Saturday, August 15, 2009


As a bunch of mostly white guys gather in a mostly white state to celebrate their creaky hobby, wondering its eventual fate and celebrating the past as their adherents grow grayer and rounder, we at the store were noticing something different. We've been tapping into the enormous demand for Yu-Gi-Oh, and other, mostly Japanese card games. The revelation of the week, as the game center filled up, is that a large proportion of the kids who attend, and it's mostly kids, are Asian-American and Hispanic. It's pretty surprising, considering that most of our games tend to have a pretty monochromatic crowd, mostly white guys getting grayer and rounder (me included).

Well, duh, say many store owners. Where have you been the last decade? For us this was a new revelation. It was mostly me, kicking myself, for not seeing it earlier. Due to some rowdy teenage behavior, we nipped our Yu-Gi-Oh crowd in the bud last year. Their mayhem led to rampant theft, dangerous behavior, and most importantly: they were pissing off our Magic crowd. Yu-Gi-Oh was gone. With the Magic crowd smaller, and with fantastic Yu-Gi-Oh organizers (Matt and Anna), the game is finally being managed properly, and this Summer has seen fantastic growth, while Magic has stayed fairly constant (although sales are huge because we have product).

Matt was a little panicky when our numbers hit twenty people for Yu-Gi-Oh. Then last week it hit twenty-seven. He took it in stride. As I was leaving yesterday, we were at thirty-one and counting and he was calmly entering names into the laptop. Today we have a Yu-Gi-Oh sneak peak, a pre-release for the new set. We're the only store in the county holding one, mostly because we're the only store with enough game space. Based on the endless phone calls this week, more than I've ever received (probably because it's parents), I'm expecting a big turnout today.

I don't want to be too crass, but the next question is how can we sell other stuff to this crowd? We've considered a lot of these anime based games to be on the fringe of the game world, whereas for our newly realized demographic, perhaps they play a more prominent role. I also can't help wonder how I can transition these gamers into the other games we sell. Is there an anime based role-playing game that would appeal? Is there a miniature game that would grab their imagination? Are they open to those hobby game experiences, or are cards a fast paced diversion from more popular entertainment options, like video games and movies? I think it's the latter.

Part of the equation, besides race, is also youth. These are our youngest customers. How many young kids have we introduced to Dungeons & Dragons over the last year? Maybe half a dozen. How many new 40K players have been kids? An equally small number (GW claims to do a better job with their stores). What's the average age for Friday Night Magic or D&D RPGA attendees? My guess is around 21. Board game night probably averages around 35. When the various advertisers come in and try to spot analyze the business, they immediately claim, "Oh, you sell kids games." I wish it were true, but our customer base is much older, and that should worry the game trade.