Wednesday, May 11, 2011

But Where Will We Loiter 3: Tales from the Front

The Friendly Local Game Store: Dying? Unlikely. Threatened? Possibly. The FLGS won't die out, but if yours does, it will be an unmitigated catastrophe. (Yes. It will. Really.)

Fortunately, things are still in motion, and an interesting motion it is.

The Ant's-Eye View of the Industry

This is the third such article I've written (see also #1 & #2), looking as seriously as I can given my position (see above) at an industry which is under pressure from a lopsided economy and the inevitability of change and changing market forces.

The game store trade won't die out, of course—on other occasions I've cited the player piano and the pinball machine, and I could probably make a passing dig at the buggy whip industry. But it could get cut back terribly, changing the way we buy and play games for the worst. At the very least, a social space where many of us can go to play these games and discover new ones would be taken from us.

Shifting the Narrative (and Stripping the Gears)

Usually I try to write these things addressing the players or GMs of the tabletop roleplaying game. It is a fairly narrowly focused group, and it's not hard to maintain that focus—I'm essentially talking to my people.

The But Where Will We Loiter articles put a strange stress on my literary style because they require a widened scope: not only the players and GMs who play tabletop RPGs and should utilize their local FLGS, but also the owners of and people who do business with said FLGSs (FLGSses?). Much less focused, a little harder to maintain.

I'll try to keep it clear, but don't be surprised if it slips a little sometimes, 'kay?

Where the Raster Meets the Road

I got a pleasant surprise at my FLGS recently. A bit of news about an upcoming game compelled me to go out to my favored place of business and see if they had the system on which it would be based: Cubicle 7's Victoriana, about which I now feel I must write a review.

I bought the book, and when I returned home there was a link to the matching PDF in my mailbox.

This was not a coincidence.

It was also something I hadn't predicted, I admit.

I put forth in BWWWL2 a few of what I considered reasonable responses and things for the FLGS to do to guard its business and cater to its customers in small but potentially meaningful ways. At the time, I'd dismissed the possibility of publishers granting any sort of parity between PDFs because of issues of transportability, rights management, etc.

But that's exactly what happened: I bought the book, and essentially got emailed the PDF. This is the work of the Bits And Mortar Initiative. (And yes, I checked their website as I wrote this. They do indeed describe themselves as an "initiative.")

Not every store is part of this initiative, and not all publishers are granting this parity (in fact, not all publishers are releasing PDFs, but that's an issue for another time). But those that are offer a sweet deal as described above: buy the book, get sent the PDF. Alternatively, pre-order the book, get the PDF early.

This is great for the (involved) retailer because it's an inducement to get people to come into the store and do business rather than sit at home and buy from a website. And it's great for the (involved) publisher because it's an inducement to buy their games.

The greatness trickles down in lesser quantities to those publishers who aren't part of Bits & Mortar because people who visit the game store may still see those other publishers' games. And those game stores that aren't a party to Bits & Mortar will likely see no benefit. Either unfortunately or fortunately, depending which side of the window glass you're on, there aren't a whole lot of game stores involved in this effort; according to B&M's store locator, within 100 miles of me there are only four.

Cards and Dice and Homemade Ketchup

I thought it would be a good idea. I knew I'd like to see it in action. And now that I find out that someone's actually doing it, I may need to make a pilgrimage to see this place myself. Someday, when I have more money.

I found out about it through the commentary over at Penny Arcade. A shop called Card Kingdom has opened up in very close connection with a mall bistro-style bar and eatery called Cafe Mox. The Penny Arcade write-up contains this link to and various pictures inside the store and the cafe. I'm still researching these people. Cafe Mox is on Facebook and Twitter, but no standalone web presence as such yet. (Though it appears it's on the way.)

This is a very new concern, which apparently only just opened in their area. As of a month ago its pending arrival was getting some anticipatory talk, and it's not hard to see why. Interestingly, the game store side of the equation offers all manner of games in-store but their web presence offers fewer services, so this is a big expansion for them.

(In fact, the only way I could verify that the storefront linked with Cafe Mox is the Card Kingdom in that URL is by looking through those pictures and seeing their logo. So there's some catching up to do all around.)

This was also something I hadn't predicted.

I thought having a game store of some sort in close collusion with a cafe or bistro would be a great idea... right up until the food met the game store stock with predictably detrimental effect. Fingerprints on cards, beverages spilled on maps... These things would mortify a shopkeeper. But this looks like it could be a happy relationship.

But just in case, I'd really like to get out there sooner rather than later, if you see what I'm saying.

Cool! I hope I keep being wrong!

Yes, I know, this one's kind of short, but I thought the take-away was significant enough to put out there: Some people are changing their game retail businesses, above and beyond the predictions I had made. So on those things I was wrong.

Gloriously, happily, enthusiastically wrong. And I want it to keep happening!

I want to hear about more of these wondrous incidents, or of any new threats you see pop up. Drop me a line at info (at) ipantsthedwarf {period} com with any other good news you hear and I'll include it in another follow-up.

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