I was waiting around for Michael to get back from Costco yesterday while the card players were filing in. There was a week long debate about requiring CCG players to buy a booster pack or some sort of gift certificate to play in the back. As it turns out, we are over capacity for the game center, meaning we would like to expand certain events but we're out room. This got me looking at events that weren't doing anything, events that took up half the game center and are virtually invisible. When I say virtually, it's because I login from home the next morning and according to the books, nothing happened. Nobody was there. Yet I'm told it was packed. Huh.
So while I was waiting, I grabbed a piece of paper and a calculator and started crunching numbers. Rent, divided by the square footage of the game area, using only the hours of peak operation (6-10pm), and then divided by our capacity, around 50 seats. There we had it: $3.50, roughly the cost of a booster pack for a card game. This morning when I added in electricity, it got us to around $4.00, which is the cost of a booster pack.
As I see it, it is up to me to fill those 50 seats. That's my job. It's up to the customer to decide if they think it's worth $4.00. $4.00 is a starting point of course, but it at least justifies the basic expenses of the space. If I considered the game space as a percentage of our overall operations, I would be expecting an $18 commitment from each player, which isn't realistic. That happens but three times a year, and we call it Magic.
With the game center frequently filled to capacity, we risk the Yogi Berra saying: "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded." Increasingly, we have little room available for free play. This mostly happens during our peak hours with scheduled events. I think it means players need to consider getting on board our schedule. In stores without free play, you show up on the scheduled night to play your game, or you don't play there, ever. We may become one of those stores, if only because of space limitations. Sure, come play Warhammer 40K anytime you like, but the only guaranteed spot is Mondays and league days. This was never my intention, but I also don't consider it an especially bad thing.