Independent video game stores are here to stay

Later, at the behest of his wife – who was concerned about the mountain of second-hand games devouring their garage – Josh made the switch to a storefront in Portland. From there, Josh found his niche in retro gaming, drawing in gamers hungry for nostalgia in the hopes of amassing vast libraries of old titles. During the last years, retro games sale grew into a hugely lucrative business and unopened games from the early 1990s as Super Mario World 3 can sell for tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even reach six digits. While these kinds of high-end retro sales are important to stores like Side Quest Games, daily repairs and low-end retro game sales are their bread and butter, keeping Josh’s business going. safer great competition.

Likewise, Josh claims to have found a somewhat symbiotic relationship with stores like GameStop. While Side Quest Game Store may not have too many newer titles, the store’s console repair services and flexible take-back policies have provided Josh with some protection against big-box retail competition. This has led to moments of informal collaboration between Josh’s store and the staff at local GameStops, who sometimes direct customers to Side Quest Games.

David Kaelin of Game Over Video Games in Austin, TX has also been able to find a niche for himself amid the surge in online sales. David started his business in 2005, long before the days of Amazon’s easy shopping and digital downloads. Since then, his small store has expanded to more than a dozen locations across Texas, developing a widespread thirst for retro games.

Yet for David, the secret to his company’s survival is the need for social interaction between players. While Amazon and major retailers might offer easy online shopping, David believes his store has flourished by prioritizing the in-person experience.

“For us, our customer relationships don’t just end with buying a game,” says David, “We want to start a conversation with people about games and create a place to hang out. Gamers, like everyone else, also need social interactions. “

Community has also been essential to Jonathan Sakura’s business over the past few years. Prior to opening a store called “Gamers Anonymous” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jonathan had spent more than a decade turning his gaming hobby into a lifelong career. Then, in 2007, he bought Gamers Anonymous, an already established store in Albuquerque, in order to pursue an old dream of building his own store.

Over time, Jonathan built a business that served the needs of people looking for retro games and console repairs – but, more importantly, his business flourished thanks to big community events such as midnight outings. and in-store tournaments. Longing for the days of LAN parties, where gamers gathered their computers in basements and cramped apartments to play multiplayer games in a shared space, Jonathan wants to create environments where gaming feels like a visceral, interpersonal experience. .

“The social element of the game has become much more important to me,” says Jonathan. “In our heyday, we had midnight outings, conventions and massive exchanges that had lined up hundreds of people outside our store.”

These events provided a crucial boost to Jonathan’s business and made him believe he had found a long-term secret to growing his business and building a community along the way.

“In those early years, despite all the hardships and difficulties, the marketing mistakes, we learned a lot,” says Jonathan. “So you never realize that despite all of this, none of them will teach you what to do during a global pandemic.”

By the end of 2019, business had been so good for Jonathan that he decided to expand the community aspect of his store by opening a “video game café” next to his store. In fact, in 2019 GameStop devised a very similar plan to save its failing points of sale; the main difference here being that Jonathan’s store was already doing pretty well. In February 2020, Jonathan signed his lease for the nearby cafe, but barely a month later, Covid-19 threw up his plans.

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