Sunday, January 3, 2016

Opportunity to Work Hard (Tradecraft)

Some people believe game stores are demanding price protection. In the case of the Asmodee and Mayfair, game companies are employing policies to restrict online selling or restrict deep discounting of their product. There are two parts to this. First, publishers recognize hobby game stores provide a valuable marketing service and sales channel for their product. They've said as much. Second, and this is on our end, game stores aren't looking for protection or a handout, game stores are looking for the opportunity to work.

The opportunity to work means we're looking for games we can sell and promote, through our hard labor, that will provide us benefit and allow us to leverage our talents. It's the kind of work everyone is looking for. Nobody really wants a free ride. Everyone wants to be valued and they want to use their talents. Having this opportunity is a shot at being great.

When it comes to collectible games, being great means running quality events, which are insanely resource intensive, with the expectation that we'll be a valid source of product for the majority of our customers. We run events; we sell stuff; profit. For example, nobody wants to run a Cardfight Vanguard event, only to discover Potomac is selling booster boxes near cost. The result of that scenario is events are canceled or marginalized as we shift resources to better opportunities.

When it comes to board games, our game trade experts have shown that intensive game demos will increase sales 400%. That means if we work hard, have trained staff, space to run demos and enough inventory predictability, we can leverage this opportunity with hard work to be wildly successful. It's not easy. Not everyone can do it. It takes a ton of resources and training. That's the point. That's our value proposition and our opportunity in the marketplace.

When a game is perpetually at cost on Amazon or the supply chain is weak, or there's a limited amount of inventory slosh after Kickstarter backers get their copies, then we're unable to leverage our skills. There is no opportunity. We move on. Fixing these problems on the publisher side allows us opportunity. No hand outs here, just a shot at success. What everybody wants.

Game stores are shifting away from games that don't provide strong organized play or that don't provide good in-store value. The best examples are miniatures and role playing games. These are the two areas in my store that see the least growth and energy, and it's a combination of price pressures (geez, books, right?) and poor event service. New game stores often shy away from these segments of hobby gaming. You can personally step in and champion these games as a store owner, but as a system, they tend to provide limited opportunity.

A store can survive with minimal effort. My first store had no game space, minimal demos, a sad lack (but growing at the time) amount of product knowledge, but it survived because I ran it like a traditional store. I listened to customers. I ordered what they wanted. I managed inventory like a fiend using every tool in the box. That allowed me to survive, but not prosper. Who wants to just survive?

Nowadays, game stores need to go well beyond traditional retail if they want to be prosperous. A great store needs that opportunity to work hard and do their job. Stocking the shelves and counting turns is not enough to be prosperous, which nowadays just means a middle class lifestyle. Does your store have the talents to move from getting by to prosperity? If you're a publisher, does your game provide that opportunity?

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