Board Game Stores Thrive in 21st Century, Provide Customers With 'Anti-Tech' Activities

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 3, 2014 12:00 am  

“Organized play is definitely something that any business in this industry has to focus on,” said Morgan at Imagine. “You have to have walk-in customers that are sort of regulars, like the ‘Cheers’ crowd. It’s very important to run events like that.”

“As far as guys coming in and hanging out, if somebody wants to grab a game of [Settlers of] Catan and sit and play it, they’re going to remember it,” Butler added. “And when they are ready to purchase the game, they remember they played the game at Imagine. Generally, it’ll trickle down to us.”

Profit and Pancake Parties

So how do these stores make money?

Traditionally, it’s been through collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering. Reeves said that the popular game accounts for about 60 percent of his sales.

On Friday nights, a Magic tournament might draw 20 to 30 people to Imagine’s play area. When new Magic sets are released, there might be close to 100 people in the store.

“What’s a really fun experience are the midnight releases,” Morgan said. “We turned those into pancake parties — we start at midnight and around 4 a.m., Gretchen cooks pancakes. We fed 92 people for the Return of Ravnica pre-release.”

But others, such as Wilhelmi at Game Goblins, are reluctant to rely on the old standard too much. He said Magic, including both product and events, accounted for 34 percent of his revenue in 2013, and he said he’s actually hoping to reduce that number.

“I think it’s too high,” he said. “A lot of people I talk with in the gaming industry feel there’s a bubble associated with collectible card games.”

“We’re trying to get to a point where Magic is still an important part of our business, but not one where if it were to suddenly go away, it would sink our business,” he said.

Otherwise, game shops profit by competing for discretionary dollars and making sure they aren’t competing too much against big online retailers.

The stores deal with this issue in different ways.



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