Archive for December, 2008

First Weekend of the Year

December 31, 2008

December is always slow time for Premier Organized Play, but now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to business!   Here’s a little preview of what we have going on at the store this weekend:

On January 1st we are open regular hours (12-12).  We usually like to run a big Yu-Gi-Oh tournament to start off the year,  but since we have YGO events scheduled on 2nd, 3rd and 4th in a row, we decided not to push it.  So nothing special happening on January 1st though if the last few days were any indication it should be really busy anyway.

On Friday, Jan 2 we have our regular YuGiOh box tournament at 4pm and there is likely to be a sealed UFS event in the evening, though we are still finalizing this.

On Saturday we have a few things happening.  First of all, we will open the store at 9am instead of 10, because at 10am we have a World of Warcraft Realm Qualifier scheduled to begin.  The format is Constructed and the entry fees have been slashed to $10, so we are hoping for a nice turnout.

At noon we are hosting a Pokemon City Championship tournament.  This constructed event is free to enter.  Pokemon tournament attendance has been picking up.  In December we ran two City Championships on Long Island with 28 and 45 players showing up respectively.  We are looking forward to a similar showing.

Finally at 3pm our regularly scheduled YuGiOh Hobby League will fire off.  Usually attendance dips a little a day before Regionals, but because school’s out I expect there to be 30-40 players in this one.

On Sunday we are hosting a Yu-Gi-Oh Regional.  Once again, doors will open at 9am and the main event will start at 10.  I expect about 130 players to attend and approximately 125 of them to play some form of a Tele-DAD deck 🙂

At noon we will start a Dragon Duel Regional open to players 12 years of age or younger.  Please remember to bring an ID with a proof of age in order to participate!   Finally a Tag Team side event will start at 2pm.  Remember that you may use tournament coupons found in 2008 tins to enter Dragon Duel and Tag Team tournaments (but not the main event itself).

It should be a busy, tiring and long weekend. Just the way we like them!

Happy New Year everyone!

The Future of HeroClix

December 29, 2008

While everyone has been paying attention to the Konami/Upper Deck struggle to control distribution of Yu-Gi-Oh, another hugely important hobby game has been in serious danger though its prospects are looking good in the upcoming year.

HeroClix pre-painted miniatures (from Marvel, DC and various smaller comic book lines) has been our #1 miniature game at Kings Games throughout the store’s history.  We’ve always had a solid player community, sold decent amounts of boosters and always regarded WizKids – the game’s publisher – as one of the “big 3” companies in the gaming industry along with Wizards of the Coast and Upper Deck.

A few years ago WizKids was purchased by Topps but this did not make things worse in any way.  In fact, 2007 was probably the best year for HeroClix sales and organized play as they unleashed a number of really cool promotions and products to get things going.  The well dried up a bit in 2008 with few cool new initatives.  Still, Topps’ announcement in early November that they are disbanding WizKids and discontinuing all of its products was a huge surprise.

WizKids may have had a number of flops over the years (anyone remember Crimson Skies or Creepy Freaks?), but HeroClix has always been a solid product and plenty of folks in our industry recognize this.  Almost immediately, speculation began on what the future of this game might be.  Would Upper Deck pick it up, since it already entered the minis business with World of Warcraft Miniatures?  Would Wizards of the Coast want to prop up their portfolio of D&D and Star Wars minis?  Fantasy Flight Games has been growing very fast recently – could they be a new home to this game?  Few people really expected HeroClix to just go away.

Among the most faithful were some of the former employees of WizKids who quickly formed their own company called Pinata Games with stated intention of raising funds to purchase and continue publish the game.   Another company to quickly throw its hat into the ring was Catalyst Games.  They issued a press release stating that they have entered into negotiations with Topps to purchase multiple WizKids properties, including HeroClix.  The two companies quickly found a way to work together, issuing a press release on December 15 which stated that Pinata Games would become an ‘operator’ for the HeroClix brand should Catalyst’s deal with Topps go through.

Just before the holidays former WizKids president Lex Chandra said “we are working hard to find a new home for the WizKids properties and I hope to make an announcement with more details shortly.” This prompted many to believe some kind of a deal is nearly done, though personally I see this statement as fairly generic and non-committal.

Still, Pinata Games does appear to be the most likely future custodian of HeroClix at this point, as long as they and their partners at Catalyst Games are able to negotiate a workable deal with Topps.  Whoever ends up with the rights to continue publishing the game has to move fast or risk losing the player base it took WizKids 5+ years to develop.

This is certainly one of the stores I am going to follow – and write about here – in the coming year.

Another Victory for Upper Deck

December 27, 2008

Just received this press release from Upper Deck:

Upper Deck Wins Major Victory in Support of Worldwide Yu-Gi-Oh! Players

U.S. and International courts side with Upper Deck in multiple legal actions involving Konami and the future of Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Games.

North Las Vegas, NV (December 27, 2008) – A California court has denied Konami’s application for a temporary selling and shipping ban, effectively stopping any restrictions that would have prevented Upper Deck from marketing, selling, distributing and providing game support for the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game.

The Dutch courts also ruled in favor of Upper Deck, overruling Konami’s alleged termination of its contract with Upper Deck.  Accordingly, Upper Deck will continue its role as the exclusive distributor of the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game in all European territories, plus Australia and New Zealand.

Both victories clear the way for Upper Deck to continue distributing, marketing and selling Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG products in territories outside of Asia.  “Upper Deck is very pleased with today’s rulings”, said Upper Deck executive Bernd Becker.  “We look forward to continuing the superior game support that we’ve been delivering to worldwide Yu-Gi-Oh! players for the last seven years.”

The unparalleled game support Upper Deck has provided to dedicated Yu-Gi-Oh! players around the world has led to another successful year for the trading card game, as evidenced by the current product sell-out.  “This is as much a victory for the Yu-Gi-Oh! players as it is for Upper Deck,” said Becker.

End of an Era

December 27, 2008

Neutral Ground closes its doors for good today. Perhaps the first store ever to embrace the Game Center model concentrating on organized play more so than traditional sales, NG achieved an iconic status within our industry.

As a gamer, Neutral Ground had been my home store for many years. I discovered it only a couple of months after I learned how to play Magic and only a month after it first opened its doors. For many years it became my favorite hangout. There simply could not be a better place for anyone interested in playing Magic competitively. I would often enter a random weekly tournament with a prize pool of a dozen booster packs and about twenty players in attendance and get to play against the likes of Jon Finkel, Steve and Dan O’Mahoney-Schwartz, Zvi Mowshowitz and Mike Pustilnik to name a few. I have not visited as often in recent years, after NG changed ownership and changed locations, mostly because I was no longer playing Magic competitively and was so busy with work but never because my fondness for the place diminished in any way.

As a retailer I have been “congratulated” often enough in the last few weeks on the demise of a major competitor. I cannot deny that Kings Games will benefit by acquiring a much greater share of our local market, but I am hardly jubilant about the situation. Losing Neutral Ground – or any quality game store – is a detriment to the local gaming community. It is one less place for someone to keep up with their current hobby and meet others who play the same games. One less place for a young kid to actually learn how to play with those shiny Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon cards his mom has been buying at Wal-Mart and become a part of the hobby gaming community instead. In the end the pie is smaller for all of us.

I owe much of whatever success I’ve had playing competitive Magic to being able to play and learn at Neutral Ground. Without it my life and my career may very well have turned out differently. Kings Games might never have happened for one. I wish everyone who worked and played at Neutral Ground the very best. Even after the physical store is gone, Neutral Ground will always remain an important part of gaming history.

Upper Deck wins a round in Konami battle

December 25, 2008

About a week ago Upper Deck Europe filed an injunction against Konami in Europe. Upper Deck International web site is now reporting that the Dutch court ruled in their favor, finding Konami’s termination of contract unlawful. Here is a link to this story on Upper Deck Europe web site.

Keep in mind, this ruling affects Europe only. It remains to be seen what happens in United States.

Happy Holidays

December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from all of us at Kings Games!

As your holiday present, enjoy this funny link.  It literally made me laugh out loud and I hope it brightens your day too!

Hits and Misses of 2008

December 23, 2008

I thought it would be interesting to talk about how some of the more popular gaming lines fared in 2008.  Now I do not mean to speak for the entire industry – there are probably stores out there that sell a box of Naruto per day while it’s dead for us.  This list is based purely on how these games have performed at Kings Games over the last year.  I listed the games in alphabetical order.

BleachDead – We did well with Bleach for most of the year, but no one has come in asking for a Bleach pack in weeks.

Board GamesSteady – As a category, board games saw a real resurgence in 2007.  I’ve always been a fan and was glad to have justification to incrase our selection.  Despite this Christmas season being rather disappointing in terms of board game sales, we did reasonably well with them throughout the year.  Among the most popular board game lines are Settlers of Catan, Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

ChaoticUp – When this game was first released in 2007 it was a major failure for us.  It took a couple of months to sell the first box.  However, things have improved a lot since then.  Player base for Chaotic has been growing and we are ordering and re-ordering boxes of every new expansion. The game is not as popular as Pokemon yet but if it keeps growing at the same pace it might overtake Pokemon in sales volume by the end of next year.

Dungeons & DragonsUp – Many of the stores we are talking to are seeing role playing games in decline.  While RPGs were never our strong suit, we actually saw a solid improvement this year.  Several D&D groups meet and play at the store regularly and several others just come by to pick up their books, dice and an off D&D Minis booster pack.

HeroClixNearly Dead – We did pretty well with HeroClix up until Topps made a surprise announcement shutting down WizKids and effectively canceling all of their games.  No one’s been buying since then.  There are rumors that HeroClix will find a new home very soon.  If and when that happens we hope that the players will return, but until then the boosters are not moving.

Magic The GatheringSteady – Once upon a time, back when we first opened the store, Magic was our number one seller.  Those days are so far behind us that if we were to suddenly quit selling Magic packs and singles tomorrow it would not even cause us a serious financial distress.  I started the store at the height of my Magic tournament career.  Ironically we have basically no tournament players at the store today but a very healthy and large community of casual players shop with us regularly.  Magic sales have been steadily declining for us in ’06 and ’07 but seem to have finally bottomed out in ’08.  In fact, I expect and will work toward a significant improvement in 2009 as we are hoping to bring Magic tournaments back to the store on regular basis in the new year.

NarutoDead – I don’t think we sold more than a few packs in the last six months.  This game did well for us (and for just about everyone else) in 2007 but has stalled since.  As with Bleach, anime-based games are often very short-lived.

PokemonSteady – Pokemon is chugging along supported by interest from both young kids and the slightly older tournament players.   A few years ago this game was nearly dead.  Pokemon USA (a Nintendo division in charge of publishing the game) did a wonderful job resurrecting the game.  It consistently dukes it out with YuGiOh for the #1 TCG slot in big stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

UFSWay Down – Universal Fighting System was a slow but steady selling game for us in 2007.  It got a huge boost when Abstract Games – a store with a strong UFS community – closed and sent their players our way.  The game did well for us in the first half of the year but has declined since.  We brought in the new set releasing this week, but if the game does not pick up, I am not sure if we’ll be ordering the next set.

Vs SystemUp – Yes, that’s right, up!  Vs just won’t go away.  When Pro Circuit was canceled the game pretty much had its legs cut from under it as most of the player base were seriously competitive players.  Almost no one who plays today is from the same group of people.  The new player base is more casual, but they still love Vs System. We are still ordering new sets by the case.  The only other trading card games we do that with are Magic, YuGiOh, Pokemon and WOW.

World of Warcraft TCGSteady – We saw WOW sales dip in the second half of ’08 but it has been making a bit of a comeback over the last couple of months – there is a couple of new groups of casual players who are into the game now and they have been making up for some of the tournament players we lost earlier this year.

Yu-Gi-Oh!Slightly Down – This game has without a doubt been our number one seller for at least the last four years in a row.  It remains so today.  Singles sales are on par with the end of 2007 but booster pack sales are slightly down and tournament attendance for both local and premier events is down too.  The game is not on its way out or anything – we are talking an average Brooklyn regional going from 150 to 135 players on average – but there is a bit of a slowdown.  I wonder of the Upper Deck / Konami situation is partly to blame.

Every year tons of collectible games die and new ones are born.  This is the cycle of our industry.  There is always something exciting looming on the horizon and 2009 is no different.  Epic TCG and Huntik are both potentially exciting products that are due to launch in February/March of next year.  Undoubtedly there are many products that will be announced at Gama Trade Show in April and released in the summer/fall.   I look forward to revisiting this topic a year from now.

YuGiOh Regional Recap – Dec 20 in Edison NJ

December 21, 2008

A total of 136 duelists braved the weather to attend this Regional.  This attendance is slightly lower than average for Edison, New Jersey but hardly disappointing given how unpleasant venturing outside must’ve been on Saturday morning!  At least we did not hit as hard as Boston/Boxborough event, which reportedly had only 83 players.

Top 4 players in no particular order were:

  • Frank Strick
  • Paul Intriago
  • Robert Ackerman
  • Stephen Silverman

All 4 played essentially the same deck – Tele DAD with Plaguespreader Zombie and Gorz.  

Dragon Duel Regional was pretty disappointing – only 4 players showed up. While it is never pleasant for the organizer to see such low numbers, the four kids who played in the event made out like bandits – they all got the ultra-cool regional playmats as well as booster packs – and they did not even have to pay a dime for it as they were able to use the coupons found in 2008 YuGiOh tins to enter the tournament for free!  Jarred Centamore won the tournament with a Teleport deck which ran no Dark Armed Dragon.

Six teams played in the Tag Team side event.  Team Jank (Dex Benedetto and Christopher Patrick) won the tournament. 

One “exciting” moment for the day was event manger Chris Knecht catching a pair of thieves.  This has been an unfortunate problem at Yu-Gi-Oh events and we are doing everything we can to combat it.  This time we were lucky – cards were recovered to their rightful owner.  Police was called and we will pursue this matter both with them and with Upper Deck to make sure the people involved will not get another opportunity to swipe anyone’s stuff.

Next Regional will take place at Kings Games on January 4.  My goal is to promote Dragon Duel Regionals between now and then so we can get a good number of younger players involved.

Free Dungeons and Dragons minis

December 19, 2008

If you stop by the store any time this weekend and buy a pack of D&D Miniatures or a D&D book you will also get a Dungeons of Dread booster pack ($15 value) free or charge!

Wizards of the Coast generously sent us two cases (24 packs) of Dungeons of Dread minis to give away in this fashion. We want to make sure that everyone can get in on this action, so we will be limiting any one person to just one free pack per day. However, if we don’t give all 24 away over the weekend, we will continue this promotion until every pack finds a good home.

Soon we’ll be announcing a similar giveaway for Star Wars miniature packs.

Yu-Gi-Oh Tournaments in 2009

December 18, 2008

If you are a tournament Yu-Gi-Oh player, you either already know what’s going on or you have been living under a rock large enough to qualify for its own zip code.  For the rest of us, here is the run down on what’s been happening recently:

  • Last Friday Konami issued a press release indicating that they are terminating their relationship with Upper Deck effective immediately and that they will take over all aspects of producing, distributing and promoting Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game.  Up until this point Upper Deck has been distributing Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG in most of the world, under Konami supervision.
  • Within hours of this press release being posted by Konami, the word spread on YGO forums that Upper Deck filed a 75 million dollar lawsuit for breach of contract against Konami.
  • On Sunday night Konami published an open letter to the Yu-Gi-Oh community, saying that they are re-evaluating all aspects of organized play and promising improvements down the line.
  • Yesterday Upper Deck issued a couple of press releases.  One was from their “Panoceanic” division, stating that the Konami press release is false and has no legal ground.  Later that day it was followed by a very strong statement from Upper Deck headquarters, stating that the company is fully committed to supporting YuGiOh organized play.  It specifically mentions continued support for Hobby Leagues, Regionals, Sneak Previews and all Championships.

So what does this all mean to the average YuGiOh player?  Well first of all, the sky is definitely not falling.  Local stores will continue selling cards and holding tournaments regardless of who is ultimately in control of the game. We have been given the go-ahead to continue running Regionals and Dragon Duel events as we have been.  So for any of you who aren’t sure – yes, the December 20th regional in Edison, New Jersey will definitely be taking place as scheduled.

It will be interesting to see how many people attend the event.  There were just under 100 players in the CT regional organized by Pastimes and held at Gaming Etc last Saturday, but they had a lot less time to get the word out that the tournament would take place as advertised.  

The next step will be to confirm the Crossroads of Chaos Sneak Preview, which was scheduled for the weekend of February 7.  Based on the yesterday’s press release I am pretty sure that it will go on as scheduled and will probably get an official confirmation in the next week or so.  

In regards to other future tournaments, we have been working on some *very* exciting stuff for 2009 and I was hoping to have those events approved by Upper Deck and officially announced before the end of the year. This debacle may or may not end up throwing a monkey wrench into our plans but I will absolutely continue to pursue them to the best of my ability.

As soon as I know more on the subject, I will be posting it here.