IYADWYADYWAGWYAG, or how to do more and better–Part 3. The distributors.

hand-tools11[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Continuing with the series I started a couple of weeks ago, the moment has come to talk about the distributors.

If you haven’t read the articles so far, this is a recap. I asked in Twitter what could be done to increase awareness of the hobby. I took it upon my shoulders to write something to inspire people to do great things and ask what else could be done and how to do what’s already done, better.

It came to my mind that the way the gaming business is promoted and brought into the public awareness hasn’t changed much, whereas our gaming society, the media and, sadly, the market, are not what they used to.

IYADWYADYWAGWYAG stands for If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

Alas, this is not always the same and the way business is being made is proof of that. For designers and publishers, it applies a bit, but for distributors? Not at all!

This is my theory. In the past, there was a decent selection of magazines and they were well read. So publishers, distributors and shops could advertise and get some exposure. It was fairly affordable and, because we didn’t have the Internet to advertise, it was worth it. However if you lived in a different country, you had it more difficult.

Fast forward. There are no magazines. Well, there are a few, but VERY few. And everyone lives abroad. Not because that is completely true, but because the main way to get to interact with people is online and that means you’ll be reaching the whole world, thus abroad. That also means you have a much smaller percentage of the gaming population to reach because there is a ton of choice out there.

The game market has also shrunk. Although there are more gamers, there are also a lot more products thanks to digital distribution and self-publishing. So selling 1000 games today is more difficult than selling 1000 games 20 years ago. And that means that producing games, because of the uncertainty of whether it’ll sell or not, it’s more expensive and riskier, even if the cost of production itself is cheaper (which probably isn’t by much).

So the publishers can promote in their own countries but promoting in a different country is a different matter. This is where the distributor comes in.

I shall be very controversial here: You distributors hold the key to make games better known and it is mainly you who are not doing enough.

It feels like most distributors are only interested in selling to the shops and that’s it… that’s their work done. Well, let me tell you, it is not.

I could be wrong, by the way. Maybe I am not seeing all the work distributors do, but I certainly am not seeing enough of it. Also, I don’t want to imply that distributors don’t work hard. I know only so well one can make a living in the gaming work only on the back of hard work.

So these are some ideas I can think of. They might be things that you distributors already do and if you do, great. But if you don’t (and tons of you distributors don’t) how come? I am sure you have your reasons, but what are those reasons?

  • Website. Yes, this might sound basic, but plenty of websites out there are just not good enough. You’re in a great position to become hubs of information about the games you distribute. Shops could become interested about those games before they talk to you, or you to them. If you have a list of games and the information is too succinct, or your site is difficult to navigate, the chances of capturing an audience diminish.
  • Shop directory. How can people buy your games? Do you have a list of shops and links to their websites? Your site will be found when people do an online search. If you have no information on where to buy your games, your public will go away and you could be missing on a sale.
  • Social media. Are you tweeting about the games you have? Are you in Facebook? Do you have a newsletter for your retailers and a different one for the public? How are you making sure people know you are there? Again, the more people who know about the games you distribute, the more chances of those games being sold in shops. You could argue that shops should be doing that. I will reply that shops, publishers and distributors should. Awareness on three fronts is a lot more visible than awareness in one front!
  • Advertise! Here’s an idea. Find shops that are near to each other. Partner with them and find out what’s the best newspaper or local magazine is to advertise. Maybe even join forces with them to fund that advertising. The point being that for every advert you place, a few shops will place orders because they’ll get the chance to sell.
  • Contact the media. With the media I don’t just mean the printed media. I mean bloggers and podcasters. At the risk of sounding biased (I am not, I have never contacted a distributor) most distributors consider blogs and podcasts to be marginal media and not worth considering. I know of distributors that will pro-actively avoid dealing with blogs and podcasts. Although I understand the lack of impact that magazines used to have, there is an element of perpetuity to a blog. A link from your website to a video or written review will last for years. In time, it’ll pay off.
  • Press releases. Sending emails to the media/press costs nothing or very little. Blogs and podcasts will likely talk about your releases if they have something to talk about. And people will hear it!
  • Conventions and trade shows. Getting your game in front of people is, by far, the best way to generate interest. If you open a game and take to 5 conventions, you’ll have 60 or 70 people interested if the game is played a few times every day.

Do you do enough of any of that? Has it worked?

Of course if you are the publisher and the distributor, things might be trickier. However, what of the things I mention could you do?

Or do you do something else already?

Over to you!

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