Why Shadowrun 4th Edition Books Aren’t at Amazon

Shadowrun 4th Edition Core Rules book

I love Shadowrun. Even when I don’t get to role play very frequently (which is another story), Shadowrun is one of those games I enjoy reading, and hope to play again when the chance arises.

Yet for months now it seems to have disappeared from major online stores. Were Shadowrun books selling out as fast as they came in? Or was the game making the transition to Catalyst Game Labs poorly? Perhaps a more sinister force was at work, maybe Lofwyr suppressing any media which made mention of his name?

There has also been a little confusion caused by the previous Shadowrun site going missing (used to be at shadowrunrpg.com, not to be confused with shadowrun.com, the latter owned by Microsoft who holds the PC/console game rights). It’s not that they closed up shop or something, they just got tangled up in domain ownership issues with the German arm of FanPro (who no longer has the Shadowrun license from WizKids). The new site can be found at shadowrun4.com.

The truth, I found out, is perhaps not as exciting as any of those possibilities, but thankfully Shadowrun 4th Edition lives on so the story does have a happy ending.

I recently came across the transcript of the March Shadowrun Developer Chat. Down on page five (it’s a PDF) there’s a question about lack of Shadowrun books in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc..

The short answer is that they sell the books primarily through local game stores, with a longer answer from David “Vairdic” Stansel-Garner, Operations Manager for Catalyst, in the CBT forums.

I’ll attempt to paraphrase: about 90% of their sales are through brick and mortar game stores. Though Amazon actually only sells a small fraction of the number of books compared to the hobby trade, Amazon is seen by both customers and retailers as a competing source who dictates a low price (say 34% off). Brick and mortar game stores can’t compete on price, making it hard for them to sell the books. If Shadowrun books don’t sell off their shelves, they stop ordering, and pretty soon Shadowrun loses its most important retail outlet.

Hence Catalyst and their distributors stopped selling to Amazon and some of its big-discount mass-market ilk. This allows the bar to be set a little higher for the way people value the products, instead of consumers assuming (and insisting) they should always be 34% off MSRP. In return it becomes viable again for brick and mortar stores to carry the books, and the game of Shadowrun can continue to be made available and release new products!

But… But I Like Shopping at Amazon

I’ll admit it, I buy a lot of my stuff online when I can, and this sometimes includes games. It’s convenient, and cheap, right? Well, convenient in the sense that I tend not to care about shipping and delivery times at least, versus actually leaving my house.

If you really can’t stand going without that kind of convenience, it’s not super difficult to find other places that sell the books online. Not to mention the official source: the Battlecorps store, which sells dead-tree technology books as well as PDF versions (I believe those are still unencumbered with DRM, so no lame restrictions of which computers/devices in your house you can put them on, etc.)

On the other hand, this is probably one of those rare instances where going outside sounds like a really good idea, and heading over to your local game store to pick them up means supporting all the right elements of your hobby. Plus there’s the side benefit that you may be introduced to (gasp) other cool games at the same time!


    I actually prefer shopping at local stores. I think part of this comes from my desire to someday own a store like this and thus I want to support them but the main reason is I am Mr. Instant Gratification and as soon as I decided I want something I want it NOW.

    I think I have mentioned it before, but Shadowrun 4th may well have the best system I have ever seen.

    Scott Says:

    Yep, I’ve got to agree, your local game store really is the best place to buy games. Hopefully I don’t sound too much like a “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” old dude in saying that, but seriously, it’s well worth it.

    I was actually doing just that a couple days ago when my wife and I took a day trip around parts of the state, and stopped at my favorite CT game store. Don’t think they have a web site, but if you’re in Connecticut you owe it to yourself to head to Citadel Games in Groton (see Google Maps). Smallish space (like plenty of other independent game stores I’ve been in) but they always have an excellent selection of card and board games, which makes me smile.

    I picked up Manhattan, Iron Dragon (back in print, apparently), and King’s Blood so perhaps after I get some other things out of the way (*cough*siteredesign*cough*) I’ll write up some of those.