Have you heard of the TV show, TableTop? If not, I expect you are in the vast majority of the population. It’s one of the shows on Felicia Day’s YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. It’s like celebrity poker, except that instead of poker, they play better games, like Settlers of Catan, Shadows Over Camelot, and Zombie Dice. The celebrities aren’t your typical Hollywood movie stars or pop singers. They tend to be a bit geekier: voice actors, game designers, fantasy authors, and weblebrities. Oh, and the show is hosted by Wil Wheaton.
The interesting thing is, the show is gaining a following. It’s an awesome way to find out about great games. I’ve purchased several that I’ve seen on the show. You may be thinking, “Okay, but how popular can it really be? It’s not on cable.” I present Exhibit A.
A few weeks ago, the show featured the game Betrayal at House on the Hill. It’s a really cool, cooperative game that plays differently every time, allowing the players to randomly build a mansion with room tiles as they play. Eventually, one of the players turns out to be the bad guy, and things get hectic. The game was originally published in 2004. It typically sells for about $50.
Within a matter of days after the episode aired, the game could not be found. It was listed as out of stock at every on-line retailer that carried it. Amazon was listing it for well over $100 in “other buying options”, and people were trying to sell it for similar prices on Ebay. People were posting questions to boardgamegeek.com and other sites, asking if it was out of print. One of the designers of the game answered a question on Amazon:
Hi, I’m the designer of the game. I was concerned about all the rumors here, so I checked with the publisher. She told me that 5000 copies of the game had been sent to distributors during Q4, but some of the larger distributors may have sold out theirs already due to the Tabletop coverage. There are more on the way, though, and I suspect that some of the smaller places and local stores may still have copies available, so you shouldn’t need to start scavenging quite yet!
Amazon had restocked the game earlier this week, but they are already sold out again. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good indication that a YouTube channel is a viable competitor to traditional media.