• Tails of Equestria to be Distributed Exclusively Through Diamond Distributors Inc.

     Et tu, Pinkie?

    Purchasing the popular My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria Pen and Paper Table Top Role Playing Game (P&PTTRPG) became a lot more complex on March 15th, 2018. For effective on that date, all products produced by Shinobi 7 (the US License Holder for Tails of Equestria) are no longer sold through Ninja Division Publishing or their online retail store Soda Pop Miniatures.

    That is because effective on March 15th, Shinobi 7 became a complete subsidiary of Seven Seas Entertainment, and the partnership between SSE and NDP was dissolved.

    And also effective on March 15th is the new contact Shinobi 7 signed with Alliance Games Distribution (a subsidiary of Diamond Comics Distribution Inc.). While the full details of the contact are unknown, the ends result of it is not. For as of March 15th, 2018 Diamond/Alliance Distribution is now Shinobi 7's exclusive distributor for all sales channels.

    This is one heck of a mess, and I'll be going into why after the break.

    To start, we have the problem of the availability of the Tails of Equestria: My Little Pony: The Movie Source Book. While this book was released by Game Creator River Horse back in December of 2017, this book was not available in the United States until February 25th, 2018. And even then, the book was only available on Soda Pop Miniatures (Ninja Division's online storefront).

    To reiterate Shinobi 7 ended their partnership with Ninja Division on March 15th, 2018. That means this book was available for purchase in the United States for a grand total of 3 Weeks.

    This explains why Shinobi 7 dragged their proverbial feet when it came to releasing this book in the United States when it was already available throughout the rest of the world.

    Furthermore, all evidence of the Tails of Equestria: My Little Pony: The Movie Sourcebook was ever available in the United States has completely vanished. The product is not listed on Shinobi 7's product page, it's only available on Amazon at a nearly 100% markup, and all over avenues of ordering the book are pre-orders with a release date of TBD 2018.

    The book is available for the rest of the world from River Horse, but who knows when or if this book will ever see the light of day in the United States again.

    I love this cover by Tony Fleecs! I hope I can own the book one day…

    The next release for Tails of Equestria is the Adventure Module Judge Not by the Cover. The book was announced back on January 31st, 2018 on River Horse's Facebook Page. The book is not currently available for order on River Horse's online store, but when it is it will be available for shipping to locations all over the world… except the United States.

    Shinobi 7's next scheduled product release is a My Little Pony: Tales of Equestria Starter Set. Aside from completely removing the pun in the title, the only other piece of information known about the product is that it is "Coming soon!" in 2018. And that piece of information is located under the Product Releases section of their homepage. The Tails of Equestria Product Page makes no mention of either the Starter Set or Judge Not by the Cover as upcoming releases.

    So… does anyone happen to know when the adventure pack is going to make its way across the Atlantic? Cause I certainly have no idea.

    Now, let's assume you want to start playing Tails of Equestria and want to purchase the game for your playgroup (or you want to build a playgroup for it). How do you get the game? Can it be ordered online?

    In order: that's a complicated question and no.

    I will not sugar coat this. Alliance Game Distributors (a subsidiary of Diamond Comics Distributors) is a distribution company whose business model was developed in the last 90s and has not changed since. The reason why the business model has not changed is because their parent company—Diamond—has a monopoly on comic distribution. The reason why the FTC hasn't come down on their neck for having a monopoly is because they aren't preventing any other comic distributors from going into business. All distribution contracts with Diamond are, depending on the contract terms, reviewed or renewed by comic companies every 5 years or so.

    The reason why there are no other comic distributors is because BOTH Marvel Comics and DC Comics continually extended their exclusive distribution deals with Diamond every single time the contract comes up for renewal. There isn't a single comic shop in the United States which could survive without selling DC and Marvel comics. It's just that simple.

    Now Diamond's distribution model is one where retailers place and pay for their orders through a Diamond specific product code—at a massive markdown from the cover price in exchange for the product not being returnable/refundable—3 months in advance of the product being on the retailers shelves.

    To put in a different way, the comic industry operates by having specialty shops buy products without ever seeing it 3 months before it shows up to be put on their shelves and sold to their customers. Every single order from a comic shop through Diamond is a gamble that they know their customers well enough to predict what they will like without first knowing for sure what the product is.

    I'll just let that sink in for a moment while I prepare my next point.

    You good? Understand everything about how Diamond Comics operates? Great.

    Alliance Game Distributors is run just like that… only worse. In order for Diamond to keep their business model viable nearly 20 years into the 21st century, Diamond operates/updates/maintains an Online Catalogue Database called PREVIEWSWorld. It is the online location where you keep track of the release information for products you ordered 3 months ago. You can look up product codes for specific items, pull together a list of items you want to buy, and then bring that list of items to your Local Comic Shop or Hobby Game Shop for them to order.

    Alliance Games does not have a PREVIEWSWorld. I'll repeat that. Alliance Games does not have a PREVIEWSWorld.

    Their new product offerings are only available through Game Trade Magazine. The only ways to look up what is coming out through Alliance Games Distributors is to either buy their monthly magazine (which sometimes has exclusive items like Trading Cards. The MLP:CCG had a promo card released through there once) or download a PDF of the upcoming products pages featured in the magazine and then read through 20 - 30 pages of material to find the product you are looking for.

    You cannot search their website for what will be coming out. You cannot find that information through a google search. You cannot look up what is available or not through their company on their website. The only way to order through Alliance Games is to read their magazine either as a PDF or physically, and then tell your LCS or HGS what you want to buy.

    The toy industry is not run like this. The book industry is not run like this. The movie industry is not run like this. The video game industry is not run like this. The electronics industry is not run like this. There are tons of opportunities—meaning trade shows, trailers, sample chapters, etc.—where most industries in the United States show off samples of their upcoming products to their retail partners before they are ordered. Those opportunities allow retailers to make informed decisions about the products they are purchasing for their customers to buy from them.

    Only the Comic Industry—and subsequently the Board Game industry (through Diamond)—is run like this. And as a whole, it is floundering in the United States.


    The immediate effect of this is simple. The overall sales for Tails of Equestria are going to plummet. Profit margins for Shinobi 7 might be up, but the overall available product and thus overall sales for Tails of Equestria are going to be a fraction of what they were through Ninja Division. And this is because finding and thus buying the product became astronomically difficult for the products target audience.

    The kid fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And their parents who aren't going to go through the hassle of trying to find the product—let alone buy it—through an antiquated business model which caters to only the most hardcore/passionate of tabletop gaming fans.

    Tails of Equestria is designed to be an introductory game into the genre of table top RPGs. It should be easy to find/buy at MSRP if it isn't available in the toy aisle of Walmart/Target. Making it into an item that only the most hardcore of gamers would purchase because only they would go through the hassle of working through AGD's ordering system defeats the entire point of the product.

    I have no idea if River Horse or Hasbro are aware of what is going on with Shinobi 7 and their exclusive distribution deal with Diamond for this game. However I have a feeling neither licensor is going to be happy when they see the drop in sales numbers.

    Until next time folks, this has been The Illustrious Q. See you in the comments section.