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Author name #1
Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Subject: Independent Game Stores
Before I start, I have to admit something. Lawrence, I didn't know that you were the Lawrence mentioned at the Acts of Gord website. I finally put two and two together just over a month ago, when it dawned on me that it was the same Gamer's Edge store.

This afternoon I stopped by one of the better indy game stores near my home. It doesn't have the best selection or the best prices, but what it does have that I value is a staff made up of honest adults who bend over backwards to help me out. They're knowledgeable, honest, and they don't treat me with false familiarity or undeserved disdain. They run a business, and I have an appropriate and grateful status as just a customer. A related quality is that they don't suffer fools easily or often. Anyway, while I was there picking up some nice Playstation and Gameboy Advance rarities when another gentleman walked in, asking if he could buy an emulation console and/or USB controllers. Specifically, the clueless customer wanted something that he could load ROM images onto and play on a regular television, without the bother of all the software installation and configuration. The manager on duty was doing everything he could not to blow up at the guy, and after he left empty handed I said out loud:

"Hey man. I want to buy something that results in me not having to come in and buy anything else from you. You got anything like that?"

We shared a good laugh, and the manager opened up about how hard it is to keep a game store business going in a down economy. I observed that my copy of MechWarrior 2 rang up for $5, and that the GBA Lufia game was only $6. Lower prices than I expected, and while I'm not going to complain about the bargain I am worried about their long-term survival of game stores that don't anchor shopping malls and aren't backed by a large corporate debt cushion. I noticed before I left that one of the clerks was doing inventory and marking down prices, presumably in an effort to move some of the older stock.
Author name (Administrator) #2
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Member since May 2011 · 2473 posts · Location: Brisbane
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It was never easy to run an independent store, but with passion and a little business nous a proprietor can go a long way, even when times are down ('cause that's when people are dumping stuff). 

What makes it incredibly tricky is the EB that opens up across the road from you, trading nearly any three pieces of shit for a game that they're retailing for less than your cost.  We sold 175 copies of Final Fantasy VII when it came out, most of them at or slightly below cost to match WalMart's loss-leading strategy (we kicked their ass on all the prices of titles that sold in single digits) and our used selection - the profit center of our business was much harder to maintain when EB sold a rubbish game for ten bucks below cost and we sold it for ten bucks period.  Why trade it in with me when you can get three times as much at EB?

Of course the long-term view was lost: when I'm out of business and you're out of used games you're gonna be paying 50% more for everything...

Anyway yeah.  We had a three and a half year run of great customers and competitions and imports and obscure games.  We were the only store north of Vancouver selling the Neo Geo Pocket, and the only store I ever heard of renting Neo Geo CD machines and games, and taking everything in trade.

I've nothing but respect for anyone who can make a go of it now.
BLEARGH
Author name #3
Member since Jun 2011 · 15 posts
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Competing with EB will always be tough .. but Blockbuster just went down the tubes.. If Roger's shuts their doors as well, it should reopen that niche market for independent video rental stores. 

If you combined that with a game shop, you might just make a go of it.
Author name #4
Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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One of the problems with running a game store, in my estimation, is that you don't really know who your competition is because your market is always changing. You can try to be the niche provider, being the only guy in town who has 8-bit and 16-bit games, but then you're fighting ignorance and piracy. And then people complain that you don't have the latest releases. So then you try to be the catch-all game store that has one of everything, and then you can't get twenty copies of the latest annual sports game because you don't have the buying power of the electronics chain or the discount warehouse store. And then people complain that you don't have the latest releases.

Collectors who are after that copy of Suikoden II or Panzer Dragoon Saga don't come in often enough. They'll show up once, assess your store based on their experience, and then you might never see them again because they're from out of town. Parents who are trying to please their kids don't understand why used games have no manual, or why an Xbox game won't play in the PS3. They show up once to argue with you, and then you might never see them again because their kids grow up. So your regulars have to be young adults who are bored and waiting for life to start. They show up all the time, but they never buy anything because they have no money.

This is a puzzle. It's on my mind because it's been suggested more than once that I should apply my voluminous game knowledge towards the operation of such a store. I can generally hear the name of a game and tell you the platform(s), the developer, the genre and whether or not the game is worth your time. However, expertise doesn't necessarily lead to commercial success, as I've learned in my old age.
Author name #5
Member since Jun 2011 · 15 posts
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True ... and sadly adding to that, you'd probably make more money showing people how to use bittorrent.
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