As Privateer Press gears up to release War Room for the iPad this April, with it's integrated rules and army builder; should we be scared of it's effect on the profit margins of the local game store? Digital 3D printing is an obvious future threat (or opportunity) to anyone selling model kits, but are gaming books actually more important to their bottom line?
As the owner of an iPad, I've had great fun being able to haul around a huge library of PDFs and whatnot with me in a small device that can also access the web. It's particularly convenient over at Games 2D4, which has WiFi available (shame on you Game Preserve). Easy Army is just a few clicks away.
But while I eagerly await the day that all rules are sold/distributed online, others are not so happy with the prospect. Jerry, the owner/manager of Games 2D4, spelled it out for me very simply. Without the books, carrying the rest of a company's product range isn't very attractive to him. Sure, he told me, you do make some money off of the models. But the books provide the steadiest income because they take up less retail space and provide the highest margins.
Hmmnnn... I hadn't considered that before.
He told me that Battlefront had tried going digital some years ago before 2nd Edition Flames of War came out. The result was that stores stopped buying ALL of their products and they found themselves dropped by all of the major game distributors. He says it took them almost 10 years to recover from that fiasco. Hence, while BF will now distribute teaser PDFs online, they make sure to release plenty of books that the stores will want to stock. Because the retail business model depends on them.
If true, this is problematic. Digital distribution of rules is obviously the future. But if it robs the stores of needed income, then we won't (at least in the USA) have many public places left to play. Unless the game store as we know it embraces other revenue opportunities. I'm thinking of 'club' memberships for using their tables/terrain, or having the facilities to print 3D models on-site for a fee.
Comments? Ideas? I know that our readership includes more than a few game store owners. It this a concern for you?