Make Your Own Introductory Box

I just read an article over at How Not To Run A Game Business in which the author, Fugaros talks with John from Merlyn’s, the game store in my hometown. In a few months, I’ll be returning to my hometown, and will become a regular customer at Merlyn’s again. I’m very excited.

In the article, he talks about how there needs to be more introductory box sets for games, and says that there are only two in the store: the Pathfinder Beginner Box and the Dr. Who RPG. I can think of one more, the One Ring RPG, but that’s not the point I want to make today.

You often see things online sold as a bundle. On Amazon, you are often given the option of bundling the product you’re buying with another product at a small discount. Why can’t game stores do the same?

Say someone comes in and wants to try out RPGs. They aren’t really into fantasy, but like things like Indiana Jones and Barsoom. The game store owner hands them the Savage Worlds RPG bundle, which includes the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition, a set of dice, some character sheets and cutouts of templates, all for $20. You’re ready to go! Head out the door with your new hobby!

Or, if they want to play 4e, give them a bundle of the Heroes of the Fallen Lands, The Rules Compendium, Dungeon Master’s Kit and Monster Vault, along with a set of dice, for, say, $60. You’d be offering this all together at less than you’d sell the products individually for, but it would provide the perfect starter, and would encourage the person to come back for more. Hell, when you sell it, you could give them a coupon for 20% off their next D&D purchase at the store, to encourage them to come back for more stuff.

“This is all well and good,” you say (since you apparently speak like someone in the 50’s), “but these bundles don’t teach you how to play like the Pathfinder Beginner Box does.” True enough. What if a game store offered a $5 “Learn to Play D&D” or “Learn to Play Savage Worlds” seminar? Three hours, for anyone who wants to show. They can sit down and learn how to play this new game they’ve gotten. A few weeks later, offer an Advanced class, that would delve deeper into how to play, offering expert D&D advice and the like. I think people would swarm to it.

Those are my ideas. Do you think they hold any weight? If you were a new player, would this interest you?

John, if you’re reading this, I’d be more than happy to run some seminars for you when I come back to Spokane in June.

6 thoughts on “Make Your Own Introductory Box

  1. As far as D&D goes, I can’t see plinking down sixty dollars and then coming back to spend another five later. The key to the success of the classes would be that people buy the intro kit and keep playing. I’m not sure that charging for the classes would work.

    Having said that, I agree that there needs to be more intro boxes. More than that, there need to be games that don’t need more than 40 dollars of stuff to play. For example, Settlers of Catan has expansions, but none of them are needed to play. I can’t find the link now, but someone put together a box like you propose as a Christmas present. It has S&W white box, Vorheim, an intro adventure, dice and a couple other things. No need for expansion, but the person that got this gift will possibly keep playing, and therefore expand on their own.

    Just some thoughts

  2. I think the idea makes sense, although I think that established game companies usually do try to offer bundles. I know that WotC has offered core book bundles of D&D in the past (Player’s Handbook + Dungeon Master Guide + Monster Manual) in addition to the Red Box from late 2010. But if the game company isn’t doing it, then sure, a motivated store owner might want to offer bundle discounts for new players.

    As for Learn to Play sessions, my own friendly local game store offers these for free once a month for both D&D 4e and Pathfinder. I think it’s an excellent idea, and well worth offering for free.

  3. This is all well and good, sir, but . . .

    I would not be interested in dropping $60 on a bundle and then learning how to play for $5. What if I do not like the system? Can I get my money back?

    Similar to what OnlineDM mentioned, the two local game stores around us both offer “Learn to Play” nights already. One of them, more focused on board games, has a full gaming room where you can learn how to play any of the games on their shelves. The other, more focused on RPGs, has a small gaming area as well, where they participate in the Encounters program.

    While Encounters is obviously specific for learning about 4e, I would never have checked it out for a cover charge of $5.

    I am not against the local game store making a profit. I want these two places to succeed, because they are great stores. However, it is in their best interest to offer to show me how to play the games, so that I want to buy the products afterwards. Not the other way around.

    Your idea might be applied after these free sessions, offering bundles and the like, but not before I know if I am even interested.

  4. The Red Box for 4e (Essentials) is a respectable starter set, so you may want to include that. I’d personally like to see more simple editions of systems a la Free RPG Day. If your rules have a free quick start – I’d love to see it in stores for a small print premium.
    I think the current RPG industry puts a lot more stock in attracting new people online than in stores.

  5. You all have really great points. I agree, the Learn to Plays should probably be free. In addition, I do like the idea of offering a bundle for the game after you have the Learn to Play.

  6. More game stores talking about adding a cover charge to open play. Is this the wave of the future? I know the economy’s tough, but every single game store I’ve ever been to has had at least a folding table in the corner for people to play games free of charge. The longer people hang around, the more likely they are to buy stuff. We’re gamers. Almost by definition, we’re impulse buyers. I’m never ever ever EVER going to pay money just to have a table and some chairs to play a game. I can do that at home or a friend’s house or the local coffee shop or the library or the park.

    Running demos costs you nothing but time and can earn you several new customers. Run your “Learn to Play” night, let the players keep their character sheets, and THEN offer to sell them an introductory bundle or boxed set if they enjoyed themselves. All you’re out is 2 to 4 hours of your time and the price of a few sheets of paper.

    Oh, and D&D 4th Edition already has a Beginner’s Box…it’s called the Red Box, and it’s under $20 even at full retail price.

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