I've been to the Recon Show in Leeds today. It is perhaps the smallest show I go to and seems to be getting slightly smaller but still busy. Despite this, it still manages to take a large amount of money out of my pocket. I got four metal miniatures and a lot more resin figures, a rule book and a couple of second hand boardgames.
I can't be the only one that is noticing a change in the way things are being sold. Christmas in the city centres seems a little quieter this year and the traffic around the town centres seems much less chaotic. The death of the high street has almost become a trope. In the towns and cities where I go there doesn't seem to be have been much in the way evidence to support this idea. Shopping in the conventional sense hasn't stopped but it has changed.
The main reason for going to a show is that you can get bargains. Most of the stuff I buy there is cheaper by as much as twenty percent than the recommended retail price. Just about all shows have a bring and buy. In times gone by I didn't spend much there but as the years have gone on I am pretty much certain that I will spend something there.
On Friday I was at a high street gaming shop in Southport. This is perhaps my favourite shop and runs a close second to a shop in Llandudno. These are all miles away from me. None of my local game shops, there are four that sell gaming stuff in my town, carry the stuff I really want. I do support my FLGS but find the big chain bookshop a better experience as the staff, well some of them, are way more knowledgeable about games than the staff in other shops. None of them are cheap though and all the stuff is cheaper online than in the shops. Most will have a sale but not as frequently as most shops. Not the GW shop, the last time a recall a sale wasn't in this millenia. Even in sales, the discounts are not all that good and I can probably find a better deal online.
Whilst I understand that there is a chain of supply and operating expenses, there has to be a way of making things cheaper. More than this, there has to be a way to give a bit of variety of stock. Three of my local shops sell essentially the same stuff. Products in high demand are what are on the shelves. All seem to sell ten times as many copies of Exploding Kittens as they do anything else. Profits are what keep the shops going but they also seem to be driving away the very customers they need by not meeting their needs.
Gaming shops are becoming more multipurpose with table space and fresh coffee available to keep the customers happy. On top of these multiple income streams there is often a greater variety of products. Gamers are usually on the geeky side of things so any products that appeal to geeks will probably appeal to gamers. At the moment they are game shops that sell coffee but coffee shops that sell games.
As I said earlier, much of what I got today was resin and a lot of what I buy is now plastic. I prefer metal figures but I, like most of us, am fairly price sensitive. Many of the figures were Reaper Bones which are direct copies of metal figures. These are about half to a third of the price of the metal miniatures. For figures that I use a lot I am probably going to stick with metal miniatures. For larger figures, that come out of a box once in a blue moon that would be prohibitively expensive in metal, Bones are ideal. Whilst not without their flaws, they are good enough.
One of the more noticeable things about Reaper and Reaper Bones miniatures is that there is a significant price difference. GW, an early adopter of plastic figures, produce a lot of figures that are not noticeably cheaper than anyone else's metal figures. Rather than bringing the cost down, plastic has increased profits for GW.
Come to think of it, it's not done too badly for some other companies. I like Malifaux figures but they are not cheap and they are in the region of GW prices and may be even more expensive. Production runs are probably smaller than GW so I guess they have to make their money and the do seem to be making good money.
So where am I going with all this? Well the market is changing. The means of production are maybe not in everyone's hands but the skills to operate them are within practically everyone's reach. 3D printing isn't there yet but give it a few years, maybe five and small scale 3D home printing is pretty much in everyone's hands with good end results. Home made figures are out there now. Get a camera and you can take a pictures of pretty much any figure and make a fair copy so bootlegging a mini digitally rather than taking a mould is also just around the corner. Colour 3D printing will be coming along eventually. Why paint your own when you can get someone to pro-paint or digitally render the perfect painted figure. For a long while now, even though I have a lot of RPG and gaming books, I have had more digital ones. Even board games can be printed out.
So what am I saying. The MP3 changed the music industry. It's been a decade since I purchased a CD and the buying of DVD/Blu Ray is becoming a rarity. Now, even though I have an impressive music library, I listen to most of my music through a digital streaming provider through the computer or assistant. I am not especially creative or skillful but I can make a lot of stuff that I once bought for myself and you are close to that to. Those in the game industry should be aware of that and look to the music industry to see how they handled the change. What I think is that prices are about to get better for the consumer as the means of production comes to us and gaming companies see how to manage that.