Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Something New (At least to me)

All right gamer fans, today's post is about a new idea (to me at least), Blind Subscription Services, (BSS).  The idea is fairly easy to grasp; You pay a nominal monthly fee, and every month a new package arrives with an assortment of materials drawn from a specific theme.  You don't know what's in the box before you open it, which i think is half the fun.  It's like a tiny christmas (or other seasonally appropriate gift giving) package that you get at a scheduled interval (some services are monthly, others are bi-monthly). If you like surprises, these can be a wonderful way to experience new ideas and products that you may have never thought about before.

First up, we have a lot of pros.

1.  It's a starting place within a fandom.  Comic books, games, movies (especially Star Wars) have enormous product lines and it can be very hard to find an easy point of entry and a comfortable price point.  You could spend thousands and thousands of dollars chasing the fandom experience, and still not get the experience you're looking for.  The BSS model gives you an affordable way to dabble in the universe or products you like without overwhelming the senses.

2. The value is always there.  Most services offer between $50 and $60 of value with every box service for a monthly fee around $20, meaning that the value of the materials you are receiving is always in excess of your money spent.

3.  The monthly theme is a solid indicator of the products you can expect to find in each box.  The companies that are putting these products together aren't just grabbing things off a shelf and sending them.  There's a dedicated thought process that works to compile a group of items that are both coherent and interesting.

4.  It can be an enormous time and energy saver.  If you are a person who works 40 hours a week, takes care of a couple of kids, or has a spouse that all ready has your weekends planned, this can be an excellent way to still get in touch with your hobbies.  Despite the lack of time, you can still get graphic novels, or board games, or really cool video game stuff.

5.  They deliver all over the place.  As a nerd who grew up on a farm, and then moved into a smaller town, i know the pain of trying to find a shop that has serves my particular fandom.  These services help alleviate some of that pain by delivering to your door a group of things that fit into your wants and desires.  

We do have a couple of cons though

1.  These are blind boxes, so you have no idea what you may get. Other than a monthly theme hint, the boxes are a mystery until they arrive at your door. You could get an assortment of graphic novels that have nothing you find interesting (which i like to think of as an opportunity to explore something new) or things related to a game you've never heard of.  If you aren't adventurous with your hobby time and dollars, this may not be the best product for you.

2.  No substitutions.  If you open a box and it has a book, or game, or neat gizmo thing that you all ready have one of, you can't contact the Service provider and request a new replacement.  The boxes they ship out are the products they are offering for that period and they do not substitute.  If you have a larger collection of materials related to this fandom, you are going to run a higher chance of getting something that you all ready own.

Honestly, i think that this is a neat service idea that fills a couple of needs in the market.  If you, as a consumer, are completely new to a fandom, then this gives you an easy, affordable starting point to get in.  It lets you relax your brain's need to find a starting point and trust experts that will give you a direction and a place to start from.  Best of all, if you didn't like that starting point, all you need to do is wait a month and you can try again from a different place.

I also like the mystery aspect of it.  Getting a new box of stuff every month feels like a combination of retail therapy and that joy you feel as a small child opening a gift.  You get "What's in the box?!?!?!" mixed with "Oh i love that stuff!!!!"

So I've talked your ear off about what the idea looks like, let's take a look at some actual service providers.

Comic Bento

 Image Courtesy of Comic Bento

Comic Bento is a company that delivers an assortment of graphic novels every month for a nominal fee.  Each month has a different theme, (November's theme is Button Mash) with four or five different titles that fall into that theme each month.

Each assortment of graphic novels has a retail value around $60, so it's an excellent value for their monthly fee.  They offer three different price points, each representing a different subscription duration.

For $20 a month, you can get the single month service.  This is a recurring charge that you'll be billed monthly, and you can cancel at any point.

For $18.34 a month, you can do a three month subscription.  This saves you a little bit of cash, and you are enrolled for three months of deliveries.

For $15 a month, you can do a six month subscription.  This is the most cost effective option (it will save you $15 over the price of the individual month subscription) and enrolls you for six months of comic bento deliveries.

Note 1:  These prices do not include Shipping and Handling
Note 2:  Multi-month subscriptions are lump sum billed, so you'll be paying up front for your subscription

I like this service.  Comic books are such broad media, it can be overwhelming to find a starting point.  Comic Bento reaches across a swath of publishers to find graphic novels that fit within a theme and then provide the reader with a small, bite sized snippet of what's available.

Board Game Bento

Image Courtesy of Board Game Bento
Like it's counterpart, Comic Bento, Board Game Bento is a blind subscription service that focuses on delivering an interesting package of products monthly.  The difference is fairly obvious (it's in the name), Board Game Bento delivers a monthly supply of board games.  If you're looking to try new games, or have a hankering to play something, but can't for the life of you figure out what it is, Board Game Bento may be a solution to that problem. 
The bundle of games has a retail value of approximately $80, and they can contain a variety of products, including board games and the occasional board game expansion.  Currently there are only two price points to consider.  Keep in mind that the price for the Board Game Bento boxes are higher than the Comic Book Bento boxes, but the products are things that you can use over and over again with friends.  

The Single month subscription runs $50 a month, and can be cancelled at any time. Remember each box will contain at a minimum three games (or two games and an expansion), but could contain more.  

The Six month subscription runs $45 a month and can be cancelled after the six month run.  If you are planning on long term subscription, this is the better deal and will save you $30 over the cost of individual monthly subscriptions. 

Note 1:  These prices do not include Shipping and Handling
Note 2:  Multi-month subscriptions are lump sum billed, so you'll be paying up front for your subscription

I think this service has some very interesting possibilities.  Like comic books, games have a broad pool of interests, and the variation that you can find within each type of game can be staggering.  If this service uses an assortment of publishers and suppliers to provide a variety of games, it can be very rewarding to the consumer, even at the higher price point.

Now for something a little less bento ish

Marvel Collector's Corps

This is a blind box focused on Marvel Comic's properties and is a partnership between Funko and Marvel.  They ship bi-monthly (so you'll get a box every other month) and feature a variety of exclusive Marvel and Funko merchandise.

This will include
A T-Shirt (in your size)
At least one Funko figurine
A Comic book
A variety of other comic related doodads (Always fun to use the word Doodads)
*Contents subject to change)

They offer two plans for purchasing their goods and services

Firstly, they offer a $25 Collector program that is a no commitment, cancel when you want to program like the other single month subscriptions we've seen above.

They also offer a $150 yearly Hero program.  This program locks you in for six boxes, plus an annual gift of a mysterious and awesome nature.

I like this service for two key reasons.  One, having a new, quality comic licensed T-shirt delivered to me every other month is amazing.  Judging by past month boxes, they have a laser-like focus on the comic book theme for that product.  Secondly, the exclusivity of it is kind of a neat idea.  Unless you are a Collector Corps member, this is stuff you can't get anywhere else.  I like the fact that its a bi-monthly service as well, it gives you a break in there to warm up for the next shipment.

Fantasy Crate

This is a blind subscription program for the game Magic: The Gathering.  Magic has a devoted following and this product is designed give you sealed product, and other magic related items such as playmats, card sleeves, deck boxes, or dice to name a few.

They offer two packages, the Monthly crate and the Draft crate.

The monthly crate offers 3 sealed booster packs of cards and a variety of magic related items.  With a base price of $24.95 a month (plus $6 shipping and handling) and an estimated value between $40 and $50, this looks like an interesting purchase.

The Draft crate offers 6 packs of cards to the monthly crate's 3, but reduces the amount of other goodies.  The draft crate offers enough packs to play in a draft environment two different times or to play a single sealed event, assuming the packs are legal for that event type. At a price of $24.95 (with a $5 shipping and handling fee) this is a workable product if you are in an environment that lacks a magic community with a stable source of product.

I like this product because it's another method of dipping your toe into the Magic: The Gathering pool.  The merchandise looks workable and i can see it's place in an area that doesn't have a conventional shopping environment for Magic.

If you think i missed anybody or would like to highlight a company, let me know in the comments section below.

Until next time readers

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