook App. Then select Menu and scroll down to ‘Settings and Privacy.’ Then select the settings option and click on the ‘Use Two-Factor Authentication’ link to complete two-factor authentication facebook 2022. Then click on the Continue button and choose your security methods. You’ll be ready to sign in as soon as you have two-step verification.

    How can I get my Yahoo email to automatically refresh?

    Users do witness technical problems like Yahoo Mail not syncing with iPad. Now, if you are stuck and want resolve the issues, you are supposed to follow and apply few important instructions. To fix, you must click the curved arrow icon which is in the inbox line in the left panel of your page. Now if you do hover your cursor over this icon, you can click the inbox it self. You can simply fix it, by applying the steps. If you want to resolve the issues, you would be able to troubleshoot the issues without any fuss and chaos. Have a look at the steps to resolve it.

    ReplyDelete