Jun 082011
 

If you’re someone who’d rather try a $60 board game before you buy it, would like the option of purchasing the games you do like at a fairly steep discount, and would like to try at least two new board games a month, you’re going to love the Board Game eXchange.  I had the chance to ask David Muta, President of the BGX a number of pointed questions, and also express my outright jealousy when he sent this picture.

Yes, that's a huge wall of board games going higher than David's head.

Not only does the BGX act as the Netflix of board games, they offer services above and beyond game rental.  You can purchase games that you like at either a nice, or a very nice discount, depending on the condition of the game.  In addition to this, if you have games you own but aren’t playing, send them in to the BGX.  They’ll credit your account towards your membership fee.  Their FAQ explains all of this nicely.

The BGX currently offers four subscription plans:

  • Bridge To Gaming Subscription – 2 Months at $13.99 Per Month
  • Silver Level Subscription – 6 Months at $29.99 Per Month
  • Gold Level Subscription –  12 Months at $26.99 Per Month
  • Gaming Guild Subscription –  12 Months at $39.99 Per Month

The Gold Level and Gaming Guild Subscriptions give subscribers access to BGX’s collection of premium, rare, and out-of-print games known as our Gold Level Games. The Gaming Guild level is meant more for gaming clubs than individuals.

Feel free to browse their selection of available games before you decide to become a member.  They’ve got a ton of stuff I’m absolutely drooling over.

For our readers, the BGX is offering a 5% discount off of any subscription level purchase for the first 25 people who take advantage of this offer.  In checking out, to get the discount, enter the coupon code TCDISCOUNT5X

Now that you know a bit about the BGX, here’s David explaining his gaming passion in his own words.

1. Could you tell me a bit about how the Board Game Exchange got started?  How does one get to be the President of such an interesting and cool enterprise as this?

I really have always been into card games, computer games, and video games.  Board gaming came a little later in life when a friend of mine told me to try “Ticket To Ride.” I had always been a big monopoly fan, so I was willing to give it a try.  When I searched for a place to purchase the game, I quickly found that only specialty gaming shops and online retailers were the only places that carried games like “Ticket To Ride.”

When I went to the specialty gaming store in my town, the price tag was $60. I called my friend and thought he was crazy for telling me to buy a $60 dollar board game, but he gave a convincing sales pitch and told me that it was well worth the money.  Not only did I fall in love with the game, but—as corny as it sounds—the game was a life-changing experience because it opened my eyes to the wonderful world of board gaming.  Soon enough, I found myself back at the specialty shop staring at the shelves of games that I wanted to try.  I was like a kid in a candy store—the difference though was that the games I wanted to try had price tags of well over $40-50.  As much as I loved the next games I acquired (Agricola, Metropolys, Amun-Re, and a few others), my newfound hobby was costing me way too much money.  On top of that, I had stumbled upon BoardGameGeek.com, which only exacerbated my inner-desire to deplete my disposable income even further.

Like any good American, I knew there had to be a way for me to be able to try games before buying them.  I scoured the internet looking for a place to rent board games, but was unsuccessful in my search.  After complaining to enough people about my dilemma, I decided to put-up or shut-up.  I teamed up with some business partners and together we were able to make my vision a reality.  The business was formed in December 2009, and the website officially launched in September 2010.  Since our launch, we have seen amazing growth amongst our subscription-base, have spoken with many publishers about promoting specific titles, and have established some key relationships with players in the board gaming world.   As our company continues to grow, we are very excited to see how far-reaching our service can go towards furthering peoples’ love of board games.

2. Be honest.  Do you ever find yourself saying “Oh jeez! Look! Another board game!” in a sarcastic voice to yourself or others?

It’s interesting you say that, because I just had a conversation last week with an up-start publisher who is looking to launch his new game, but was expressing serious doubts about his ability to compete with the big-time publishers.   I told him that one thing that we have learned is that everyone has different tastes when it comes to board games—the same way they do for music, books, movies, ice cream, and pizza toppings.  The types of games that I enjoy are completely different from the types of games that my business partners enjoy.   I think that the diversity of our own tastes has helped us understand the need to continuously grow our inventory of games in order to satisfy the unbelievably diverse interests of our current and future customers.    BoardGameGeek.com has more than 52,000 games in its database—and that number continues to grow each and every month as new games are developed.  I absolutely love playing new games. (My business partners and I recently played “London” and cannot say enough good things about that game!) I also think that the high level of competition and the often uncompromising tastes/expectations of board gamers commands innovation amongst all publishers, which will result in some of the best games we’ve seen yet.

 

In my opinion, it takes real guts to be in the board game design and development business given the level of competition out there.  Then again, if you design a game that sells a million games at $60 each like “Ticket To Ride”, then you’re set for life.  With that in mind, we have been approached by a number of publishers looking to get their games into peoples’ hands and have teamed up with several of them to promote their titles.  We frequently send out courtesy copies of games to our subscribers along with their requested games and simply ask that they review the game on BoardGameGeek.com if they have the opportunity to try it out.  In the board game publishing world, it’s all about creating buzz.  So although the initial reaction to someone pouring their savings into developing a board game may be that of concern or hesitation, we admire the risk that publishers take in launching a new game.  Our customers have responded well to some of the newest products we have been able to put in their hands, and publishers who have reached out to us for assistance in promoting their games have been satisfied at the increased exposure their product has been able to attain.  As the President of BGX, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to remind everyone that our service takes the risk out of our customers’ hands when it comes to trying these new board games.  If you’re a subscriber and you don’t enjoy the games you requested, simply send them back and get 2 more in the mail.  If you want to buy the game, simply keep it at our Preferred Members’ Price—a price which will beat the major retailers every day of the week.  (Apologies for the cheap plug!)

3. What are you actively playing now?  What games do you consistently find yourself returning too?

Personally, I have found that I really enjoy the building & economics games.  The most recent game I played was “7 Wonders,” followed by “Metropolys,” “Amun-Re,” and “London.”  One of my best friends loves to play the “Dominion” games, so I find myself playing that one whenever he is around.  One of my partners is passionate about zombie games and the Settlers titles.  My girlfriend loves the game “Ambit,” which came out in 2010 and was sent to us by a smaller publisher who wanted to get his game into as many peoples’ hands as possible.  “Ambit” is now a part of our inventory and probably the game that I have played most often in the past few months because it’s one of her favorites out of the 450 she has access to!  It’s tough to decide which game to try at times, because—as we all know—some of the intense games take hours just to learn how to play and days to fully enjoy.  BGX keeps me pretty busy so lately I have been forced to settle for games right now that I can play in a shorter amount of time.  One of the updates we are looking to incorporate into the BGX website are reviews from the BGX team and from our subscribers who want to share their experiences with fellow subscribers—especially when it comes to games that may not be heavily reviewed on websites like BoardGameGeek.

4. I picture some massive, anonymous warehouse somewhere in a rainy city, filled to the ceiling with crates of board games, kept behind locked and guarded doors.  Am I close to reality here?  Where do you keep all these things?

With the added measures of a guard dog, laser beams like you see in Mission Impossible Movies, and a finger-print scanning security system, you are absolutely correct!  Our warehouse manager has been a pro-wrestling fan for 27 years, so I guess that counts as an added security measure if there’s a steel folding chair within arms’ reach!  We are based out of central Indiana, which is a convenient hub when it comes to shipping our inventory.  We started by storing our games in the corner of a basement of a house with a lot of square footage.  That corner grew into the whole basement, and now consumes the better part of 1,200 square feet of storage space.  As we continue to grow, I would imagine that we will be in the market for a bigger space soon!

That massive, anonymous warehouse.

 

5. The idea that members can purchase used board games at a pretty steep discount is intriguing!  Was this an original part of the business plan or did it evolve with your business?

The “keep the game if you like it” option is something that evolved from discussions with my business partner about six weeks before we launched the website.  We knew that customers who really enjoyed a game would have to send it back and look for the game on some sort of retailer’s website if they wanted to purchase it.  Not wanting to inconvenience our subscribers and lose potential business, the Members’ Preferred Price that we currently offer on 98% of the games in our inventory was a natural solution.  (*We have a number of rare and out-of-print games like “Antiquity” and “Civilization” that we do not offer for sale, but are available for rental exclusively to our Gold Level subscribers).  The purchase feature has worked well for us and many customers have taken advantage of it.

As a sample of some of the great deals that we are able to offer, we are selling copies of Dominion to customers for around $24.00 which is significantly lower than they can get it anywhere else.  Our goal is to beat almost every retailer out there to really make it worth our customers’ while.

One other feature that a number of our subscribers have taken advantage of is our offer to trade us copies of games they no longer play for credit towards months of a subscription. Our trade feature has attracted many customers while simultaneously growing our inventory.  The old saying that some person’s trash is another person’s treasure is wholly applicable in the board gaming world.  Many of our subscribers found that it wasn’t worth their time to list the games on eBay, pay the listing and PayPal fees, and ship the games all over the world just to make a few bucks.  Instead, we cover the postage to our warehouse and they get credit towards a subscription.  By reducing their clutter and getting rid of games that are doing nothing more than gathering dust, they are able to try our service and play a bunch of new games that get shipped right to their door every month.

Between the selling of the games and accepting trades, a whole new world of opportunity has opened for Board Game eXchange, the gaming community, publishers, and our subscribers.

6. I make it a point to gather as much snacking data about my interview subjects as possible.  While gaming, what are your favorite snacks?

Best interview question I’ve had yet!  I really enjoy a beer or glass of wine when I play board games.  As far as food goes, there’s nothing better than pizza, HoHo’s, Snickers, M&M’s (because they melt in your mouth, and not on the game cards), and any type of cookie that incorporates chocolate.  Above all else, I guess my favorite snack is one I didn’t have to pay for!  If my friends are buying, I’ll eat whatever.

7. Would you ever make public statistics on which games are most frequently requested?  A leaderboard of current and all time popular titles would be something a lot of us would love to take a peek at.

We have discussed this many times amongst our team.  I think that we’ll put up a “hot” list sometime soon since there seems to be a fair amount of interest out there in what is trending.

8. Members have the option of purchasing games they’ve currently borrowed from you.  What’s the difference between “slightly used” and “very used” when it comes to this?

“Slightly used” games have either never been played, or have only been played a handful of times.  “Very used” games would show obvious signs of wear.  Also, a game may be “very used” if the box is beat up in some way.  Since the boxes don’t get shipped with the games as part of the standard rental, we would incorporate some sort of price discount if the box is some way damaged and a customer wants to purchase the game.  (Boxes for purchased games get shipped with the subscriber’s next shipment of games).

Most of our inventory is less than 1 year old, so we have very few games at this point that we would classify as “very used.”  However, if our subscribers are willing to trade in games that aren’t in the best of shape, we will still consider a trade—albeit for a lesser amount than a game in pristine shape.

9. How often do you add new titles?  Can subscribers make requests for titles or publishers that you don’t carry?

We try to add new titles about every month.  We LOVE to hear from our subscribers about what titles they want us to carry because we know that they are what keep us in business.  Subscribers can make requests for any games they would like us to add and we try to meet as many of those requests as possible.   After all, if it weren’t for the customers, we’d be out of business.  They know what they want much better than we do!

We’re looking to make an acquisition of a big lot that could increase our inventory by as much as 250 or 300 titles in the next month…but the deal is not yet done at this point.  Regardless of whether that deal goes through, continuously growing our inventory is one of our top priorities.

10. So what’s next for the BGX?  Got anything cool you can tell us about?  Or hint about?

One of our keys to success thus far is keeping our hand pretty close to our vest about what’s next for BGX.  Our tagline is that we are the “Revolution in Board Gaming” and we are always trying to come up with innovative ways to revolutionize this industry.

We’ll be appearing at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio on June 22nd through June 26th and at GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 4th through August 7th.  Stop by our booth at Origins and say hi if you’re around!  We’ll gladly take any of our customers out for a beer in Columbus at Origins if they’re going to be there!

We are starting to add bloggers’ reviews to various games in our inventory in an effort to provide as much information about each game as possible on our system.  We are interested in working with bloggers and game reviewers, so if anyone is interested in having their insight posted on our webpage and increase their own traffic, feel free to send us an email at: sales@boardgameexchange.com.

Our company has many proverbial sticks in the fire regarding inventory growth, but I really can’t say much more at this time without our General Counsel yelling at me!  (We all know how uptight lawyers can be!)

In my opinion, one of the coolest things BGX does is to partner with publishers to generate buzz about their games.  More and more publishers have seen the benefits of our service and have been working with us to help promote titles that are new or more obscure that many players may have not otherwise tried.   In addition to the game “Ambit” which I mentioned before, we have anywhere between 5-10 other games right now that we are shipping to customers for free just to expose them to the game.  (“Ambit” in particular has had a good response from our customers and, like I mentioned before, has become my girlfriend’s favorite game.)  Publishers know that when gamers go to gaming conventions, they get to try games risk-free to see if they’re worth the time/money.  If the game is terrible, the gamer loses nothing and learns that a title is not worth the time/money.  Conversely, if the game is a hit, the gamer may have never known about the game but for the exposure at the convention.  BGX is able to bring that convention experience right to your front door.

Bonus Question: If I’m ever in your neighborhood, could I, just once, take a running dive into a huge pile of board games while yelling “Mine! All mine!” even though I realize on an intellectual level that they are not in fact all mine?

What, like Scrooge McDuck diving into his huge pile of money?!  Sure, be my guest!  Although, our General Counsel would be quick to point out that those box corners can be sharp and you may lose an eye…so do so at your own peril!

Thanks again for your time!  To all, we have a booth at Origins, and we’ll be doing some promoting at GenCon.  Stop by and say hi!  If anyone has questions about our service, we would encourage you to check us out at www.BoardGameExchange.com and to email us at Service@BoardGameExchange.com with specific questions, comments, or ideas.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

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