Monday, August 10, 2015

West Coast Game Store Tour 2015, Part Deux

Two key elements play a big role in the character of game stores in this section of our tour. The first is the liberal nature of Washington state liquor laws and the second is the role of the Internet in Canada.

Washington state will gladly issue a liquor license for a snack bar in conjunction with a retail establishment. This means you can serve beer in your game store without having to ban minors from the area (as we saw in Portland). The question of why doesn't my local game store serve beer is answered with the response: because it's not in Washington.

This means we have some interesting combinations of beer serving snack bars right inside a bunch of family friendly game stores, but this also means you shouldn't expect to replicate this model in your home town. Coffee is a thing though, and there's no reason why you can't have a cafe with just coffee, which is more of what we see popping up in California and other areas. The problem is coffee is so ubiquitous, it's not nearly as big a draw as a beer with your game. Still coffee shop, malt shop, ice cream shop, all viable elsewhere with different, somewhat easier to get permits.

The Internet in Canada is not a big deal. The small discounts are often eaten up by the high shipping plus the exchange rate is a killer. Internet game shoppers in Canada are outliers. What does this mean? It means game stores in Canada are an interesting microcosm of what stores in the US might have looked like if the Internet didn't play such a huge role in sales. As one Canadian friend says, Canadian game stores are stuck in around 1995.

You're not going to get those lower Internet prices, which is the supposed consumer good of the Internet, but you will get a game store with a lot more depth and breadth. Stores tend to have far more scope and fewer tables for organized play. The Internet has caused US stores to embrace third place theory and become tournament centers because the Internet has undermined the traditional retail model. Canada apparently still has kitchen tables, as I like to joke. Go home and play with your friends; there's retail happening here.

That's not to say there's no organized play, only that the insanely expensive dynamic of spending thousands of dollars a month for mostly empty space is not as prevalent. Game customers buy games in stores. This is a big reason why I'm visiting stores, trying to find options when straight retail is undermined.

Coming up at the end of the week is The Sentry Box, the largest pure game store in the world. Following that we'll be visiting smaller stores on our way back through Montana, Utah, Nevada and California.

Here's where we've visited since our last update, again you can see the vast number of photos (especially for Imperial Hobbies) on my Facebook page (marked public).

Seattle, WA: Solid venue for the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Serves beer and wine along with snacks. Store features video games and a few pinball machines, including a Gauntlet machine and the D&D pin. There's a relatively small selection of board games Magic and RPGs, but they're happy to special order.
— at Raygun Lounge.
Vancouver, BC: It's a mall store! Two thousand board games and a nice selection of RPGs, miniatures (Privateer Press) and gundam models. Half a dozen LAN stations. Two tables for play.
 — at One Stop Shop Cards & Games.

Vancouver, BC: Wow! 30+ year old store is packed with hobby supplies, games and comics. They're only 3,400 sqft but they're moving to a 5,500 sqft location soon. Not much game space but there's not much they don't have. Amazing.
 — at Imperial Hobbies LTD.

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