[Musings of a Game Store Owner] How To Sell 40K

Any game store owner worth their salt knows that certain products practically sell themselves. They need little explanation and are a load of fun. a superior example of a game that generates its own sales is Tok-Tok Woodman.

This game is pretty much a re-imagined Jenga, but the pure child-like thrill of “hitting stuff with an axe” makes it almost impossible to resist. This game works for a family game, for something to pass time, or an adult game to be accompanied by adult beverages. I have a demo copy out on a regular basis and sell  this game very often. 
There are other games that are pure self sellers-what I like to call “legacy” games. D&D is prime among them, as is Risk or any variation of Axis & Allies. These are games that have a long history and are easily identified and remembered even by people that DON’T game. They have a “legacy” of built in history that makes them accessible and easily identified by the mass market and the niche that makes up my clientele. 
40K is a special kind of game, in that it needs selling but sells itself at the same time. 

When customers come into the store and they don’t quite know what they want, I am very rarely (almost never) going to show them Warhammer 40,000. It isn’t a great “starter” game, and I know it. I show new people board games, party games, sometimes crossover games like Once Upon A Time.

When customers spend a lot of time at the store, they start to notice other stuff people are doing. Many times, they will ask questions like “what’s that guy painting” or “what do you guys do on Monday nights”, or my favorite, “what’s that big box for”?

Spend $200 so you can spend $600 MORE. That’s what it is for…

It is exceptionally rare for me to mention GW’s crown jewel to someone until or unless they mention it first. However, once they do, I take my cues from them. When a customer asks me about 40K, even in passing, it gives me an idea of their interest level. Sometimes it’s just about none, and other times it is very high. I use that gauge to determine what level of sales or exposure to the product to use. Sometimes what a customer does will help me sell them into the game. 

I have personally found that former or current artists are easily introduced to the game just based on the tools- they love looking at the paints, brushes, tools and other fun things that go along with the models. (That’s before they ever seen the models.) For artists or artsy types, it doesn’t take much to get them to at least consider 40K as a possible hobby.  It practically sells itself to them. They just need a little push. 
Just because arty types are generally prone to being good possible “marks” doesn’t mean 40K is an easy sell, all the time. No, this game has all kinds of hangups right from the beginning. The big one in my opinion is there’s no easy way to get started.

Even the “starter box” is pretty bad- it’s expensive and features forces that not everyone will want to play. The last four “big kits” (Dark Vengeance, AoBR, Battle For Macragge, Marine Box) have assumed that the customer is going to split the box with a friend, or is VERY generous and will have an opposition force to induce tempt their buddies into playing by having an extra faction laying around.

Games like Malifaux and Infinity have beautiful starter boxes, and make it easy for new players to have a somewhat passable force for under $100. GW does not do that, and it’s a shame. It would be like taking candy from a BABY if they had ‘faction boxes’ all ready to go for beginners.

To me, the Battle Forces don’t count; they are NOT good for beginners. They are more of an accessory package than a core force, and no amount of spin will change that.

Without knowing in advance what kind of force you want to play (Footguard vs Tanks for example), it is very hard to advise a new player how to purchase. There’s no “easy button” for owners OR players to use as a guideline on beginning the game.

Another downfall is the rules. The book is now shrinkwrapped, and unless I shell out $60 to have a store copy, I can’t show a customer the rules for their possible faction in advance. The “Big Book” is overly expensive and heavy, and can and does turn people away. The people that are interested in playing 40K want something light and easy to flip through in the middle of a game, not a giant tome of glossy fluff. The little book that comes in DV is perfect, but customers can’t buy or order that by itself, which makes the $60 monstrosity the only “real” choice out there unless they buy DV and part it out or use it for bitz.

If I can overcome the entry point and rule book issues, then I’ve won. Most of the time at MY store, the best way to get past these issues is to get a person in on 40K night. It just so happens that the game that built the store has the friendliest, nicest, least obnoxious players I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and it makes selling the game incredibly easy. After just a few visits to our fun group, most possible customers are practically throwing money at me because they want to be part of the amazing group we happen to have at our store.

Selling 40K is sort of like selling a camel. Most people won’t ever think about wanting or needing a camel, but once they determine they do, they have to find a camel dealer. I happen to have almost all of the camels for 60+ miles, so I’m the place to go to buy a camel. Where’s the nearest desert, though? 

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