In our first article on in-store gaming events (see 'Ins and Outs of In-Store Gaming, Part I'), we talked to two larger retailers in different parts of the country about how they run gaming events in their stores. That prompted a response from another large retailer (see 'Pollichemi of Altered States on In-Store Gaming'), who also runs numerous game events. This week we spoke to two retailers with medium size stores that also use events to build sales: Chris Petitto of New World Manga in Livingston, New Jersey and Robert Nicaise of Dr. Bob's Game Shop in Huntsville, Alabama.
New World Manga is an 1100 square foot store with gaming space for 32 players. Located in a strip mall, it carries a full line of comics, with a specialty in manga. Manga properties are also emphasized in other categories, with DBZ and Gundam Wing toys taking space occupied by Batman and Spiderman toys in some comic stores. Although the space allocation doesn't show it, CCGs are the store's biggest category in dollars.
Dr. Bob's has 2400 square feet with 1200 feet of gaming space. The product line is primarily CCGs, as opposed to a full-line RPG, CCG, and miniature game store. Its top lines are Magic: The Gathering, Magi-Nation, and Lord of the Rings.
1.What kinds of events do you run?
Both of these stores run a number of mostly smaller events. New World Manga runs an average of seven to eight events a week for Magic, Star Wars (Decipher), WWF Raw Deal, Magi-Nation, MLB Showdown, Mage Knight, HeroClix, and Buffy. It also runs Harry Potter, Pokemon, and Magic Arena leagues, and is about to add the Magi-Nation league. Of the seven to eight events per week, most are concentrated on the weekend, for example, this week there are three on Sunday alone. The largest events are for Magi-Nation; they draw up to 45 players.
Dr. Bob's runs about six events a month for Magic and Magi-Nation, primarily sanctioned tournaments. The Magic events draw around twelve players each; the Magi-Nation around seven.
2.What about demos?
New World Manga runs demos for new games before beginning regular tournaments on the same night the tournaments will occur in the future, a clever scheduling nuance. Dr. Bob's runs no official demos, although there are informal ones.
3.Who runs your events?
At New World Manga, Petitto uses volunteers to help run games, sometimes provided by the game companies, and sometimes recruited from among the players at the store. Rule disputes and judging are done by a three judge panel, except for major decisions such as a disqualification. At Dr. Bob's, the events are run by owner Nicaise.
4.What kind of manufacturer support do you get?
Petitto singled out Interactive Imagination and Comic Images for their prize support. He said that the unique cards produced as prizes for Magi-Nation events drove the event size up in his store. He cited Comic Images' Raw Deal 'belt cards' as his favorite among manufacturer prize support for producing 'tremendous excitement' for his Raw Deal events, 'not as a rarity but because of their value in the game.' Petitto requires that belt cards played in games in his store be won there, adding to the cachet of his Raw Deal events. He feels that form of prize support, '...adds a storyline to the tournament outside of the game. Players are becoming the champions and they're recognized.'
Petitto's comments on other companies were mostly positive, calling Decipher 'amazing,' AEG a favorite, and Score improving with Buffy after an initial rocky experience with DBZ. He complimented Wizards of the Coast for doing a 'great job' on the Pokemon league.
Petitto felt that smaller games gained the most from the promotion of events, contrasting the New World Manga experience with Magic and Magi-Nation. 'Magic is so popular that we just run a weekly event and let it be,' he said. 'We don't need to promote Magic. For Magi-Nation, we've created the interest by concentrating on the product and promoting it.'
Dr. Bob's Nicaise was critical of his relationship with Wizards of the Coast, and effusive in his praise for Interactive Imagination. 'Interactive Imagination is fantastic,' he said. 'They provide prizes for sanctioned tournaments. They give us promotional cards and have a redemption program for fans to cash in on their web site....Interactive Imagination now has a way to print a poster for your event off their Website.'
5.What's the relationship between events and sales?
New World Manga's Petitto called the relationship 'dramatic.' With the except of MLB Showdown, Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh, and Magic, he felt that all other products' sales are completely based on the success of the events. For most games, he felt, there would be almost no sales with no events.
Dr. Bob's Nicaise said, 'There's definitely a relationship. I couldn't quantify it, but this is a very competitive tournament-oriented area, so without the sanctioned tournament the drive to buy cards would not be what it is.'
6.What are the keys to success?
New World Manga's Petitto noted the following keys to running successful gaming events:
Reliability -- so fans know that events won't be canceled without notice and run fairly
People that will be knowledgeable about the product
Run with enthusiasm
A commitment that the event will be given priority at the store, not just space.
Snacks and drinks pay for additional help that's sometimes required for events.
Dr. Bob's Nicaise had two simple keys to success.
Know the rules of the game you're running. If somebody asks you a question you need to be able to answer the question and not be wrong.
Make sure the players have fun.
That sounds like a good note on which to finish this article on gaming events.