In February, following their acquisition of Esdevium Games, Libellud, Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight games, Ystari Games, Asterion Press and Pearl Games we asked the question, “Are Asmodee Taking Over the World?” As if to answer in the affirmative, in April, Asmodee announced the start of a new contract with Queen Games for exclusive distribution rights in the USA. Since Asmodee has been the distributor for Queen Games in Germany, this made logistical sense. However, other consequences of these consolidations are now becoming apparent.
|– Image from forbes.com|
This week, Asmodee issued a press release stating that from the 1st January 2016, games made available by its three main US operations, Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight games and Asmodee Editions will be sourced from a single entity, Asmodee North America. Furthermore, in the New Year, Asmodee North America will be adjusting its sales terms and reducing the number of its primary customers in the USA to just five authorised distributors. From 1st April 2016, these authorised distributors will be restricted to selling Asmodee North America’s products to “speciality retailers” that have agreed to Asmodee North America’s “Speciality Retail Policy”.
|– Image from Asmodee North America Press Release|
This Speciality Retail Policy states that a “retailer must not sell or transfer … other than through face-to-face commercial resale exchange with end-users in retailer’s physical retail location(s) or at a physical extension of the retailer’s location at a consumer show/convention”. Thus, all future sales will be restricted to bricks and mortar stores, effectively preventing the selling of Asmodee North America‘s products online. This is not an end to online sales, however, as the press release goes on to say that “Asmodee North America will allow select merchants to service the online sales channel under a separate sales policy. Such select online merchants will either be supplied directly by Asmodee North America, or by appointed distributors acting under Asmodee North America’s related policy.”
|– Image by boardGOATS|
Online speculation is rife that these measures have been put in place to prevent the deep discounting seen in the USA, and that the contracts the retailers will have to sign will include a commitment to sell at the list price, thus effectively price fixing by other means. This has been carried out in the past by both Mayfair Games (the Catan brand) and Games Workshop (Warhammer etc.) who both have strict Speciality Retail Policies that restrict distribution, maintaining high prices. This is all highly significant with the growth of modern boardgaming as Asmodee North America produce some of the most popular gateway games, in particular Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, Dixit, and Dobble as well as the newly reawakened Star Wars license. It is not yet clear whether this will also have any effect on the distribution of Queen Games products in the USA.
|– Image used with permission of BGG contributor adamfeldner|
Asmodee North America has claimed these changes are because they are “committed to brick-and-mortar hobby market speciality retailers”. On the other hand, in the FAQ that accompanied the statement, Asmodee North America state that even physical stores with an online presence are “limited to the channel of sale involving physical retail stores only”, which appears to belie this, since online sales are often what keeps “Bricks and Mortar” stores afloat. The FAQ also states that “These policies currently affect our business in the US. Our Canadian operations will continue unaffected until notified otherwise.” There is no mention of the EU, but it is likely that Esdevium, who already have something of a strangle-hold on the distribution of games in the UK, will continue to assert pressure on the market as they did at the start of this year.
|– Image from wpn.wizards.com|