Privateer Press’ Chief Creative Officer, and founder, Matt Wilson has posted a lengthy explanation of why some customers are finding it hard to get their miniatures or why it is taking a long while for orders to arrive.
One reason is that Privateer moved warehouse and production facilities in September, it was a massive ask for the company, and they’re still getting back up to full speed.
The other reason seems to be a structural weakness in the games market. I’m not a production expert, I’ve never even worked in retail but reading Wilson’s explanation of how the system currently works (in theory) left me wondering how long it could continue like that.
Privateer isn’t the only company in this situation, the whole tabletop games industry finds itself in a crowded marketplace with a constant stream of new products.
Wilson uses the word ‘deluge’ to describe the flow of incoming new miniatures and games. You just have to think about Kickstarter and all the successes there and how much easier it is now to become a producer of tabletop games and miniatures to imagine just how much more product is available today than, say, 10 years ago.
Warehouses and distributors
In the established model, companies like Privateer Press ship large quantities of their products to middle-men called Distributors. Distributors have local warehouses and relationships with local stores. If you want to sell your range of miniature steampunk warriors in Spain, for example, you find a Spanish distributor.
Distributors don’t have infinite space in their warehouses. In response to the rising number of new incoming products from companies like Privateer Press, established competitors or new successes, Distributors are ordering fewer of any individual product as to make sure they have some of all the most popular products.
That means Distributors can sell out of those popular products earlier. Distributors sell to retail shops, which means unless the local gaming store is one of the first to re-order, there might not be any product left in the warehouse to supply them with.
This happened to Privateer with Riot Quest and Oblivion. Privateer fulfilled all their orders to Distributors, and yet customers complained they couldn’t get hold of the product. The problem? The Distributors had sold out, and with new products filling up warehouse spaces, they weren’t quick to re-supply with Privateer Press.
Your next favourite game
I’ve heard from other retailers that an additional problem is that gamers are moving more quickly onto the next shiny new game than they used to. If you’ve just got a Kickstarter you’ve been waiting 6 months for, you’re going to play it and if you like it you might decide to buy more minis for it. This further decreases the incentive for Distributors to place any overly generous order on established products.
In Privateer’s case, they have ranges like Warmachine and Hordes that grow with each year. They have found that Dristubtors tend to order from them only what’s been pre-ordered in advance.
How you can help
Privateer Press’s CEO lists three things you can do to help. I’ve put my translation in brackets after each one, Wilson’s explanations can be found in his post.
- Pre-order with your local game store (because pre-orders are easy for Distributors to stock and warehouse).
- Have your local game store talk to Privateer Press directly (cut the Distributor out of the loop).
- Order from Privateer’s website directly (cut everyone else out of the loop).
If you take the second option, then get your local gaming store to email [email protected]. The third option simply means a visit over to store.privateerpress.com and check out the company’s online store.
As it stands today, even the online store carries a warning that the company has just moved location and will not be able to fulfil some types of orders. We just don’t know what percentage of the delays are due to a complex warehouse and factory move and what percentage are of delays are due to a distribution system getting clogged up with wave after wave of new products.
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