Monday, September 6, 2010

It's not easy being a bulwark...

Cash Johnson once again, this time with a somewhat-game-related subject, but not any game specifically. This post is more about my being a hardcore gamer, the difficulties of being non-neckbeard, and the work I put in trying to keep the local RT in business. It all started when I was about 9 or 10, and my cousin got me into AD&D - more accurately, I found out about it but wasn't allowed to play since I was a little kid and all. Not to be denied, however, I started doing research the best way I knew how at the time - I went to the electronic card catalog at the local library to find out everything I could, and wound up finding the original D&D books at another library. It was also around the same time I got into reading, having discovered there were interesting books outside of the realm of school - the Dragonlance and Ravenloft books specifically.

Then when I was in Fourth Grade, I convinced my parents to get me a copy of the Hero Quest board game, and my love of board games was further kindled. I also vaguely remember a game called Solarquest (which now goes for $168 on Amazon due to its rarity) that occupied much of my time as well. I also started getting into chess at that point, playing my dad every Sunday night at his prompting. So there I was, leaving elementary school, a nerd in training. Get to middle school and my gaming expansion changed - I learned about Rifts, Planescape, and Games Workshop (in its 2nd Edition at the time). While I couldn't afford to get into Warhammer 40,000 at the time, I was still able to follow along as best I could, while still playing in the world of AD&D to sate my gaming hunger. Years passed, games were played in earnest, and I left high school immersed in fantasy and science fiction, having read plenty of books in the meantime (none of which were ever for school).

So time advances even further now, in college, boxes of RPG books stored neatly in the back corner of my bedroom, when I finally have money to get into Warhammer 40,000 - 4th Edition, before everything became HURR SPESS MAREENS. I picked up the Battle for Macragge box set, since I needed the tiny rulebook, and decided to do Tyranids (though Orks have always been my first love) because they were way cooler looking than the Space Marines (and still are). The problem was, at the time, in-store gaming had pretty much died out at the RT I had been frequenting for eleven years by that point. People came in to buy GW, but already knew other people to play with and never came into the store to get games going anymore.

I can honestly say that I was the one to jump start in-store gaming at the RT again, and did it with a single printed flyer I had asked them to post behind the counter. I gave my e-mail address and asked other people to contact me as I wanted to play. It worked, and every weekend I could be found holding court with other gamers in a corner of the store. Then GW decided to create the 'Ard Boyz tournament, and the store was going to host it. Met more gamers, some who continued to come to the store after that for a while too. Games Workshop sales increased after the in-store gaming came back to life (thanks to my quasi-crew). We started playing during the week as well, and explaining the game to people who came in and were interested in what we were doing. We sold dozens of starter boxes to total strangers, helped new players buy models to match their styles, and continued holding court and talking shop. We enjoyed our privileged positions up until a little after the economy went to shit, and have been trying our hardest to keep the gaming community alive at the RT since.

But it's hard being a hardcore nerd in an economic climate such as this. Prices of minis have gone up. Prices of RPG books have gone up, and you can't just play with one or two books anymore either. Then there's the flooding of the gaming market - Games Workshop has a lot of competition now from other companies, and 40k has taken a backseat with a lot of people now that 8th Edition Fantasy is out and about. The biggest hurdle is trying to clean up the mess left by one of the recent ex-employees of the RT: he was a die hard Warmahordes fan and actually tried to sabotage Games Workshop sales (aka "the light bill") by converting everyone to play what he wanted (this is also the same guy who ruined Monsterpocalypse for the store).

The problem here is that GW is a collector's game - for people who enjoy building, converting, painting and playing a large scale game of total warfare. This worked great for the store over the years, as it was steady income outside of the December holiday season and kept people in the store. Now that Warmahordes is in the RT, it represents a double-edged threat to an already shaky market. First, it cuts into GW sales, which as I mentioned before has been the store's "light bill" for years. Second, The game itself is not sustainable in the long-term - once you own the minis you need, you're done buying. Because I have been going to the RT for 16 years of my life, I have grown quite attached to it, and as a CUSTOMER I think in terms of what is good for the store, not for me. I'd love to bring new games into the store, and the crew and I have tried on several occasions, but it's hard to convince a store to bring product in when they just brought another game in that has started to taper off already (they tried it with AT-43 and that was a MASSIVE failure for sales, everything went to eBay).

Right now, things are going okay at the store. The crew and I have managed to get a lot of people interested in Blood Bowl, with about 9 teams currently represented in the RT. Malifaux, Hell Dorado and Secrets of the Third Reich are next on the list, followed by Pulp City, AEWW2 and Infinity. There was a brief resurgence of Magic: The Gathering in the store as well, but that died out with the new sets that came out after M10. The main efforts at the moment are getting people in the store to play games, no matter what games they are - that's the only way to keep people buying products at the moment. We need to bring in other small, inexpensive games to offer options other than Warhammer and Warmahordes. We need to hold more in-store events and demo days. It's just hard when you're one of the few people who would actually take the initiative to do it, because you'd be all by yourself when the day is over.

- Cash

1 comment:

Ray K. said...

You totally forgot Heavy Gears.