Mage Knight maker WizKids has opened a retail store with an extensive play area in Redmond, Washington.  The store is in a strip mall location formerly occupied by Games and Gizmo, which was a small Seattle-area chain.  According to WizKids EVP Martin Stever, the store is located next to one of the two big movie theaters in Redmond, and near a pizzaria.  As Stever put it, 'Every high-school kid in Redmond will see us.'   The store carries both the products of WizKids and those by other manufacturers, including Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast.  Stever told us that WizKids has no intention of opening more than one store.  'We're not Games Workshop or Wizards of the Coast,' he said.  The store is 3600 square feet in total, with around 2500 square feet of gaming space.   

The main purpose of the store, according to Stever, is to playtest WizKids games at multiple stages of development.  Although the company considered renting playtesting space from another retailer, it was felt that this store would provide the opportunity to recruit playtesters at a variety of levels of gaming expertise -- from novices to four-night-a-week gamers.   The company feels that it tests in advance of release as much or more than any other game company, with playtesting at three phases of development for each game.  This process culminates in the third, most difficult phase in which the points of the new figures and other game elements are 'balanced' for optimum play.  It's this last stage, which is related to WizKids unique 'dial' system for its figures, that is the most important reason for such extensive play testing.  And as Stever said, 'It's not convenient to bring high school kids into our offices to play.'