Indie Game Store

Indie Game Store

"Independent stores might have a small budget for local cable or movie theater ads, but they can't compete with the mega-chains' marketing muscle. 'Every Sunday you open up the paper and see these circulars for Circuit City and Best Buy, and it's a downer,' Halligan says. 'Every holiday season, Toys 'R' Us does this buy-two-get-one-free videogame thing. That kills everybody. All the independent storeowners go to Toys 'R' Us, and they buy tons and tons of stuff. With that deal it's cheaper than buying it at wholesale.'"

Kyle Orland talks to independent game store owners.

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Penny-Arcade actually was talking a bit about this a couple weeks ago.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/2007/11/07

Gabe's posts on the 7th and the 8th about the local GameStop, some interesting, if anecdotal stuff.

A kind of sad testament I guess is that I've been gaming for a long, long time now, and I can only recall being in one Indie story in all of the areas I've lived. Otherwise it's all EBGames, GameStop or FuncoLand, all of which I've learned are now really just GameStop operating with different names (although FuncoLands have since dissolved). I assume with good customer service and the right atmosphere, some game stores can do well, since at present probably 90% of game stores you go into are very sterile feeling with walls lined with new games, some bins with used stuff they want rid of, and the ambient noise of some displays endlessly repeating their demos.

I'm confused. Isn't the Toys-R-Us thing good for the little guys? The way that reads, they're buying the games for less than Gamestop or wherever pays the wholesaler, so they ought to be able to undercut them on the retail end too.

Meh...I never really knew independent game stores existed. The main places I've seen IG's is on Steam, or just over digital distribution in general. Then again, I don't even have many commercial game stores near me, so I may not be the best source of info.

Hey,

One thing that the article is missing is contact info/links for all these great independent retailers that you mention. I live in the Chicagoland area, and I would love an alternative to big box retailers and corporate stores. All my Google-fu has failed to turn up a link or phone number for Game Champs.

How about going back to the article and linking these folks, or putting their contact info in the comments?

Thanks

Along the lines of whereswill's question, for those in the Austin TX area:

Gamefellas is a small Texas chain; in Austin they're located in Northcross Mall (the only reason to go in there, unless you're into ice skating).

Game Over, on the corner of Lamar and Anderson Lane, doesn't carry new games at all as far as I can tell. They specialize in retro console systems (their wall o' Atari games is a sight to behold) and they're putting together a console museum in the back corner; I even saw a Virtual Boy in there.

Katana314:
Meh...I never really knew independent game stores existed. The main places I've seen IG's is on Steam, or just over digital distribution in general. Then again, I don't even have many commercial game stores near me, so I may not be the best source of info.

You are either really, really funny, or very, very short.

I just got a job at a Play N trade game store, not quite independent, but obviously not the Gaming empire that EB Games has become.

Yes, as a young'un, I did recall walking about a half mile to a local small sized game store to check out the latest in NES games and more importantly, older traded in games. Sure, Target and such had all the new games, but if I wanted to replace my battered cartridge of Pipe Dream, then I had to meander to this store and fork over $5.

One thing that does anger me about the EBGames/Gamestop monolith is the fact that they have the whole trade in aspect (good for game stores), but then now (at least in my area), they will neither accept nor sell anything earlier than last generation games. Excuse me, buy my PS2 can still play PS1 games just fine and they tended to be some of the better titles for the whole system, but then that just might be me.

Unfortunately the death of independent game stores, or any independently owned store in general in the States, is Americans' whinery about costs and fees, and deciding to throw money at stores like WalMart or EBGames, rather than spend the premium to keep your dignity.

The problem is that we're in a recession (ya know- that word nobody likes to say but is on everyone's mind) and, yes, price is becoming an important high point. I've switched grocery from a local market to Safeway for pick-up shopping (I do most of it at a military commissary, but it's a bit of a drive) simply because the average shopping trip at Safeway costs me 3/4 to 1/2 as much for largely the same products. Not bad when my money's being stretched every which way.

As such, now is a bad time to be the little guy who charges a little more for better service and the promise of not becoming corporate psychos like the guys at various Gamestop stores. That said, I don't SHOP Gamestop, and haven't in a couple years- if only because there are better deals then them out there if you're willing to look- but for the average gamer, being able to trade in a couple games they'll probably never play again to get a chunk off the new hotness is probably a tempting deal with prices rising across the board and ways of getting more cash ever-decreasing in the current job market. When I see a title I'm looking for going on sale at Target or Gamecrazy then, little guy be damned, I'm going to save a few bucks and buy it from the big boys and let the difference pad my thinning wallet.

When I'm making enough to live more comfortably and don't have to watch every dollar that flies out of my grasp, then we'll talk shopping for service instead of price and product. I still do that, when it's not that much more and the quality given is noticeably superior. But at most other-

... ooh, Target has 4 Gig Memory Sticks on sale for $34.99 on Friday. Maybe it's time I upgrade my PSP's storage...

I'm no expert, but since indie stores can't seem to beat the big boys in price terms I think their best bet might be to aim for novelty. While I was contemplating this article (ah, holidays) I tried coming up with examples of stores that don't need to exist but do, and do so successfully. My mind went immediately to those rather hip little stores and boutiques that sell unique products made by local or other independent artists.

So here's where I'm going with this: as we all know the casual gaming market is growing like a rash on a fat man (huh?) and traditional game stores such as our much, and legitimately, maligned Gamestop aren't the most pleasant places on earth. In fact, I'd rank them about par with the DMV. Thus, independent game store owners? For the love of god, don't model your stores on Gamestop. Consult an interior decorating book. They have them at the library. That would be rule number one, to lure in new consumers with an attractive environment.

Next, on my brainstorming session of inexperience: the novelty. Boutiques frequently carry products by local artists. For those of you who have never been on Etsy, there's a lively community producing game based arts and crafts ranging from kitschy to outright masterpieces. Contact these artists, ask to help sell their product. Prices on Etsy tend to be low, the crafters will frequently discount bulk purchases, etc. So now you're not just relying on mega expensive games to stay in the black, but also on perhaps more affordable products that both casual and hardcore gamers would lust after.

I guess my main point is that it seems the best way to do this thang, like any other thang, is to look closely at what other types of stores are doing and then adapt their methods to your own end. I know I kept mentioning clothing boutiques, and that's because the parallels between the two stores are so obvious. I mean, EB does stand for Electronics Boutique after all. Hell, I'd go into a hipster-ish looking 'Electronics Boutique' much more readily than I would an 'EB'.

I would like to address LordLocke's point of monetary issues though, because it's a good one. The 'typical' gamer (young males) probably won't have the income to support places I've attempted to describe. However, it's here that we come back to the growing casual gaming market. Say mom or girlfriend likes playing on the Wii (stereotyped example, but bear with me); will she feel more comfortable going into a typical Gamestop where she may get ignored or leered at, or an independent specialty store? I know which one I'd prefer.

All that said, I admit to having no experience in ownership of retail shops, only working them (and not game shops either). Feel free to pick my ideas apart one bloody, sinewy piece at time.

 

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