Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University. This week, Thorne looks at Konami’s organized play announcement and shares a thoughtful piece by Chad Boudreau of ComicReaders in Regina, Saskatchewan on the future of games and organized play in their store.
Following up on last week’s column on what sort of changes we can expect to see in organized play over the next year or so, it looks as if, much like with Magic, we will not see any in-store tournaments from Konami until sometime in June. Also much like WOTC’s push to get players to participate in Friday Night Magic on Arena and encouraging stores to run their own tournaments on Arena, Konami is now offering stores the opportunity to sanction Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments on assorted gaming platforms, and instead of offering digital awards for participating, recommending that stores charge for the events and offer OTS promo packs as prizing, with the participants receiving the packs via whatever delivery method the store is currently using, or holding them for the players until the store opens back up. Record-keeping would be a bit of a hassle but for stores with a heavy investment in Yu-Gi-Oh! it might prove worthwhile.
After I asked in last week’s column for some thoughts from stores as to how the nature of organized play and game store retailing might change in the time of COVID-19, I received some thoughtful responses which I post here with the permission of the authors. This week, the response from ComicReaders in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
We sell comics, graphic novels, board games, CCGS, etc and have a game room that comfortably sits 48 people. We have been closed to the general public since March 23. We've been doing orders by phone, email, and Facebook and offering curb-side pick-up since then. We stopped holding events in the store on March 16, but even the week before attendance was down. Our provincial government has a plan to "re-open Saskatchewan" in May. Certain retail stores (we are included in that list) can reopen to the public starting May 19 but there are various restrictions. So that is where we are at the moment and where we expect to be through to the end of May.
I expect we won't be allowed to have in-store events when we re-open on May 19. Certain guidelines, I think, won't make that possible:
- Two-meter distancing between people in the store
- A maximum of 10 people in the store at one time
I also think even though we will be open there won't be a sudden increase in renewed interest in playing games at the store. The pandemic won't be over. Our numbers of active cases have decreased but each day there are still a handful of new active cases in the province. I think people are going to be very cautious.
We are fortunate that we have a relatively large store. We are currently in the process of redesigning our floor plan in order to allow 2 meters of space between each set of racks. We are moving some of our product into the game room because I don't think we're going to need that gaming space until at least July.
My overall concern about in-store gaming is how long before people are comfortable returning. I'm thinking it will be low numbers throughout the summer at least. Tournament fees, product purchases of CCGS and supplies. Not having that in the store is going to hurt. I'm not sure yet how to replace those lost sales.
I really think the release of Ikoria and Commander 2020 will be the litmus test for how heavily the pandemic has affected my Magic: The Gathering community. I've had inquiries and have taken pre-orders, so I'm optimistic.
For Dragon Ball Super, Yu-Gi-Oh, Cardfight Vanguard, Pokemon and Final Fantasy, sales have dropped significantly. Zero sales for Final Fantasy. It's a 70 - 90% decrease for the others depending on the game.
Changes to the model in the future:
- Communication to the gaming community about regional pandemic guidelines and restrictions and how that impacts in-store play.
- Communication to the gaming community about safe gaming in the store, if and when we are allowed to have events in the store. Surfaces wiped down. Hand-wash stations. No handling of each other’s gaming materials. No trade binders.
- I think miniature games are poised to return when allowed because players don't handle each other’s materials and distance between players is not an issue. Card games are going to be tougher. We'll do some tests around safe distance between players in regards to readability of cards, etc.
- Engage with your communities even if they are temporarily or permanently shifted to online versions of their games.
Owner/Manager, ComicReaders, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Next week, comments from Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs Ohio and the Chicago Board Game Café in, well, Chicago Illinois, as well as any other comments I receive. If you have comments on how you are adapting or how you see the future of organized play and game retail in general, I would be glad to received them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.