Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How We Run Events (Tradecraft)

This is an article about how we run events. Our way doesn't work for everyone. We're in a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. We have a large population base, but not a large group of gamers, per capita, as say a more urban city like Berkeley or Oakland.

That means there are fewer game stores out here, serving fewer gamers, who have generally limited tastes, with at least half of them buying their games online. Store demography envy is a thing, and I often suffer from it, wishing we had more customers with more divergent interests. We would sell indie RPGs and artisanal miniature games all day long, if we could.

Pay to play is what we call our event structure, but in reality very few actually pay. Instead, every event, at a minimum, has a $5 cover price that goes directly to your store credit account. So you pay $5 and you get $5 of store credit. This ensures that customers are ... well ... customers. I see no value in non-customers taking up space and using my air conditioning. Warm bodies just screw up my ambient temperature, they don't help generate the extra $2000 a month I now need to cover our construction loan payments for the space they are using.

Games played must be games we sell in the store. Games we sell in the store have to meet sales performance metrics or they're dropped. When a game is dropped, such as when it becomes devalued and customers buy it primarily on line (like Warmachine), events will likely not last long. We don't run events so customers can play with the models they buy online. Our competitors do though. You might try there, while they're still in business.

Events must meet consistently to be effective. This means weekly. If you can run a D&D event every other week, we're not interested. If you want to occasionally run an event on a weekend, again, no go. Only games played weekly have a shot at surviving and only when they're run once a week.

Running board games twice a week means both events sabotage each other, especially during periods when attendance drops off, like the upcoming holidays. Even Magic, which will now be run every night of the week, will feature different formats, essentially different games.

Why do it this way? It keeps me from murdering my customers. Really, you wouldn't believe what we put up with before. There's nothing more abused, nothing that creates more resentment, that brings in more entitled people than free. Free means take a dump on my carpet. It's a sign flashing abuse me. We don't do free. This will turn away some customers, but that is alright. This is a premium position for a game store and honest to the gods, we try to run it like one. Our Return on Investment because of our build out was six years. We swing for the fences.

Open Play. We allow free open play only when the calendar is clear. So there's open play during the week days. There's open play on weekends where we have no events scheduled (since every week night has something scheduled). Open play is a failure on our part to come up with a compelling event, so it's not a thing we hope to have much of. Open play is not an option at any time an event is scheduled, regardless of space available.

In exchange for this managed model and nominal (non) fee, we have clean bathrooms, working air conditioning, strongly enforced polices that keep our space safe and secure, attentive staff and best of all, events that entertain and delight. The cost is ridiculously low for hours of entertainment. Thankfully our community supports us in this endeavor and our space was at capacity for years before our recent expansion.

Finally, thank you to the community that supported us during our expansion, especially those who contributed to our Kickstarter in 2014. I also want to thank those who continued to shop with us during expansion. You are why we're still in business. The miniature gamers were especially good to us, our Sunday Morning Skirmish crowd and our 40K crowd. Miniature games was the only category that went up during construction. Thanks so much!

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