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Ultimate Gaming Retail Emporium

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:38 am
by Vance
MISSION: To create the coolest game store in the universe.

RETAILING: New and used console games. Possibly PC games (depending on local buying habits). Depth of vintage trade-ins TBD (our existing store goes to Atari 2600).

SERVICES: Disc resurfacing. Possible repair service. Demo kiosks.

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC: Primary: Males 18-35. Secondary: Er not sure with the woman. Tends to be a bit younger, obviously.

BUDGET: Generally keep all costs as low as possible. The first rule is build it, borrow it, or steal it. The only things I can think of that require you put forth the appropriate pay are the location and employees. Speaking of which:

LOCATION LOCATON LOCATION: One of the ONLY two items where you should spend more money are this and the next subject, hiring.

For location, you want the best possible. Try to emphasize a good price and you'll wind up with something shitty. Try to go middle of the road and you'll have to have serious marketing chops. Find the right place, on a major road or in a busy mall, and the money will come straight back to you.

But BE OBJECTIVE. Not all landlords have the same idea of what's fair. One landlord on my street wanted $5,000 a month. I passed... and I'm now right next to that spot, paying $1,500. Call EVERY number you see on the signs, and mark the places on a map or chart.

The best policy is to set your price and don't go a dime above it. It's easy to think a place will make up for the price, or that you can make it work. In business you're minimizing your risks, and that means sticking to a solid plan.

HIRING: Be extremely picky. Work the store yourself as long as it takes. Most of the people asking for a job are shemps who just won't work out. My first hire was done at the time I was making enough money, but I made the mistake of hiring the first person who wasn't a mouth-breather. After repeated warnings that he wasn't to offer to mod customers' PSPs (I have a zero tolerance policy on that shit in-store), he fucked up a few times and I had to let him go. Don't be afraid to keep them happy by paying them above minimum wage; it's a great motivator and the sales they generate should ideally make up for it.

Let me stress that excellent employees WILL come along. Not often, but reliably. Wait, wait, wait until that happens. And don't be afraid to offer a job to repeat customers who you know are good people. My best two employees were hired this way.

DRESS CODE: Variable. If more adults are shopping for their kids, some kind of matching shirt scheme might be wise. If it's more the young crowd, no dress code or employees should be encouraged to wear game-related shirts (the only dress requirement at my store is that employees at least wear pants)

HERE'S THE BIG SECRET: People will think of you based on your own enthusiasm more than what your store is. I find that people absolutely love my shop when I say "Yeah, this place is going to be awesome. We're going to have this and that and this and that..." In America, at least, people are sick of Gamestop and that plays really well in my favor.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:39 am
by Vance
Half for 3DOKid's benefit, half for mine, I thought I'd start a loose business plan as a guide and reminder. The top post shall remain a changing document as we have ideas and suggestions that I like. And for now, it's mine, so what I say goes.

It's probably going to start as a really loose, nebulous document, and I'll solidify it into plan form later.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:40 am
by 3DOKid
compulsory bikini's for 18 - 40 year old women.

Re: Ultimate Gaming Retail Emporium

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:52 am
by 3DOKid
Vance wrote:HERE'S THE BIG SECRET: People will think of you based on your own enthusiasm more than what your store is. I find that people absolutely love my shop when I say "Yeah, this place is going to be awesome. We're going to have this and that and this and that..." In America, at least, people are sick of Gamestop and that plays really well in my favor.
This. People have only two choices in the UK. Game or Gamestation (which is owned by Game) both of which provide a very clinical 'game buying experience'. I honestly believe people want something new.

My idea was a Apple Store + Indi Game + Jap/US + cute girls...

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:09 am
by Vance
I'm honestly amazed at the five star reviews I see when I just bothered to engage people in conversation. What they write tends to be exactly what I tell them. Keep the enthusiasm up (I have massive trouble with this) and you're probably golden.

Also, no idea if your Apple fans are like ours, but I'd need a glass barricade between sections to keep everybody from killing each other.

And if I were to open that beach bar, you know the employees would be female, attractive, and encouraged to show up for work in their best swimwear.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:36 am
by Silentman
Will you open an online-store?

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:59 am
by Auto-Fox
Two words.
Open bar.
Seriously though, I think a good business practice would be having a system set up to let people test their purchases before buying them. Quality assurances are all well and good, but it's best to be sure, especially to people who have been burned in the past by broken games and systems.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:20 pm
by mattyg
compulsory bikini's for 18 - 40 year old women.
No I will not wear a bikini for them. :wink:

Vance is pretty much on the money for everything else.

Location within budget but as close as possible to your demographics' foot traffic.

Too close and you're gonna pay too much - too far and no one will show.

Gotta check local laws on selling/trading secondhand goods - here it involves a special licence and police check.

Trading hours will depend on traffic and location.

Apple will not generally distribute to independants - you have got to have "special Apple training" (read propaganda ), to be a reseller and your "image" needs to be approved by them and x amount of floor area - generally bastards to deal with.

What style you go for will be dependent on location - an arty university precinct will expect a cool grunge appearance , upmarket locales expect lots of glass and chrome and less clutter.

My biggest profit margin comes from plush toys if that info helps. Avoid cheap knock offs - you are better off paying for quality.

I don't know how your VAT works but would need to be addressed in costings - but that's just general commonsense.

We have 2 major and one minor games chains here - EB , Game and Gametraders. Gametraders is the only one that will deal with anything older than PS2 so we have a huge gap in the market here.

If you went down the PC route you could possibly run a small amount of hardcore gaming hardware - but keep your stock as low as possible - you don't want to get stuck with that kind of stuff.

I see many try and fail due to pricing. Some places just don't know what to do with say a heap of PS1 games so they mark it all down to x amount and put it in sales bins - of course guys (and gals) who know what they are doing pick the cream off for a bargain and the seller is left with an inordinate amount of FIFA and Madden games that just sit there when they should have been less than half the marked price.

Good website is a no brainer.

You should also look at inventory costs aiming for at least a turnover of that amount in your first year but ideally you want two to three stock rotations a year.

Give potential staff a "retro" quiz to fill out to get them thinking when applying.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:03 pm
by 3DOKid
I wasn't intending to open an Apple store, just an Apple-like store. Where people can actually play the stuff. The Game stores round here don't have playable demo pods anymore. Just a billion copies of Fifa xx and Barbie games. As for selling Apple stuff, I'd rather chew an arm off anyway ;)

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:09 pm
by mattyg
As for selling Apple stuff, I'd rather chew an arm off anyway

thank God for that!

and you are dead right Interactive Display Units or IDU's as they are known in the industry are usually the realm of the big dept stores - a few of your own custom ones would be a nice touch (pun intended)

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:36 pm
by 3DO Experience
I like the gaming related clothing, you could also have store shirts too just make it so employees wear either the store shirt or something game related. Don't forget most of your customers are male so v-neck and shirts cut for females are a good idea. :wink:

Don't make them wear something that isn't true to them... ie what the kids are wearing. We cold always see through that when we were children, also none of the crap they pull in Hot-Topic. The kind were someone comes up to you and says "Oh yeah! <insert name of logo, band, cartoon, game that you are looking at> is so cool, I loved it when I was younger." I want to poke out those people's eyes. If one more man comes up to me when I'm looking at Ninja Turtles and he pulls that crap I'm gonna kill him. I dare you to try and quiz the next one that says they used to watch it, 20 to 1 they don't know who Baxter is.

Posted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:25 pm
by Vance
Too close and you're gonna pay too much - too far and no one will show.
There's always a way to find a place that's "too close". It requires either thoroughness or patience. I got this spot by being a tenant in the building when the old porno shop closed down.
Gotta check local laws on selling/trading secondhand goods - here it involves a special licence and police check.

True this. Keep in mind that most people at a Board of Equalization or other licensing body will often not know how to categorize business models that sprung up less than 30 years ago, and will often try to lump a business in with pawn shops.

Pawn shops have rather prohibitive rules governing them, and registering as one is asking for trouble. There is ALWAYS an alternative. Of course, I got off on the precedent; Gamestop doesn't register in this area.

Most areas, the worst you'll need to do is send any serial numbers off to the police and sit on the console for a few weeks while they wait for a theft report. Games, not having serial numbers, can be put on the shelf immediately.

Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:01 pm
by Vance
Okay, let's hash out these demo kiosks so I can add those. I don't bother with the things anymore, but might again in the future. Why? Because you are always going to get kids who sit on it for hours on end.

At Babbage's we solved this by calling "17", meaning breaker 17. Whoever was closest to the office would go flip the breaker to reset the unit. ANother good solution was to only use demo discs that limited play time to a few minutes and thus the longevity of the experience. Unfortunately, demos like this are getting pretty rare.

I had two 50" screens that I charged for blocks of time. Once a week we had 8-player Halo games where players would pay a smaller chunk for a few hours, because that way I was sure to at least get a ton of players all paying at once. Definitely worth it.

Of course, the area I was in, I almost got attacked when I took the controller away from somebody who just came in and sat down, unpausing my own game I was playing during the slow hours.


Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:17 am
by 3DOKid

Empty shops put people off coming in, so if people want to play I don't see too much of a problem. I guess you just have to police it.

I like demo pods but broken consoles or a game not in attract mode is ugly so... and then bullies on them all day too suck it and see I guess

My plan was to have enough space for a smallish network that would double as a cybercafe / class room where the posh foreign kids here could go, and i could teach grannies to browse and little kids to hack. (My only real talents)

Where I live is pretty nice. There are about 30,000 people and very few shops. No game shop, an over priced computer store out of the way and a real up market and limited cyber cafe.

There is also a mega posh private school, packed with rich asian kids. They just roam the streets politely begging you to buy cigarettes for them

I figured I just needed some space, some money and some time. All of which comes next year.

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:47 pm
by Trev
Big things happening next year?

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:40 pm
by Austin
Excellent idea for a thread, Vance, and there is a lot of great info here indeed. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. :)

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:54 pm
by Vance
Okay, you're talking more internet/gaming cafe than demo units. Got it.

We were thinking of doing something similar, but I never had the money to get enough high end computers. Had a genius little plan for it, though. We were going to use SmartLaunch, which needs a good tech head to keep it running but sports an impressive interface for keeping track of players, desktop lockouts, etc. You can even set the thing up to allow customers to pay a chunk in advance and used menus to order a drink straight from their computer, debiting it right from the account. It also had loose support for thumbprint scanners, if customers didn't want to bother typing in their name and password. And the license is only per computer.

It has a free trial, so when you're getting ready I suggest you test it.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

Some districts have special rules concerning internet cafes. Here in LA, for example, minors aren't allowed in during certain hours. If your district is somewhat archaic and doesn't have rules for such a place, they may try to shove you into a different category. That may actually work to your advantage, but do your homework.

Also, game companies hate the shit out of you. Especially Valve! If you install the commercial version of Steam, they'll eventually find out and start locking your customers' accounts. You need to pay them for "cybercafe" Steam, which hasn't been updated since the Cold War began and doesn't support quite a lot of their games. For instance, you can't play the HL2 episodic content, but you can get... Pizza Frenzy.

I hate Valve.

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:01 pm
by Vance
Oh, and the FIRST thing you're going to want to do is find as many distributors as you can. This is one of the most guarded things in the industry, and most of what I found were people offering shitty books with suppliers that probably had no bearing on my business. There are only a handful of big suppliers in the US, and you need at least one.

Big suppliers will usually only give you a 15% discount (which is average, to be honest) but will sell you what they have without prejudice or jacking up the price. Smaller wholesalers can net you better deals, but during the Wii Fit shortage they wanted more than the retail price out of me. Smaller suppliers all know each other and gleefully rip each other off, so you're at the mercy of a smaller internal economy.

I prefer paying the higher price for two reasons; the experts actually know the economy, have a ton of customers, and thus have no reason to encourage you to buy shitty games. Second, they give me price protection, meaning if a game's value drops, I get reimbursed.

As a side note, here's what you need to know when ordering quantity: If demand is higher than production, different companies will cut different ways. Square and Sony cut everybody evenly; if they only ship 75% of the pre-orders, I'll get three copies for every four I ordered. Nintendo and Electronic Arts (I'm not sure on EA, actually) cut from the bottom priority and send everything to Wal-Mart and Gamestop; you probably won't get anything from them at launch unless you ordered a shitload.

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:42 pm
by 3DOKid
Distributors. Yes. My plan with Distributors was to Superstar them and hope for the best. Yes! It's a crap plan. I believe the game disti situation in the UK is the same and I 100% agree with paying >1% for expertise. Lowest bidder is what makes local government suck in the UK, and I recognise that.

Cyber Cafe bit. I'm a commercial network ace. That's all I have done for 15 years. Particularly the secuirty side. My advice, don't over complicate. Complication = sorrow, sadness, cost and ash on head. F**k that. I intended to go with, a bit of paper, skey and a printer and a bootp server. Rebuilds evertime right? ;) (and maybe a "17" kill switch...) ...and a lot of personal charm. And I'm not using Windows. It'll look windows, but when they are browsing, it will be Linux all the way. That way I can control everything.

Why do you need ace computers? I was thinking mediocre computers... (at best) \I suppose for modern games but... (Teaching granny to hack doesn't require a lot of CPU Grunt right?)

Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:04 am
by Vance
It really depends on your needs. My own plan was to do mostly high-end computers, about 40, and have a few low-end computers in a separate section for all the Japanese businessmen and tourists who wanted to e-mail home and such.

If you intend to make it a profitable lan gaming thing, you generally want to offer the best of computers. But like I said, that's only if you're looking to fill them at peak hours (generally necessary unless you want to let it coast on your mainline profits, but I see the internet cafe business as more profitable in the short run, until you get your used game sales up). Fact is, the vast majority of your business comes from the latest bleeding edge stuff. In retail, you want to encourage the trade-ins to cheapen the latest Call of Duty game that you'll definitely be selling a large stack of. In LAN gaming, you don't have too many options. Nobody wants to pay a few bucks an hour to play a five year old game. Not in the quantity you need, anyway.

As far as controlling the user experience, if you're comfortable using whatever, go for it. I've found that Windows Server 2003 combined with good networking software does the trick while keeping people out of potentially harmful areas like the desktop and system folders. Plus, SmartLaunch's aesthetic and menus help keep it pretty simple. The best feature, in my opinion, was that it created individual save folder accounts for each user login, allowing customers to play single player games just as well as multiplayer. Wherever you logged in next time, it would download your save files, even personal documents and whatever else you created, onto the PC.

But you'd actually know a lot more than me there.

Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:43 am
by 3DOKid
Gaming ignorance alert. Do LAN games still appear on the 360/PS3?

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:39 am
by Vance
There WAS a LAN cable for 360 in my database, but it got delisted. With the rise of affordable fast internet, I think LAN networking for consoles is on the way out.

But I'm honestly not sure.

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 5:13 am
by 3DO Experience
Vance wrote:If you install the commercial version of Steam, they'll eventually find out and start locking your customers' accounts. You need to pay them for "cybercafe" Steam, which hasn't been updated since the Cold War began and doesn't support quite a lot of their games. For instance, you can't play the HL2 episodic content, but you can get... Pizza Frenzy.
Well, couldn't you pay them for "cybercafe" Steam and then just run the commercial version? That way if they hear about you having their games your name will be on the paid list and they won't investigate. Or would they still look into it?

Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:56 am
by Vance
Yes, for some reason they are very stupid militant about this. Imagine Gabe Newell as an insane militia member from one of those backwoods buttrape states towards the northwest and you start to get the idea.

Posted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:26 pm
by Vance
I don't know if I covered this, but there is one way and one way only to make money off a game store: Copious amounts of used crap.

Examine the profit margin on these new price points and what I pay at wholesale:

$20 - $16-17
$30 - $25-26
$40 - $32-34
$50 - $42
$60 - $50-52

Now at $1,500 a month for the store, I'd have to sell about 150 $60 games a month, or roughly 5 a day (this is very rough math, of course). Or put it another way, in sales of $20 games you'd need to sell up to 17 units a day.

And the nightmarish part is that this is actually a really inexpensive place that I only got by virtue of living directly above it. Expect to pay a good deal more.

The obvious answer is to not get into the game business, but if you must, the answer becomes used games and anything else your customers will buy. I stock absurd sodas like Leninade and Rat Bastard Root Beer (Fukola Cola is incredibly strong, just so you know). When the temperature hit 111 last week, I ran out fast.

Now. Guess what Gamestop is currently giving in trade-in value for Dissidia? Six bucks. Seriously, six. You know how much better eight sounds? Enough that I'm the destination of choice for people who know I exist. Even with a 20% reduction when people want cash instead of trade value, i tend to clean up. If only sales came as fast.

Problem is, who are you appealing to? People who want stuff in good condition, or people who want stuff cheap? I feel like it's lowering myself to cater to the later part of the statement, but in this economy I have to. Here's another problem; these people will bring you games they scraped against a brillo pad or some such bullshit and expect you to take it. I tested a stack of discs, most of them didn't work. The guy gave me a sly smile and said "Guess I'll go to Gamestop" as if me catching his rip-off was all fun and games.

I took them to the front door and wow. That plastic is resilient, but it does break.

A final word of advice; don't let people barter. It just won't ever stop. I let some guy with his grown son's collection get away with a bit of it, but then had to put up with no less than ten (!) requests that I could pay him another $27. In check, if I didn't have the cash. Over and over. And people who know you barter will try it on EVERYTHING. I just sold a Zapper for ten bucks. The guy wanted it cheaper. An NES Zapper. Ten bucks. You just know he'd try to get a free soda out of it.

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:56 pm
by 3DOKid
Once a week I go into town. I have a secret cigarette (shhh, tell no one, i don't smoke), a cup of coffee, and I watch hundreds of middle aged women wander the local town bored, completely, shitless. And they are all alone, lost and lonely.

You can see it on their faces. They are dying. Like salmon, they spawn and head to the supermarket to die. They aren't stupid, or useless, only misguided.

I can save them.

I'm going to teach middle aged women to set up computers, Linux , to hack and to play video games. And they will make me cakes. Preferably Victoria Sponge with strawberrys.

This is my dream.

Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:00 am
by 3DO Experience
Seriously Vance, the game companies really charge you that much? That's insane. Mark-up in most stores is generally massive, furniture stores can do 1,000's of percent mark-ups, even book stores, $25 book is purchased from the publisher for $2. I'm not making these numbers up. It's no wonder there are so few games stores.

Posted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:07 am
by Vance
Profit margins on new games are honestly like that, yes. If I'm LUCKY, I'll find $16 for $20 MSRP, and $48 for $60.

Also, I don't deal directly with the game companies. They won't ever sell to me or even field my calls unless I'm spending tens of thousands a quarter on their product alone. I have to deal with middlemen most of the time. Some companies are actually pretty cool and will deal with you, such as XSeed, and Capcom was nice enough to supply me with a list of middlemen (a hard commodity to find, everybody wants to sell you this information). Sometimes Sony will send a few promo items if I get the right person on the phone. But Nintendo gives me a flat no and Microsoft transfers me about fifty times to various departments until somebody tells me to go do things to my own anatomy.