I’ve been to game stores in over a dozen countries. It was a bit of a feature of my world travels. So when I say Good Games Hurstville is the best one I’ve seen, that definitely has some weight to it. But enough of qualified hyperbole. Let’s talk about the why.
1. It has a bargain bin
I put this one first because most stores I’ve seen have figured this one out. But outside of the US, this isn’t as common as you might think. And many stores with discounts only offer them on second-hand material, but their core merchandise. Why not? Because it’s a niche market and people will buy things eventually (a copy of D&D is, until the next edition, never out of date), and because most game stores don’t have the kind of volume that suggest discounts. It’s not as if they order in bulk, and every unique item has its own shipping cost. Every item marked down is therefore lost money. Unless of course, it attracts gamers to your store over and over again, keen to see if anything might be marked down. It might even attract those with a love for material from the past, and if that market was small, Pathfinder wouldn’t be the juggernaut of 3E love it is. As someone who has spent most of my life dirt-eating, save-all-year-to-buy-one-game poor, a bargain bin tells me I’m welcome to the store even if I’m not there main source of income.
2. It has a game library
When I was a kid I used to dream of this concept: a place where you can go and play games for free. There are some wonderful game clubs that provide this dream, but because they’re clubs their only source of income are their club dues, which means they are often in terribly out of the way places. And being clubs, they can often be dominated by the mood of their members, whereas shops can afford to be a lot more strident about behaviour standards. But regardless, it’s a store with all the virtues of a club, so I can shop AND play at the same time. Two birds with one stone makes me a happy customer.
3. It has an enormous gaming space
What good is a game library without a game space? Again, most game stores know about this one (the Good Games chain in particular), but it’s not just about whether it exists, it is about the place it has in the store. At GG Hurstville, the store is far up the back and 90% of the space is dominated with tables and chairs. Not only is this a bigger and more comfortable space than most clubs, it’s also the first thing you see when you come in. That subconsciously tells you something about the stores priorities. Gaming isn’t something that happens here up the back, in whatever space we can squeeze in. Gaming is the primary thing that happens here, the first thing you see when you enter, the last thing you see when you leave, and buying things might be forgotten. Especially since all their updates on social media aren’t about new product but about what games are happening that day or night. The gaming not only never stops, it is front and centre.
4. It has a customer loyalty program unlike all others
Customer loyalty is another no-brainer, but again, it’s not usually done thoughtfully. Customer loyalty usually focuses solely on sales, because for the most part, that’s all a store offers. But a gaming store can offer so much more, so why not tie the loyalty to that? GG Hurstville gives you power-ups not just for buying games, but for playing games, joining tournaments, and running games. There’s also fun things like buying snacks and drinks, bringing friends along and lurking in the store for many days a month. All of these things add up to making your games cheaper to buy, the best possible reward. So not only is it a great place to be, I feel like just walking in the door is making me win valuable prizes. And I want to game there more, run there more and bring more people.
UPDATE: I scanned in the awesome loyalty card
so you can see how clever it is.
5. It has game swaps
The general objection to the these kinds of non-sale-services I’m listing is they don’t lead to more money for the store, so why bother? Which is nonsense because the less your store feels like a marketplace and the more it feels like home, the more people actually shop there, because it doesn’t feel like shopping any more, it feels like investing in something your have a share in. But this last one could be the exception, the one that sends GG Hurstville totally broke: they encourage people to bring in their old games and rather than selling them on second hand, they swap them directly with other people, with no money changing hands at all. Capitalism is dead, and gaming fun stands on top of its corpse like a triumphant Vallejo barbarian. But the very fact that this happens makes me want to not just buy stuff from this place, but go home and mail them cheques for being awesome.
Good Games Hurstville makes you believe in things, things like gaming being fun, and important, and a shared experience for everyone, something bigger than money and bigger than ourselves. Even if we know its just good marketting, we still love having that faith instilled and rewarded. And faith will outsell anything else, in the short term, and the long.
You can’t fake it, of course. You have to believe yourself. But if you build the religion, the faithful will come, and they will want to prove their faith with offerings.
So now you know.