Brazil in quarantine

With our friends from Devir, we work together to bring our games to several countries. They already sent us how it looked in Spain, and now the situation in Brazil.

Brazil is, as we write this message, the epicenter of the pandemic in South America.

All our territory is officially in quarantine, and some regions are already in lockdown. Only essential activities are permitted, and most of us are struggling to keep social distancing, many times, against the bad example of some of our federal authorities.

Business is also struggling to survive, those who were prepared to sell online are in better shape; those who weren´t, now face extinction.

The government has approved some economic aid measures for the population and business (as low-interest credit), but in both cases, the help doesn´t seem to reach those who need it.

And as we thought Amazon already had all the advantage they needed to expand their market share here, well, we were wrong.

For now, in the short term, for some sectors of the economy, the gain from the increase of online sales should compensate the loss of income from the brick and mortar stores.

And despite all the grave global repercussions of the pandemic, the ones we are facing now, and the ones still to come, the undeveloped Brazilian board game market has an opportunity to grow, due to the intrinsic social nature of the board games.

Quarantined families, couples, and even people who leave alone share their experience with board games on social media more than never.

Our analogical hobby is spreading through the digital.

There are many reasons to be concerned, but not to be a pessimist.

Situation in New Zealand

Since the start of the blog, we had a lot of coronavirus reports, but none was that far from the Czech Republic as this one. Our friends from Pixelpark sent us what is happening in New Zealand:

March 24th, the New Zealand Government enforced a 4 week National Lockdown at level 4. This means all Schools, Universities, shops, services, and public transport must close and for everyone to remain in their homes till the end of April. Travel is restricted, and all social gatherings of any kind, other than the people we live with, are banned. Essential services (Supermarkets, drugstores, and Freight Companies) remain in operation but in a restricted capacity. This is going to have a major impact on our operation for the foreseeable future.

We have had to close our warehouse and will not be sending any orders to stores till the lockdown is lifted. As of today, all the stores in New Zealand we supply have closed. All new releases scheduled for April will now ship in May.

The Tourism industry in New Zealand – which is a significant portion of our GDP has effectively been shut down and will stay that way for quite some time. NZ will see a significant increase in unemployment. I imagine everything that is going on will take a toll on retailers’ cashflow, which will have consequences well beyond the lockdown.

We have survived 3 recessions, an earthquake swarm that lasted several years, the mass shootings last March with the subsequent 3 weeks in a police cordon (we are next door to the Christchurch Mosque). We’re getting pretty resilient. But it will still be a challenge, especially taking into account the hammering our currency has taken over the last few weeks, but we’re in a strong position to get through this difficult period, which is unprecedented.

May 16th – After 7 weeks, stores have finally opened, with COVID19 seeming held at bay. Social distancing is still required along with customers signing in and out of stores for contact tracing, but at least stores can begin trading again. Sales have been strong as stores have been restocking after solid sales the day before lock-down, (it turns out that boardgames are the ideal product for quarantine). But how all this will impact business over the next year is unclear at this stage.

Greetings from Baltics

Our friends from Brain Games operates in all three Baltics countries. So it is interesting to see a different approach by these countries to the current situation:

Brain Games handles distribution and retail in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Each morning all our team leaders meet for a video chat to update on the local happenings and learn from the shared experiences. Everyone who can is working from home and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Each country has different regulations in effect, but in many terms, we feel united, and our company tries to use the same practices with all our employees and partners no matter the country. Still, it’s easier to talk about each country on its own.

Lithuania had the slowest start regarding Covid-19 spread. Still, it was the first Baltic country to close all non-essential shops for over a month. It was challenging to transfer sales and customer support to online channels. A week ago, the Lithuanian government decided to reduce restrictions, and shops were allowed to re-open again. Now there is an obligation for customers to wear face masks, and there can be only one customer inside a shop at any time. The consumer traffic is obviously not the same as it was last year and the shopping habits have changed.

After Lithuania decided to close all the shops, Estonia did the same. Currently, the latest decision is that all shops will re-open next week. During this period, Estonia as well tried to transfer all sales online. Estonia has the most total cases from all three Baltic countries, so they are even more cautious. It will definitely take a while for things to get back to a more normal state, but it will not be as it was for sure.

Latvia was the only Baltic country that decided not to close shops fully. Currently, shops are not working at weekends, and there are reduced working ours for other days. Brain Games did decide on their own to close its retail shops for a while to make sure that we can provide a safe environment for our employees and customers. We re-opened our shops with rules that there can be only one customer at a time in the store, no cash payments are processed, and customers cannot touch any games. In Latvia, we have experimented the most with how we tackle this situation, e.g., now we even have our top games available in what was normally only a food delivery app. We have tried some online plays, RPG sessions, rules teachings, and created or shared various content for those who are staying at home.

Overall in distribution, we see that the biggest struggle has been for our partners who have big retail chains. They had difficulties in transferring everything to the online environment, and it has been impossible to keep the same consumer traffic. Small stores, however, are doing okay. Interest for the games, jigsaw puzzles, and activities to perform home with your family have increased in this period. In all countries, kids are learning from home, and their teachers are encouraging parents to spend more time with their kids playing games, so they are not outside with friends. We see that everyone is missing gatherings with friends and other public events. Most likely public events will not be back this summer, but small gatherings will happen, and games will be one of the best ways to spend time in a narrow circle.

Facing summer with social distancing will be a challenge. Still, we feel like Baltics have been doing well so far. The increase of total case count in our region is slowing at the moment with only ~21 new cases each day based on the last 7 day average for all 3 countries combined. It is impossible to say if, by people starting to get less cautious, this will not cause a big spike. Still, we can only hope that the general public will continue to practice all government requirements to keep this number as low as possible.

What about Canada?

One of our partners in Canada, Lion Rampant Imports (recently acquired by Asmodee), sent us their view of the current situation:

Like most countries across the globe, Canada hasn’t been spared from COVID-19 and in early March, both federal and provincial governments put in place safety measures to minimize the spread of the disease as much as possible. As a result, for over a month now, Canadians have been actively practicing social distancing by staying home. Schools and most public spaces have been closed since mid-March, public gatherings are banned, and nonessential businesses have had to adapt how they operate in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.

How have Asmodee Canada and Lion Rampant Imports responded to this unprecedented situation? The same way we respond to any circumstance that is beyond our control—with compassion, flexibility, and resilience. We recently appointed Kevin Ratko as General Manager, under whose guidance we are committed to supporting our retail partners offering e-commerce, or whose brick and mortar stores are permitted to remain open. We are also committed to retaining as many jobs as possible in the face of the crisis. That said, our number one priority is the health and safety of all our employees and partners. As such, we have established a “work-from-home” policy wherever possible and have implemented strict safety protocols – as outlined by the Government of Canada – for all on-site staff members.

We are impressed by the tolerance and patience shown by Canadians during this difficult situation. We know that many have turned to tabletop games and puzzles to provide a bit of fun, connection, and normalcy at a time when the world seems to have been turned upside down. We are proud of and impressed by the resilience of the entire Lion Rampant team, as well as that of our partners and we’re confident that together we’ll get through this.

Japan from a business and personal perspective

When I launched this blog to inform about the COVID-19 situation, I did not expect that something like this would happen at all. Not only did we receive how it looks like from a business perspective, but one friend of ours also sent us his personal perspective. It’s fascinating to read and watch…

Let’s start with our partner, Hobby Japan:

Firstly, we thank all the carers in the medical frontier and ones who are struggling to support our daily life in this difficult time all over the world.

The number of infected cases was fewer in Japan compared with other countries at first. But the schools were closed from the beginning of March. No logistics issues and hobby shops were still open without change, so we had no impact affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Instead, the sales of games were increased by over 50% in March compared with the month of the previous year.

The needs for family games were increased during the schools’ temporary shutdown. The situation changed at the end of March. The number of infected cases is rising sharply in the big cities, and the government finally declared a State of Emergency on 7th April. Department stores, major retailers (GMS), and most of the game shops in the big cities will be closed for a month. Amazon and other major online shopping companies are also facing a difficulty to manage the high increase in delivery volume and might prioritize selling daily essentials for now.

Our company has also decided not to release any new titles for the next month. We hope things will improve soon and be able to bring a lot of new titles to people who are staying at home patiently now.

Lastly, stay healthy all!

And here is the promised personal view from a friend who wanted to remain anonymous:

This week, the PM Abe declared the “State of Emergency” effective as of yesterday until 6th May, and it can be extended with advance notice if necessary. It’s not strict compared with European countries or the US, and it applies only to the big cities such as Tokyo and its neighbor area, Osaka, Fukuoka.

We can come to the office as I am at the office right now. No permission is required to go outside, and no fine. But non-essential facilities like Karaoke and amusement center are strongly requested to shutdown. Shopping malls and department centers are listed in it. Some are already closed from today according to the declaration.

We are in short of masks and hand sanitizers the same as other countries and in danger of medical care overflow. We are getting realized that we have to take it seriously and do what we can do now, at least, “stay at home.”

Thanks to the declaration, the number of commuters are reduced this morning but still far from keeping “social distance” between people. When we shop for groceries, no social distancing is practiced yet in Japan. Time to change, we know.

Actually, I want to finish for the day right now. It’s already over 21:30 in Tokyo, and I skipped lunch. No time to break. I think the restaurants have already closed today. We are requested to go back home earlier, so do the shops and restaurants. Basically, I work from home but come to the office as necessary. I have to take care of so many paper works when I come to the office.

Okay, I am done. I will be taking off soon.

PS: The famous Japanese comedian delivers his message “Stay at home” on YouTube. He influences young people, and young people listen to him.

Differences in Nordics countries

Our friends from Asmodee Nordics (formerly Bergsala Enigma) sent us how they are affected:

In the Nordics, 3 of the 4 countries have enforced quarantine rules at different levels. Sweden being the outlier with schools still open (except universities and gymnasiums), and stores, restaurants, and gyms are still allowed to function so long they take appropriate measures to minimize any spread of the disease. It does seem that restrictions will be eased in the other countries soon, so hopefully, we can get back to sort of more normal life. We will see in time which country chose the correct route to minimize the damages of the pandemic.

As for us as a business, we try to keep everything as normal as possible, but of course, with appropriate security measures. As we are based in Denmark, a lot of our employees have to stay at home to take care of their children as schools are closed, but we still come to work, and our warehouse is functioning. We are receiving and shipping products to our customers but at reduced levels. We have seen an uptick in board games sales that are geared to families as people have found bard games to be a good pass time while quarantined, and probably gamers, in general, are playing more games with their families instead of with their normal gaming groups.

We hope this will be over soon and that the summer will allow us to go back to some kind of normalcy. Stay safe and take care!

Situation in South Korea

Our Korean partner Boardpia sent us:

The government of Korea has been doing well. Because we are located very close to China, it has been started two months earlier than in Europe or the US. But the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(KCDC) could handle it because they simulated such a situation last year. They have tracked every single person in Korea from Wuhan province, including places they visited and people they met.

Everything has been under control before the 31st patient. She kept lying and hiding her moving records in order to protect her church. She believes in a kind of heresy Christianity. Their strange way of worship made the virus spread. After 31st patient, a number of confirmed cases increased crazy pace. Now in Korea, we have 8,600 confirmed cases, and 80% of people believe the same religion or have been infected by the believers of that religion.

We trust the government and KCDC, nobody stock up food or daily necessities. Schools are closed, and the streets are quiet but no panic. Our office and the warehouse is working as usual. Most citizens try to do the best thing – wear the masks, washing hands, donate for people who need help, reduce the monthly rental fee for the small closed shops, retired nurses and doctors go back to hospitals voluntarily and etc.

I hope all this awful nightmare will pass soon. We can get over it as always. Before then, take care and stay away from crowded places.