According to Amazon, as of today, my game has been “discontinued” by the “manufacturer.” This is quite the surprise, as I am the manufacturer (or more accurately, publisher) of the game.
People familiar with the Wild West that is Amazon FBA know what happened here. Jamey Stegmaier encountered the same thing, and it’s why he’s moved on from Amazon FBA.
The crux of the matter is that any retailer with stock of the game can update its listing n Amazon Seller Central, which is, for lack of a better term, a way to access Amazon’s vast database of products.
But once that change has been made, only that retailer can change it back. So they can change it to “Discontinued by manufacturer,” or they can attribute the game to the wrong publisher, or give it the wrong player count (both of which happened to Jamey), or worse!
There is a way for publishers like me to take control of our listings. It’s called Amazon Brand Registry, and in theory, it should set up the listing so only the publisher could change it.
I’ve tried using the Amazon Brand Registry. I got a vaguely-worded form letter rejecting my application. At the time, I was prepping for Origins, and I didn’t have time to follow up. I may try to give it another shot, but like many other things related to Amazon, it means dealing with a lot of automated, counter-intuitive procedures, and that’s not something I have a lot of time for right now.
After Bad Medicine, I swore to not use Amazon FBA to fulfill any more Kickstarters. I was lucky to discover Funagain just before I fulfilled The Networks, and they helped me keep my promise. At the same time, I figured I would try to use Amazon FBA to at least move some stock of my game.
But I’m likely going cold turkey with Amazon FBA from here on in. It’s just too difficult to deal with, and too much work. I’d rather spend my time building relationships with distributors and publishers than have to do all the screaming into the void that a relationship with Amazon FBA requires.
(I may still use Amazon Launchpad, which is a different model than FBA, as long as they guarantee me control of my metadata. With that system, I actually sell Amazon my product, and they act as retailer. Not everyone can get in it, but so far, it seems to be a decent system that actually lets me talk to a human if I need to.)
So what’s the fate of The Networks? I’m down to fewer than 400 units in my inventory (from a 5,000-unit print run), and I plan to sell out of my remaining stock at Essen and BGG.CON. More copies will arrive in February, and those will (finally) enter wide distribution.
I’ve reached out to retailers who may have made the change to my Amazon FBA listing to ask that they remove the misleading information. Hopefully I’ll hear back soon. In the meantime, please know that Amazon is not a reliable source for breaking game news.