This is me thinking aloud really. Looking at how this year has already impacted on my hobby spending and how it’s likely to continue for the near future, I do wonder if it could halt the apparent ‘Golden Age’ of tabletop gaming.
We’re three months down of the year already (doesn’t time fly?) and all I’ve bought are a couple of books for Bolt Action. Not a game, not an expansion, not a single paint or brush, and no Kickstarters backed, though I’m quite pleased about that last one. It isn’t because I don’t want any of these things, and I use the word want here rather than need, which I’ll come back to later, but I really can’t justify buying them, not in the face of surging energy bills, soaring fuel prices (despite the 5p tax reduction), and weekly food shops that cost more each week.
At the moment, as I look across the few Internet sites I buy my games from, there doesn’t seem to have been any impact on their prices, at least on games that have been around a year or so anyway. If production games are remaining stable, I don’t think the same can be said for Kickstarters. Of the games that have caught my eye recently, the cost of even a basic pledge has been enough to make me grimace, but It isn’t so much the price of a pledge, as I think it’s hard to compare one project today to another from a years or so ago, but the price of shipping that’s the stinger.
Container prices shipping from China have risen hugely, from the £3,000-£4,000 pounds pre-COVID prices to a whopping £15,000+ nowadays. If you’re interested in what Stonemaier Games had to say about this in June last year, you can read it HERE (bear in mind that this was almost a year ago now and prices have continued to rise). Obviously, these price increases are going to affect Kickstarter game tremendously, as they need to raise the money through pledges to ensure they cover their costs, otherwise the game may never see fruition. Unfortunately for me, and I would imagine many other like-minded campaign backers, I’m not willing to pay delivery that is often nearly as much, and in some cases more than the actual pledge for the game.
Companies like Stonemaier Games, which don’t use crowdfunding, are also taking a big hit from this, though so far, they haven’t allowed it to impact on their products MSRP.
Before the pandemic, a 40′ container would cost around $5000. Now Justin at ARC Global is seeing those prices a little under $15,000… But I think it’s more important to look at the per unit cost increase than the overall increase. I’ll use Wingspan as an example… 5292 units of Wingspan fit into a 40′ shipping container. So the freight shipping cost of 1 copy of Wingspan pre-pandemic was around $1. Now it’s around $3… So instead of us making $11 in profit per unit, we’re now making around $9… So the extra $2 in shipping fees will amount to well over six figures of lost profit this year.Stonemaier Games, June 2021
Most companies seem willing to absorb the costs, taking in a lower profit margin rather than passing it on to the customer, which is good news for us all. Unfortunately, and this is the track I’m running along, will we be able to afford them anyway?
Personally, I’ve seen our energy bills double, despite cutting back on gas and electric consumption. We fill our car up twice every three weeks on average and the cost of a tank of petrol has already risen by over £10. Our weekly food shop has gone up by nearly a third compared to this time last year, and on top of all this there are the increases in Council tax, National Insurance, in fact pretty much everything; our Disney+ subscription has gone from £59.90 to £79.90 a year!
With the purse strings stretched, sacrifices have to be made, and for me that means cutting back on luxuries, and I class games as luxuries. At the moment we are debating whether to make our annual trip to the UK Games Expo. It’s not just the entry fee, usually I’ve a nice tidy sum saved up and come back with a boot full of games, but in my piggy bank I find zilch, naught, nothing, not a single penny, everything has gone on more essential needs.
So, my thoughts are this: if we’re feeling the pinch then I’m sure many others are too, and it makes sense that luxury items are going to be the first thing that gets crossed of the list. Most gamers already have a shelf or two (or three or four, probably more) of games to keep themselves busy with, though we do, of course, suffer greatly from FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) and like to keep up with the latest offerings. It will come down to whether you class games and such as luxuries, as I know for many people, games are a staple of their lives and could not be done without.
On the other hand, tabletop games tend to be cheap when compared to other forms of entertainment. Look at the price of console games, easily comparable to the price of your average family board game (No, I don’t mean Monopoly or Cluedo!), and going to the cinema can cost a family of four upwards of £40 pounds, and that’s before the obligatory drinks and popcorn. So, games are going to be competing with life’s other little luxuries and I think they more than hold their own. As a family we could all go to the cinema, spend as much on pop and sweets as we do on the tickets, and after two and a half hours it’s all over bar the talking about. Or, we could buy a game of comparable price, make our own drinks, and eat our own, relatively cheap treats, and keep playing it two or three times a month, maybe more. I’d say that’s far better value for money.
Though that isn’t the approach we’ll be taking, as it comes down to whether you all actually like playing games or not. Sue, my wife, isn’t much of a gamer, and so when it comes to luxuries, a little weekend or holiday entertainment, our money will be spent on something we can all do and enjoy together – Yasmin and I will continue to game together and be content with those we already have.
I’m sure that I’ll buy something over the year, but if I do, it will be a careful, considered purchase, as it may be the only game I buy all year. I am, though, lucky enough to have some past Kickstarter campaigns coming to fruition this year, including Age of Dogfights: WWII and Frosthaven, so I’ll get my gaming fix there.
It’s at this point I return to the needs, remember, I mentioned it right at the start? Paint, glue, airbrush cleaner, that kind of thing. The things that I will need to prevent my hobby production from drying up completely. For instance, my Bolt Action figures are ready to be assembled, and when it comes to painting I’m missing a few vital colours, so I’m going to need a couple of new paints. Fortunately, these things are relatively cheap, with a bottle of paint coming in at under £3, and I think I can stretch to that.
So, it’s going to be interesting to see how the hobby develops over the coming year after flourishing for so long. If the cost of living continues to soar then it could see a large drop in expenditure on games and such like, which in turn will impact on the smaller companies first, those unable to absorb the increased manufacturing costs as energy prices rocket. The FLGS (Friendly Local Games Store) are also going to be hit, as their prices can’t compare to those on Online, relying on the personalised aspect to attract the happy shopper instead, but at the end of the day, money talks, and in the current climate it’s the cheaper the better!