The Game Industry Forum and the Comic Book Industry Alliance, two popular Internet discussion forums for the members of their respective trades are sponsoring an effort to create an organization that would include both comic and game retailers. The two forums are creating a series of committees made up of retailers that will decide how the new retailer organization should be structured. Discussions will take place on The Foundation, a Delphi forum for retailers sponsored by the Game Industry Forum.
In a press release about the new organization, the organizers, Robert Scott and 'Vern' Vernazzarro, cited the growing interdependence between the comics and hobby game industries. Their hope is that an association of game and comics retailers would have sufficient membership to have some clout in dealing with publishers, manufacturers, and distributors, as well as enough members to be financially stable. The one requirement for membership is that 'Applicants must consider themselves first and foremost retailers, with retailing being their primary occupation. Only owners and management of comics and hobby game retail businesses are eligible.'
Many hobby game retailers have been members of the Game Manufacturer's Association (GAMA), the game industry trade organization, which includes retailers and distributors as well as manufacturers. A dispute within the ranks of GAMA, which concerned the number of retailers on the organization's board of directors and the voting rights of retailers (see 'Gama Membership Dispute Continues') undoubtedly provided some of the impetus for this new push to create a cross-category organization for pop culture retailers. But the relative inactivity of the sole remaining comic retailer organization, PACER, which last updated its website in April of 2000, means that there is a void of retailer organization on the comic side as well.
Comics and game retailers do have quite a bit in common. Many comic shops carry collectible card games (and RPGs as well), and many key properties such as Dragonball Z, Pokemon, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are licensed for both comics and games. More to the point, the dominant distributors in both comics and games (Diamond Comic Distributors and Alliance respectively) are both wholly owned by the same person, Steve Geppi. Many retailers feel that a strong retailer organization would put some balance back in the distributor/retailer relationship. The total pool of potential retailers for this organization is estimated at between seven and eight thousand.
While the organizers of this new effort want to make it clear that they want to create a democratic organization which will determine its own priorities, Robert Scott, who runs the Comic Book Industry forum on Delphi, told ICv2 of some potential issues that a retailer organization could tackle. These include such elements as resurrecting the old IADD rack program, with coop help from publishers if possible, or if not, lowering the cost via bulk purchasing power. Business and health insurance are typically areas in which retail trade organizations are able to bundle their purchasing power and provide their members with lower rates, while credit card processing is another potential area where the organization could aid individual retailers. Both comic and game retailers have had potential legal problems stemming from either lawsuits or legal action from authorities intent on censoring what is sold in retail stores. A strong retailer organization could work with CBLDF and GAMA to help retailers who are under legal attack.
The organizers are hoping to create a broad-based organization with a large membership. They want to keep dues very low ($25 per year) so that the vast majority of retailers will find joining the organization very attractive. Previous attempts at creating powerful comic industry retailer organizations have foundered on the issue of what were perceived as extremely high membership fees. By adding game retailers to the mix and keeping dues low, the organizers hope that they will be able to create an organization that has both a large membership and financial stability.