Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Philippine Geek Primer part 1

Of course when I say "The Philippines", I really mean "just Metro Manila", the product of over-crowding the country's urban cities. So while we may be bigger than say, Hong Kong, to an urbanite geek like me, it doesn't feel that way.


When I speak of comics, all I'm really talking about are comics shipped from the US. Occasionally, a store might pick up a Japanese product or -gasp- a European title but the norm is stuff you get from the US.

So here's the deal. In the US, the latest comics gets released on Wednesdays. Unfortunately (but fortunate when it comes to movie premieres), we're ahead of the US by half a day so we don't get our comics on Wednesdays... usually. Shops like Comic Quest and Comic Odyssey are usually the exception. I mean Comic Quest usually has the latest stocks by Wednesday evening assuming nothing goes wrong or realistically by Thursday in most of their shops. I don't have insider information on Comic Odyssey but as far as I'm concerned, when I drop by on Thursdays, they have the latest stocks. In the past, mainstream comic shops like Filbars usually get their stocks by Friday so that should be the day you should pass by. Back when CCHQ was still in business, they got their stocks on Friday mornings. I've never been to Druid's Keep but I expect they'll have the latest stock no later than Friday.

The secret to knowing how much a title will cost is knowing the exchange rate the store is using. Usually it's P60.00 = $1.00 (for various reasons, everything from shipping, taxes, and you know, profit) but there are exceptions (and from what I hear, Druid's Keep operates on a lower exchange rate--only time will tell whether this is sustainable or if their business plan works).


If comics are shipped every week, bookstores operate on a less-frequent shipping schedule. As far as I could ascertain, bookstores like Fully Booked and A Different Bookstore gets new stocks every two weeks, with new stocks on display by the weekend (as early as late Friday). Booktopia also gets new stocks twice every month if I remember correctly (but they've cut back on book orders, which ships once every month). National Bookstore and Powerbooks operate more on a monthly schedule and usually takes twice as long to order books.

Here's what you need to know: the mainstream bookstores (Fully Booked and National Bookstore/Powerbooks), because they're these huge companies who ships large quantities of books (that's not the only variable in the formula though), they can afford to give a lower peso value against the dollar. Last I computed it was something like P40.00 = $1.00 (you can grab a random book and do the math yourself). The independent bookstores, however, can't offer to sell their books at those prices. It's somewhere more along the lines of P50.00 = $1.00. That changes, however, when it comes to ordering books. The last time I ordered a book from National Bookstore, it was something like P55.00 = $1.00 (but back then, the peso to dollar exchange rate was around that high).

Another tidbit you need to know is that the annual book fair occurs on either the last week of August or first week of September (August 29 - September 2 in 2007) in which participating concessionaires sell their books at a discount (and this includes the University Presses, in addition to their own Academic Book Fair). The month before the Manila International Book Fair, it's a common tactic that bookstores go on sale.

Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures, RPGs

If I lumped them into one category, it's because the industry here isn't that big.

The most popular (and I assume most profitable) are Collectible Card Games (CCGs). You don't have to be a hobby store to carry them. I frequently see comic stores carrying them as well. Unlike the US, we don't get every CCG imaginable. We get the popular ones though. Here's a quick rundown of CCGs that managed to land here in at least one point in time (I might miss a few):

  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Legend of the Five Rings
  • Wildstorm
  • Ani-Mayhem
  • Marvel Overpower
  • C-23
  • Netrunner
  • BattleTech
  • Star Wars
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Rage
  • Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
  • Initial D
  • Pokemon
  • Yu-Gi-Oh
  • Warlord
  • World of Warcraft
  • A Game of Thrones
  • Naruto
  • VS
  • WWE Raw Deal
Of course over the years, a lot were fads (i.e. Ani-Mayhem) while others developed into small cult followings (i.e. V:TES). A few made it mainstream (you can probably guess which ones those are).

Right now the distributor of all things Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is Neutral Grounds. They also have a virtual monopoly in the related-hobby save board games: they're the distributor of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K, HeroClix, and a bunch of the CCGs I mentioned above (including the non-WotC ones).

Honestly, if you want miniatures, it's not really an option -- you go to Neutral Grounds. They also have paints and brushes as well as various Games Workshop items (including White Dwarf magazine).

Re-stocks at Neutral Grounds are usually once every month (but I could be wrong) but they're usually on time for pre-releases and such. Exchange rate is at P60.00 = $1.00 last I checked.

For RPG products, you either went to Neutral Grounds, Comic Quest, or crossed your fingers and hopefully found them at bookstores like Fully Booked and A Different Bookstore. The bookstores and Neutral Grounds seemed to have given up on RPG products however and there hasn't been any new products on their shelf since 4th quarter of 2006. The last non-WotC product at Neutral Grounds was World's Largest Dungeon for example. Comic Quest continues to get RPG products when it can. Their latest inventory includes Tome of Artifacts, various White Wolf books, and your monthly dose of Dragon and Dungeon magazine. The only thing it has trouble picking up are WotC books thanks to a new retailer policy from WotC.

Board games is dominated by board game shop Hobbes/Landes. It's mostly mainstream products and kid-friendly games (so no ultra-violent board games here) and is a reliable source for games like Settlers of Catan and Carcasonne. The other place to get board games is Neutral Grounds, which has the other, more exotic stuff such as A Game of Thrones and Warcraft board games. Between the two, they're your source of card games and board games barring independent merchants (I know someone who's side business is to import board games for example but he has no physical shop) and the occasional turn-out at Comic Quest.

Note that big toy store chains and department stores also get various products, such as HeroClix miniatures, Magic: The Gathering booster boxes, and even the occasional board game. But it's still the same price at what Neutral Grounds sells them, minus the diversity of products.

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