Thursday, July 19, 2012

From WotC: Geek Ken, no board games for you

Folks have been gushing about Lords of Waterdeep. Stone Age just hasn’t been getting that much play time on my table, so I’ve considered investing into another worker placement game. It looks like there are some neat twists with Lords of Waterdeep, and the player interaction is a bit more complex than shutting out players from certain locations. Stone Age is a fun game. It has some minuses, but overall an enjoyable game with a neat theme. I just haven’t been playing it as much and Lords of Waterdeep is all sparkly.

So I eagerly placed an order from a fantastic board game store that ships internationally. I live in Asia. I’ve used this store for years. They are the cat’s pajamas for an online source of board games. Not going to name them as I don’t want any fallout with the email correspondence. I’ll call them ‘Awesome Board Game Store’ for this post. I eagerly placed an order for Lords of Waterdeep and a few other games. A couple of days later I get this...

Hi Geek Ken,
Unfortunately we are unable to send Wizards of the Coast products outside the United States so we'll be unable to send Lords of Waterdeep on your order. I'm happy to replace it with another game, or just cancel it off the order all together. Please let me know what you'd like to do. Thanks.
-- Awesome Board Game Store


Bummer. Now it kills me to do this, as I was really looking forward to having a bundle of board games. Taking one out makes the shipping expense a little harder to justify. I really hadn’t thought too much on getting an alternate. So I bite the bullet and cancel my order. My reply:

I have recently logged into my Awesome Board Game Store account and cancelled my order. My apologies for cancelling. If possible, could you please indicate why the board game could not be shipped internationally? I am curious as there are very few local retailers within [ASIAN COUNTRY] that handle Hasbro/WotC products exclusively.

Regards,
GK


I was curious why the sudden change in policy. I think I ordered Gamma World from this Awesome Board Game Store, along with dungeon tiles. This was sort of new for me. So I had prodded further to find out why. I get an interesting reply.

Hi Geek Ken,
We (and all US retailers) are unable to send any WotC items outside of the US as a condition for doing business with WotC. As they are a fairly large company they want to let their "local" businesses service their markets. I think most of this has to do with Magic but it's a blanket condition. WotC is not very forgiving for businesses who break that agreement.
-- Awesome Board Game Store


I sort of understand the policy for trying to bolster the brick and mortar store. But as international customers go, I’d bet most folks use these online stores as they are the only source for WotC products. I’m also figuring that it is to support Magic sales from local retailers, instead of people buying them in bulk from some online source. Maybe board games got lumped into this also.

Yet I get a bit worried. Is this for ‘all’ WotC products? What about the reprint editions for AD&D? Granted I could see WotC keeping huge book retailers like Amazon out of the loop, but I was counting on using places like Awesome Board Game Store to pick them up. I live in Asia. English is not the country’s native language. There really isn’t much demand for role playing games, especially enough for local retailers to spring forth. It’s just not in the culture. So being a bit worried, I prod further...

Completely understand. I am curious, does this include rulebooks from WotC? I am curious as some products such as the AD&D 1st Edition: Player's Handbook is only available through smaller independent retailers as yourself (can't order these books through Amazon or Barnes and Noble). If this is the case, please contact the sales representative you work through for WotC and express how restrictive their policy is. There are some customers (such as myself living as an expat in Asia) that have no other option but to purchase their products from international distributors like that of your store.

Regards,
GK


I get a response and I am floored by this.

Hi Geek Ken,
Yes it does. The rules apply to all WotC products including their out of print stuff, as we've specifically asked about that before.

Trust me we'd love nothing more than to sell WotC items to you, as you're not the only non-US customer we've had to disappoint but their policy remains unchanged.

We can't ship to any address outside the US.
-- Awesome Board Game Store


WotC/Hasbro, you have a sliver of international customers that rely on online retailers for your products. Having this policy means I can’t buy any of your stuff set aside for local retailers, ever. Stuff like the new AD&D reprints, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, all of it is a no go for me. There simply are no local retailers here interested in carrying these products (foreign country, with its own language, means stuff printed in english is a low priority).

However, I guess customers like me simply are not part of the business model your company executes. Sucktastic.

[EDIT: For full transparency, I've removed the names of the people on these emails and truncated the last email where the representative from the Awesome Board Game Store offered a solution by shipping the products to an address in the United States, where that private individual could then send it as a parcel to me. As I said, they are an Awesome Board Game Store.]