Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fantasy Flight Swings And ... Um ... I'm Not Sure

So did you all see this thing? Several sites I read tagged it immediately as a Good Thing and have been listing it as a sign that Fantasy Flight Games "Gets it," and that it's "Forward-Looking" and "Represents the future of the publisher/retailer relationship."

Yeah. I've seen all of these on various sites out there.

The Fantasy Flight Media Center - a locked-down iPad in a special case that store owners can use to help sell FFG product.
Running under the hood of the FFMC is a custom software solution, coded from scratch by FFG’s Interactive Department.
FFG has an Interactive Department? No wonder their games are so expensive! I wonder if the software will be available in the iPad App Store anytime in the near future, or if their iPad(s) were jailbroken to get the software to work (which could void their warranty with Apple - but that's okay. If there's a problem with the system, they can blame it on the retailer and force them to pay for a replacement, right?).

I'm all in favor of FFG selling product. Don't get me wrong. But if you go to their info page, and read their contract (PDF Link), it stops looking as good.

I sent the link to several local game stores, and received a lukewarm response.  Here's what one owner had to say:
So- let me get this straight...

I have to invest $1000 in FFG product and provide a WiFi connection at my own expense, just to be considered to receive one of these nifty devices- but it's not mine; it still belongs to FFG. Ok, fine. However, if it breaks or gets stolen, I additionally have to pay $649 as a replacement cost? And if I decide to return it, my $1000 investment is completely non-returnable and non-refundable, including unsold inventory?

Additionally, the device may or may not be equipped with the ability to record audio/ video of users and the surrounding area.

PLUS, according to the contract, if I don't have the volume up to a level that FFG deems appropriate for my store, the device could report me to FFG?

I see the potential downsides to me and my business, but where's the downside for FFG and their business? I can't find one.
It's all in the contract. And that assumes you get the Media Center in a reasonable amount of time:
8.0 No Guarantee of Delivery Time
APPLICANT understands that, even if FFG has qualified it for loan of one or more FFMC devices, and even if APPLICANT has purchased the required $999 restock order(s), that FFG cannot guarantee any firm delivery date for the delivery of the FFMC device to APPLICANT.
That's right - the store can spend $1k on FFG product (which may or may not sell), and then FFG can take as long as it wants to ship the iPad Media Center to the store.

Does this device have potential? Yes, it absolutely does. Is this device going to work for all stores? No.

I think this is one of those things that will help the bigger stores out, without doing much for the little guys. It's that $999 barrier to entry that causes the problem. Small stores can't necessarily fit $999 worth of product on the shelves (and in their storeroom). Just glancing at it, that's close to a full pallet's worth of product. Your typical pallet is 40"x48". The amount of product to reach their target dollar amount would be at least two layers of boxes tall. In the neighborhood of 3-4 feet tall, if we're talking about the "Big Box" games (Games the size of Twilight Imperium, for example).

Maybe if I had multiple locations for my theoretical game store, it'd be worth it - I could spread the storage across more than one location.

But I don't expect a huge rush for this thing.


  1. In addition to the storage required for the inventory purchase, I have difficulty envisioning a media center itself fitting into any of the regional game stores.

    Making space on the floor for such a device means less space for product. Given the minimum purchase amount, is this a not-so-clever scheme to increase FFG product frontage at the cost of other companies?

  2. Wow...I honestly don't see much upside for the store. They'd be better off hooking up a laptop and have an informed employee show them what they need to know about any games.

  3. I think this is an 'arse about face' solution... It would make more sense for someone to produce the device, rent it to the store (including insurance, installation, support) and then cover the real cost/ profit area by selling the digital space to many different publishers to promote their games.

    At a 'wet finger in the air' guess I'd say about $25 per month to the store owner for the unit (and support), and $100 - $200 per month to the publisher for regular impressions of their products (30 seconds in every 5 minutes, or something)...

    Hmm... anyone want to start a media management business?

  4. Just record FFG's demo videos to a DVD and put it on continuous play in the store. That alone would probably draw close to the same number of new sales with a fraction of the investment.

  5. Anonymous2:44 PM

    You guys need to head over to Purple Pawn and check out the responses there for a bit of a more balanced opinion about this product.

    As far as $1000 being a lot of money or that amount of games taking up a lot of room you need to rethink that. If a store doesn't have $1000 to spend on product heading into the holiday season then they are obviously not experiencing the kind of customer traffic in their store would generate sales on that amount of product. The media device would likely be of little use to a store like that anyway. But this is really not a huge amount of product. You're talking about 20 big box games or a little more than 30 square box games or some combination there in. Or to put it another way, that's 8-10 SKUs shelved three deep. We're not talking pallets full of games. Any game store worth visiting probably has that amount of FFG product on the shelf anyway and could turn that amount of FFG product by the end of the year.