Our recent article on in-store gaming events (see 'The Ins and Outs of In-Store Gaming Events') brought in this response from Chris Pollichemi of Altered States Game and Hobby in Syracuse, New York. Thanks, Chris!
In reference to your article on in-store gaming, Altered States Game & Hobby has been having weekly 'Saturdays' (gaming conventions) for almost three years now [click here for Altered States Website, where you'll find the current month's event calendar].
I do agree with most of the comments about in-store gaming that were reflected in your article. We have a 10,000 sq. ft. store with 5,000 sq. ft. for gaming. We coordinate play with staff/volunteers, work with manufacturer's to promote game play, sell snacks, charge entry fees on some events, provide prize support using the manufacturer support or store credit, and generally have a good time on the weekend.
Although in-store gaming space cannot directly be equated with sales (except for increased traffic for a product line, i.e. Mage Knight events) it does provide a number of other overall benefits.
1) Increased and targeted customer traffic. If I did not run Pokemon League every Saturday, I would not have 15-25 kids interested in Pokemon in the store every Saturday. Events help to motivate customers to visit the store more often and regularly.
2) Demonstrations are more critical, in my opinion, than stated in the article. Many games have stronger 'legs' of their own than others. When I say 'legs', I mean sales potential without special or additional promotion beyond stocking and merchandising the game. Magic has strong legs where as Magi-Nation did not when first released. We ran demos, events, tournaments, etc. for Magi-Nation and now we sell it at a very brisk pace. Even games that have strong legs like Magic still need demos and promotion. The Magic Academy has really helped to bring new Magic players in as customers. We attempt to demo or promote at least two NEW games per month. Our mall store has four small tables devoted to a rotating selection of games to demo 'on the fly' to walk-in customers. The biggest hurdle for most people when buying a new game is learning to play. We attempt to lower that hurdle as much as possible.
3) In-store gaming creates a gaming community that is highly visible and interactive. Previously I worked at a store that did not promote in-store gaming. I saw customers buy into and out of games based on their social structure. Do their friends play this game? Do they know anyone who plays this game? All of those problems or reservations are eliminated when on a weekly basis a customer can observe and meet between 4 and 100 people playing those games.
4) There are two general categories one can use to identify game customers that frequent a store with in-store gaming--the 'fun-play' customer and the 'tournament' customer. Fun-play customers purely enjoy playing games and it is their hobby/escape. They are usually the better overall customers when it comes to dollars spent in the store. The tournament customer plays to compete, win, and make some money. They usually do not buy much of anything from the store except when cashing in store credit, because they can buy items cheaper online. Anything they do win or purchase in-store with store credit has to have online resale value. I still call them customers because they do frequent the store to participate in your gaming events. Gaming events are a customer service provided by the store.
Providing customer service in the form of gaming events is really the key point. You are going that one extra step for the customer and many customers appreciate that. It has been a key to our success.
Thank you for the great articles and news you provide for retailers. It has been very beneficial to me personally. And thanks for listening to my ranting.