Thursday, June 5, 2008

The full report from Gamer's Asylum in Evanston, IL

EDIT: I admit when I am wrong with a prediction, and this was certainly one of those times. Gamer's Asylum is still open in Evanston, and the store has expanded into some adjacent retail space. So things are looking up as of 7/29/2009, and I am adding this note to my original article to balance out some of the things I mention below that haven't come to pass.

Well, I dropped by Gamer’s Asylum last night. Here’s my capsule review: Keep your calendar open for a going-out-of-business sale in 8 months or so.

The store has a great location in downtown Evanston near the Dempster train station, and it’s run by a couple of friendly, talkative dudes. But I couldn’t discern much by way of a business plan; the shop was almost completely devoid of merchandise (save for a pile of “starter” Games Workshop product). The shelves were half-full and the walls were bare - not even posters! As someone who’s worked in gaming retail, this is a bad way to start a store.

The owners, to their credit, explained that they intend to respond to the community’s demands and stock various game lines, depending on their popularity. Unfortunately, this is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. Game stores need to be stuffed to the gills with merchandise to survive and prosper. You need to surround your potential customers with a dizzying array of products – game books, miniatures, collectible junk, dice, paints, accessories, junk food – all in the hope that they’ll make just a single purchase in a given visit. Vast, herculean efforts are required to draw in new customers and keep them coming back, especially in light of the omnipresent Internet retailers.

You also can’t rely on existing player demand to fuel a store. You must constantly bring in new products and establish relationships with the myriad game publishers out there. You must read the industry blogs and literature and make sure you’re up on the latest new releases. If you do stock a given line, you must conduct demos and promotional events to draw in new players and customers.

Gamer’s Asylum doesn’t even have a Web site! How can that be in this day and age? The two store owners, for all their goodwill and enthusiasm, seem to have started the store simply as a way to hang out and talk to gamers. This is heartbreaking, because Chicago needs an in-city alternative to Games Plus (a fine store that’s just a bit too far away for convenience). Make no mistake, I will support Gamer’s Asylum and buy some stuff from them. I’ll game there and hopefully meet new players there. But I’m afraid I won’t be able to count on it for the long haul. By stumbling immediately out of the gate, Gamer’s Asylum may have lost its momentum entirely. I’ll report back when they start their 50-percent-off liquidation sale.


Melissa said...

I agree. Being the girlfriend of a hardcore nerd (Or should I say diehard gamer? :P ), I have been in many a gaming stores. This one was pretty without. I hope they get it together. I mean, not a single Buffy action figure?! Forget about it.

Lassarina said...

(I ran by your post by way of Google, searching for the aforementioned nonexistent Web site for the store.)

I was of much the same opinion when I wandered by there on opening day. I'm part of a fairly large live-action RP group that would be quite willing to bring a lot of business to the store - if they stock the things we want to buy. I guess we'll see how that goes.

Brian said...

Likewise to the other poster, I found this blog when google searching to see if the new store has a website.

There was a store on Irving Park road near the expressway called Galaxy America that had a similar opening. They had GW stuff only. I was in there a couple weeks after they opened and told them they needed to carry other product lines because there weren't enough GW gamers in the city to keep them in business. They were gone in 2 months, maybe 3.

In fact I specifically remember telling them to visit games plus and copy their business model.

Gamers Asylum said...

Come on back in, I think you will find a bit of improvement, though we are still up for more feedback from the community.

As examples of our response to that feedback, our War Machine area is much more complete than originally planed and we will be reserving Saturday nights for War Machine games. We substantially increased our WOD offerings and we are moving a third table in which will be specifically orientated to RPG and card players.

Unfortunately the distributors sent us one pitiful Yu-Gi-Oh poster, a card line we do not even plan to carry (unless you all scream for it). Fortunately Privateer press and others are rushing us artwork to cover the walls.

Lastly website is up, kinda (under construction) but will be fully functional within the next two weeks, though the store component will be a little longer. Frankly I share the BLOG master's issues about internet sales as a competitor and feel that gamers should buy where they play, so ethical conundrum.

Again come on back in and see if we have addressed some of your issues and tell us what else you want to see from your local game store

Mark and John

Gamers Asylum said...

Sorry, Website is

Mark & John