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Want to Help Name a Gaming Store?

We recently got an email from a Gnome Stew reader, Shane Kirby (Shaninator here on the Stew), who is planning to open a gaming store in Alabama and wanted some feedback from fellow readers and GMs. He offered some good hooks for an article, and it’s a topic we’ve never covered here before, so we thought it might interest our readers.

Sure, it’s free market research, but it’s market research I wish gamers were consulted about more often, and it’s a topic I love to talk about myself.

Shane would also like some help naming his prospective store, and is offering a $100 Amazon gift certificate to the person who suggests the name he eventually chooses.

Sound good? Let’s dive in!

Observations

Shane has done his homework, and he’s identified some key features of a good local gaming store (LGS) — features that would help turn it into your favorite local gaming store, or FLGS:

1. Brick and mortar stores have the advantage of word of mouth. Knowledgeable staff is extremely important. When the store first opens, I will probably only have one other employee besides my wife and myself. I’m the type of gamer who plays and reads nearly everything, and I don’t limit myself to only Wizards of the Coast products. My wife is quickly catching up to me in her knowledge, too. As employees come in, I could see adding a section called “Employee Top Picks” to help showcase games that wouldn’t normally catch your eye.

2. Space. The best LGSs all have plenty of space to hold tournaments, war games, and allow gamers room to play without being bothered by CCG players.

3. Promotions. I’ve done my fair share of researching wholesale books and distributors. Many game stores get stuck in a rut and stick to their distributors, when the dealer should be trying to win your support. Too many games can now be bought directly from the publisher in the gaming industry as well. Getting products at good prices isn’t hard if you try, considering the markup on books in very high. Wholesale can lead to my customers reaping discounts and promotions, while I still make enough profit to stay afloat or expand.

Another good promotion would be using membership cards, probably punch cards when we first open. After 10 visits, you receive a free product or discount on your next visit. GMs and tournament judges would have access to a different membership that rewards running games in the store as well as making purchases.

4. Organization. I hate looking for books at my only LGS in the area because it’s not well-organized. In fact, finding a book is like digging for treasure, except without the happy ending when I realize the store is out of stock. Organize the store by system, so fans of White Wolf can jump past Mutants & Masterminds, for example.

5. A side gig. Aside from the main store, I’m beginning to write my first supplement. I will promote this in the store, along with free adventures and other supplements for GM memberships. I am focusing my writing on a system generic fantasy series called “Highwall.”

Are these all of the elements of a good LGS? What does it take to make your LGS an FLGS?

Questions for GMs

Based on what Shane said, I think there are two key questions here:

  1. What do GMs want out of their FLGSs, and how is that different from what players might want?
  2. How can brick-and-mortar stores help GMs in ways that online stores cannot?

Those are meaty questions, and along with more general gamer-oriented questions, they’re ones I wish more LGS owners would ask before opening their doors.

So how about it: Do GMs have different FLGS needs than players?

Name That Store!

Right now, Shane’s store has no name — and it needs one. If you’d like to give him a hand, suggest fun names in the comments. If he picks a name that you suggested (and were the first to suggest), he’ll send you a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

(Gnome Stew isn’t involved in this part of contest, and Shane is free to make this offer elsewhere, too. We’ll pass on the winner’s email address to Shane, assuming the winner is a Gnome Stew commenter.)

Can you do better than my current favorite, “Them Devil Games That Made Tom Hanks Go All Nuts”?

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. You can find out a bit more about him on his personal website.



82 Comments (Open | Close)

82 Comments To "Want to Help Name a Gaming Store?"

#1 Comment By masterzora On January 14, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

I’d have to offer a pair of classics, if they’re legally viable: the Green Dragon or The Prancing Pony. I’ll probably have some less stolen-from-obvious-source ideas later.

I’m more here for the other important stuff. A few points I think should be added to yours: definitely make sure you cover more than RPGs & tabletops. Board games, card games (more than just CCGs). The good stuff, of course, not Monopoly. And, of course, know your stuff. I’ve got two main LGSes I frequent, one in each locale I spend significant amounts of time in. They both have selection, but the worse one just doesn’t know their stuff as well as I do, which makes it difficult. I can’t buy new stuff if I don’t know what’s good. The worse one also doesn’t have a lot of stuff in stock, and I’m usually not around long enough to order anything through them, so they don’t get a lot of business through me.

The better store, though, knows there stuff and provides me a lot of recommendations, all of which have been good to date. The only item I was looking for that wasn’t in stock was out of print, and they ordered it for me anyway. It was in within a week.

The other awesome thing about the better store was that they hold events of various sorts nearly every day. A weekly game night, exhibitions of various board games and RPGs for unfamiliar players, how-tos of various things. Establish yourself as not only the place to game, but also the place to learn to game, and to learn new games, and you will have a niche for as long as FLGSes exist. Plus, more people knowing how to GM well is good for everybody.

#2 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 14, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

I can’t believe the outpouring of advice — and names — in just one day! This has turned into a truly excellent dialogue, and I think it shows just how many gamers are not satisfied with their LGS options.

@Sarlax – Game Night Games is the best gaming store I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping in — not quite “gaming” in this sense, since they don’t sell RPG material, but if you replaced their insanely comprehensive board game selection with RPG stuff, it would be the best gaming store ever. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Echoing and adding thoughts of my own:

1. Get to know me. My LGS in Utah couldn’t care less about me, which is a large part of why I shop there so infrequently. If someone comes in often, they want to spend their money at your store — encourage them to do so by getting to know their gaming tastes, and getting to know them as a person. I went there often when I first moved to Utah, and backed off when I saw they didn’t care; now I buy 95% of my gaming stuff online.

My two favorite hobby-related stores back in Michigan, where I went to college, were The Underworld (now closed) and The Vault of Midnight (a comic store — still rocking!). In both cases, the personal relationship was a huge reason I shopped there.

I was friends with the owners, and with most of the staff. If I walked in and said “What’s new that I would like?” just about anyone in either store could guide me to stuff I would enjoy — and they’d be right, and I’d buy it.

This and the ability to browse are the two biggest reasons why you’ll get my business, rather than Amazon getting it.

2. Make it easy to browse! Good shelving, logical organization, and a frequently refreshed shelf of new material all help. Ditto with having stock that’s deeper than just WotC, White Wolf, Pathfinder, and the other biggies.

I know it’s hard to keep deep stock like that, but you know what? I don’t give a shit — that, frankly, is your problem as the owner of the store. If you don’t have it, I’m only going to order it from you if we have a relationship — otherwise, I’ll go get it online, for less money, and it will likely arrive sooner at my door than in your store.

If you earn my business, I’ll be insanely loyal. I rarely buy boardgames online at ~25% off because I’d rather drive to Game Night Games and pay retail for them.

3. You don’t need discounts. Every gaming or hobby store I’ve shopped at that offered discounts went out of business or stopped offering them after a short while. It’s hard to make this work.

Instead, go the rewards/frequent customer route. Sure, if you can match Amazon I’d rather walk into your store and buy a book, but can you match Amazon? No — so why try? 10% off is nice, but nice doesn’t pay the bills — and frankly, it’s not what gets me into the store.

4. Stock used gaming stuff. I absolutely love used gaming material. My LGS here stocks it at about 25% off for normal stuff, which is pretty awful — again, unless it’s incredibly out of print, that’s not a worthwhile discount.

Make used stuff very affordable, make a point of buying it, and make it easy to browse — no fucking boxes, bins, or other impediments. I’d estimate I spend 1/3 of my gaming money on used stuff when the selection is frequently refreshed.

On the GMing front, I don’t know that I have different needs as a GM than a player, but I might not be typical in that regard. For example: I don’t really use store play space, which might be a big factor for other GMs.

That said, depth of stock might be a big factor. As a player, I buy fewer books, and they tend to be recent releases most places will have anyway. As a GM, if I get into a game I backtrack through all of its supplements — even older ones — and pick up anything that seems useful.

#3 Comment By panik On January 14, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

I drive past three game stores to reach the one that I actually shop at. The first one smells, itโ€™s dirty, and every guy in there stares at me. The second game store is always closed; I think it closes at 6pm. The third game store is tiny.

My favorite game store is clean, organized, well-lit, and I can locate the restroom there without asking. And (as sexist as this sounds) itโ€™s the only store where Iโ€™ve seen another girl. She actually runs the place, and is super helpful.

As for names, Iโ€™m going with the obvious โ€“ Ye Olde Game Shoppe, The Game Shop, Orcโ€™s Comics and Games.

#4 Comment By drow On January 15, 2010 @ 1:39 am

yay, it’s your move. i used to shop at the it’s your move at crossroads mall, when stormy ran it. she was cute. i spent a lot there.

#5 Comment By Cartmonium On January 15, 2010 @ 2:10 am

Top Shelf Games is what I’d go with

#6 Comment By dm4hire On January 15, 2010 @ 10:29 am

How about:

Game Dojo
Cosmic Games
Got Games?
Dice Dojo
One Gamenormous Store
Gazebo Games

#7 Comment By BryanB On January 15, 2010 @ 10:51 am

Fumbles and Crits
Guardian Games
Chips and Dice
A Plethora of Games
Sceptre Games
The Timesink
Lawful Good Gaming
Reliable Games
The Gaming Experience
Great Escape Games

Maybe one of those will work. ๐Ÿ˜€

#8 Comment By Noffham On January 15, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

I’d sum up the point of the store and what goes on inside with this name:

The Saga Shop.

#9 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On January 15, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

I can’t beat Highwall Games… Memorable, simple, easy to advertise, and it’s not an inside joke or nerdy reference that will lock out the non-gamers.

I really don’t think there’s much difference between a GM and any other customer, although the neophyte GM will benefit from a supportive environment.

General unsolicited advice:

Advertise. I believe that it is impossible to over-advertise something. Your goal is to have everyone in town know what and where your store is. How to do that within your budget is up to you…

Know your market. Many retail establishments try to push the owner’s tastes on the customer. Don’t. You may hate 4E, but if it sells, sell it.

Events. Organized game nights, lectures by people who can contribute to gaming (like a local professor of history or author), seminars on GMing (especially introductions), mini panting tournaments and ‘free paint nights’, etc. The goal is to get warm bodies in the store and expand your customer base by introducing your customers to new hobbies/games. Even if they don’t buy anything that day, they’ve broken the surface tension.

Welcoming attitude. Don’t just draw the geeks in, try to draw the non-geeks. You can fight tooth-and-nail for the 10% of the population that already games, or you can go for the other 90%. Look for ‘gateway drugs’ like mainstream board games (Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples, etc) and CCGs. Do whatever it takes to get kids and women in the store; they are the future of gaming (IMNSHO).

Excellent gaming stores:
Great Hall Games, which has literally everything for tabletop non-RPG games. And an old-school but extensive website.
Dragon’s Lair does a great job of catering to the community, and covers RPGs, board games, comics, and anime/manga.

#10 Comment By Sarlax On January 15, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

Another thing: I believe the role of good gaming store is to get people to try new games.

D&D is my favorite game and always has been. I only owned basic set and a mix of 1E and 2E books for a few years. Back then, the internet (delivered to me via Prodigy) wasn’t the vast information behemoth it is now, but I could still get on message boards and talk about the game. I heard about some other games online, but I could never get a feel for them.

It wasn’t until I came across Vampire: The Masquerade at my local store, Comix Plus, that I actually tried a different game. It’s been that way ever since.

The one thing the you can’t do online is get a strong feeling for something new. I’d seen “Savage Worlds” pop up many times on different sites but never checked it out I saw the collection of rules and worldbooks at a game store. I discovered Ravenloft and Planescape at Comix Plus. I had played an older edition of Shadowrun a decade ago, but didn’t consider the 4th version until I held it in my hands and saw the great attention and care that had gone into it – and I bought it right there.

We all know that a physical store isn’t going to compete with online retail by price, so don’t even try. You have to offer something that a website can’t.

This is why you need to help customers explore new products, both by being direct (“Hey, have you heard about Eclipse Phase?”) and indirectly, through things like layout – having the cool new game front and center in the store.

If I don’t know about a game, I’m obviously not going to buy it – and if I don’t expect a store to show me something new, I’m just going online. I only buy my D&D books from Amazon now, because I don’t need to go into a store to know what I’m getting into.

However, I still walk in Hastur Hobbies every couple of weeks to check things out. They don’t do everything right (see Martin’s post), but one good thing is that as you walk in, all of there “Not D&D selection” is immediately to your left in an attractive layout. As you move down that short aisle, you get see a lot of books, and the covers often draw me in. At the end, you reach the new releases, which aren’t sorted by brand.

The last element, I think, is an excellent idea. Many times, I’ve walked into Hastur planning on flipping through a book I knew was just released to decide whether to buy it, only to see something I hadn’t heard about and end up with that instead.

Just a few days ago, I walked in looking for some D&D Minis and dice, and walked out with The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane. As usual, I’d read about it online, hadn’t been thrilled, saw it in person, and loved it.

Make sure you’re helping your customers find new games. Left to their own devices, they’re going to miss things they’d really enjoy, and that’s $30 you can’t put in the register.

Oh! And make sure your books are displaying the covers. Companies have their artists work hard on those pretty covers, so don’t hide them by only displaying the spines.

#11 Comment By SSquirrel On January 15, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

Saw this over at ENWorld. Here are a few store name ideas.

Shane’s Magical Games
Game Shop
The Friendly Kobold
Games and Geeks
The Unwashed Hordes
Imagination Zone
Orcs & Magic
Books of Magic

#12 Comment By anthro78 On January 15, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

Random Treasure Generator
Games, Games, Games!
The Gaming Table
The Imagination Station
Flights of Fancy (or Fantasy)
Rosco’s House of Games

#13 Comment By Nifelhein On January 15, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

Prancing Pony

#14 Comment By SSquirrel On January 15, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

@SSquirrel – Game Shop should have mentioned to insert city name here, but it didn’t stay in there right

#15 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 15, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – The more I think about Highwall Games, the better it sounds. This definitely gets my vote so far.

#16 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On January 15, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

@Martin Ralya – Before it gets lost in the shuffle, Highwall Games was originally AlasseMages’ idea at #3…

#17 Comment By Martin Ralya On January 15, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – Yep, but it was your comment that reminded me how much I like it, so that’s what I replied to. ๐Ÿ˜‰

#18 Comment By shaninator On January 15, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

Wow! The feedback is awesome! Now, I’ve got to choose the #1 name! with so many great ones to choose from.

Top 5 so far are…
1. Natural 20 – Submitted by Electrocuted
2. Sword ‘n’ Board – submitted by Kyle Wende
3. Pair ‘o’ Dice – submitted by Kyle Wende
4. Out of the Box – submitted by deadlytoque
5. Game On – submitted by Sarlax

IF I’ve made a mistake on any of the submitters, please help me clarify. If this kicks up, and I have the capital to start strong, I want a very strong selection. Everything from Savage Worlds, PDQ and GURPS, to Burning Wheel.

#19 Comment By Alberonn On January 16, 2010 @ 7:40 am

I don’t have a name for you (yet), but a couple of thoughts. First, in regard to space – don’t immediately disregard the CCG folks. Though I haven’t played any since Magic in the 90’s, our local FLGS seems to have a good number of tourneys and sell quite a bit. Secondly, I am almost surprised you are offering an Amazon card since our local guy practically hates them since they sell D&D products so cheaply that he feels he can’t compete. I’ve only bought one book from him (though all the Dungeon Tiles) since Amazon gives deep pocket discount. I guess he sells a very few in the store from the folks who either lack the patience to wait or the net savvy to purchase them… Anyway, just a few thoughts and the best of luck in your endeavor.

#20 Comment By Falcarrion On January 16, 2010 @ 10:25 am

MY suggestion is:

The Roasted Squire

#21 Comment By Nifelhein On January 16, 2010 @ 10:54 am

EGG Worlds

#22 Comment By XonImmortal On January 16, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

Names? I gots names.

Dice Zombies (after the first week of working full-time-plus, you’ll appreciate the appropriateness of this)

A Hoard of Dragons (yes, we have paper dragons, dice dragons, pewter dragons…) This one will give you lots of opportunities for that “theme” environment everyone seems to like.

‘s Secret Hoard (unless her name is Victoria) Naming a business after your spouse is always good. It gives you lots of opportunities to remember who she is.

As far as other suggestions, I agree with the timing thing. Open late, stay open late. Not only does this allow gamers to come in during prime lurking hours, but you also get to avoid rush-hour traffic.

Keep a database and listing of gamers, and keep it current. Check to make sure everybody is still there, at least once every two months (and I’d suggest once a month)! I get tired of walking into a store in a new town (I’ve moved six times in the last five years) and asking if there are any groups, and the bored person at the counter tells me to check the bulletin board (and on one occasion, the board was missing). New gamers in town are going to make a beeline for your door, be there to welcome them and introduce them around!

Hold a con or mini-con. Get the groups in the area together and hold a convention. You’ll get good press, you may attract new folks, and even get folks from out of town. But do not get one of the “professional convention companies” to do it! The “convention” that was held in Reno this past year was so bad, my roommates and I were close to throwing away our books for good. Make sure more than one game system is covered, contact multiple companies for swag, and don’t let them dictate who can and cannot get the swag (WOTC seems to have a rule that only RPGA members can receive WoTC doorprizes, according to some of the organizers I talked to).

If you are going to have a special game night, make sure you have some copies of the books for folks to look over. Admittedly, this makes it difficult for you to sell at full price… Oh, wait, look! Doorprize! And you get to write off the full price as a tax deduction. Huh, wonder why more places don’t do that.

One thing I have seen a lot of gamers getting into of late is fan-fiction. You can really stand out in the crowd by having a fan-fiction contest. Have the writers draw up a character, write a short story about the character (this can even be a group activity!), and then publish the entries in a small photocopied booklet (costs very little to do, and you can probably get some volunteers to compile it). You get gamers involved doing something they love (are addicted to) doing (talking about their characters), they get to show off their varying degrees of talent, and you can get the whole community involved in voting for winners (and you can do it as an online poll, going back to that web presence idea, thereby driving traffic to your website!). The local paper would probably cover the entire thing for grins as well.

If you do decide to go for a web presence, there is a lot of free software out there that you can use to build an online community. Content Management Systems usually have forums, wikis, calendars, articles, etc., right there at your fingertips. Tap a few gamers in the area to write articles and wiki entries, and you are really pulling folks together, and in.

Please note that I did not suggest the name “Black Hole of Cash” because that would be just… well, you’ll see.

Good luck, Shane-and-wife-who-is-not-named! Wish I could come in and help set things up with you (I is organized!).

#23 Comment By XonImmortal On January 16, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

@XonImmortal
by the way, that “‘s Secret Hoard” is supposed to be:
(insert wife’s name here)’s Secret Hoard

#24 Comment By madlordofmilk On January 17, 2010 @ 4:36 am

No particular name ideas, but I do have suggestions!

1. Products: The only thing I really feel comfortable buying in an FLGS is gaming accessories, some third-party products, and out of print books. Everything else I can get 30-50% cheaper online (e.g. Amazon). If the price difference was only ~10%, maybe I’d buy from my FLGS more, but it’s too drastic.

Heck, even Barnes & Noble sells the books loads cheaper online. You pay full list price in-store, but they just can’t compete on the internet.

2. Gaming space: My biggest problem with most gaming spaces is they’re essentially just “a big room with tables and chairs”. A good location will of course have food, drinks, etc. available, but that’s also rarely an issue. The biggest problem is that it can very easily get LOUD when it’s everyone in one room, especially when you’ve got a mash of TCG players, board gamers, and RPG gamers in the same location.

As a college student, almost nobody plays RPGs at the boardgame/wargame/tcg/rpg club. Plenty of people play RPGs, but the location has that very problem… only maybe 3 groups play there.

#25 Comment By madlordofmilk On January 17, 2010 @ 4:37 am

To clarify my above point: when it’s loud, you can’t hear everything others are saying. While this is mostly fine in boardgames/tcgs/etc, it stinks for RPGs.

#26 Comment By Havukin On January 17, 2010 @ 6:06 am

I have to admit I didn’t have the patience to read all the comments so I don’t know if this has been already said. When you provide place for gaming or host events you are attracting people to visit the store. But having people come by doesn’t do you any good unless you can attract them to buy stuff when they are there. For this I think the idea of Employee Top Pick would work great. A small shelf in a hard-to-miss spot with few enough products that visitors bother to browse through it every time they are there. Also the contents would have to rotate quite often so people find something new every time they come to their weekly gaming session or might even come by to see what you are recommending this week.

#27 Comment By Bercilac On January 17, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

Pen and Paper
The Retreat

#28 Comment By drow On January 22, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

damnit, and now i read that it’s your move is closing its boulder location on pearl street. sigh. one more place i’ll never have to return to, i guess.

#29 Comment By zerfinity On January 23, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

@shaninator – Of the ones listed on your top five I like “Sword and Board” best.

I also liked “Random Encounters” submitted by mightybruce and “Critical Hit” by lampropeltis. I’d riff off the last and add “Critical Success”.

One of the things that I like about Gnomestew as a name is that it opens itself up to a lot of possible puns, an versatile marketing icon (gnome), and I thing you should consider which names allow that. For example, with “Sword and Board” you could have two characters “Sword” and “Board” which each have very different interests, “Sword” wants action-adventure and “Board” is looking for a good deal and/or quick playability. The icons can cue customers with similar interests to new offerings according to their interests. The draw back to “Board” is the unfortunate homonym with “Bored”.

I also loved the idea of “Ladies Night” from Trisj. The benefit of discounts for the ladies is the potential to draw more full paying gamer guys (which is why night clubs do “Ladies Night” in the first place). The risk is that you draw so many gamer guys that they scare away the ladies. I’d suggest some deep discounts that night for the ladies and/or double punch on member benefit cards and/or making Ladies night a night where every group at a table must have at least one female.

#30 Comment By Bog97th On January 23, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

FLGS = personal interaction. Try as you may you can not rub shoulders,trade dice and smell the fear of a good game on line.

As for the name how about….

1. The chrometophobic thief
2. The holographic Gnome
3. Posion,Blades and Elven Bar Maids
4. Gamers Alcove
5. Save or Die
6. The Character Sheet

Good look in the search and the store!

#31 Comment By thatwasrad On February 7, 2010 @ 1:46 am

I ran across this article about running a FLGS and wanted to pass it on:

http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/gaming/gamerLife/numbersBehindAnFLGS

#32 Comment By Metalpsalm On July 23, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

PAWNAGE! Gaming Space