Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oddball Community

I've been thinking about a lot of the bad advice I got from other store owners before opening my store. Some, who now have failed game stores, informed me I would never make it this far. Owning a game store is not like being an employee of a business. If I post a question about a Cisco router to a tech forum, I can get decent information from anyone, anywhere in the world. The router is standardized, the engineer responding is likely certified, and there are only so many possibilities. If I ask a question in a game store forum I'll get a variety of answers, based on the variety of experiences and backgrounds of the owners. The responses are often wildly different and marginally useful.

Just about every game store owner who openly discusses the trade needs a little asterisk next to their name, with a footnote explaining their circumstances. Almost without exception, they've got an interesting story that informs everything they say. The list includes having secret Internet game stores that keep them afloat, family ties that launched them and keep them going, unique business models that can't be reproduced, ties into other tiers of the industry that provides them additional stability or insight, scandals or bankruptcies that put anything they say into doubt, and just a general lack of knowledge about various aspects of business they may be talking about. I'm not gossiping or casting aspersions, it's just the nature of small business, and I'm not exception. People start small businesses because of their eccentricities, and the nature of small business allows owners to become as eccentric as they can get away with.

On top of this, one size does not fit all in the game industry. Every business model is unique to its time and place, which is why you don't see a nationwide "Game World" chain. Advice given to me from a game store owner in the Midwest, who pays a quarter of my rent, is not necessarily valid. Likewise, my advice for quick turning of inventory because of the high cost of stocking it, isn't necessarily valid to those with low overhead. Some game store owners don't pay themselves. Some pay themselves too much. Some might get a salary, but work 80 hours a week, meaning they've internalized the costs of a second employee. Regardless of the owner, when getting advice from these people, consider not only their backgrounds, but their circumstances.


  1. I'm kind of glad there isn't a national chain. Games really benefit from the personal touch, and that's something that big chains really don't do well.

  2. Gary - I totally agree with you. Sometimes when people respond to certain stimuli on the GIN, it's like talking to people from entirely different industries.

    Silas - Big chains don't do well, but smaller ones can. I thought the Gamekeepers did ok. The downfall of the GK chain should be a book. Sadly, none of the principals is talking.