Is the face of the local game store irreversibly changing? Hello, I’m Chaz Marler of Pair Of Dice Paradise, and a recent discovery has got me wondering if we’re on the verge of experiencing a fundamental change in where we find and purchase games. I mean, we’ve already seen the evolution of game selections in locations not traditionally seen as quote-unquote game stores. Of course, the cornerstone of the hobby - the friendly local game store dedicated to hobby games and merchandise - is still present. And board game cafes continue to increase their presence and profitability.
But then there’s subtle changes that have been taking place at big-box chains. For instance, Barnes & Noble - a long-time proponent of hobby games - has been periodically hosting open game nights in select stores across the country, where a variety of tabletop games have been taught and played. Even big-box retailers have been taking an interest in the hobby. Target has signed dozens of exclusive deals dozens of games that could be classified as hobby board games. And even Walmart is getting into the act, having just inked a deal to be the exclusive carrier of Fog Of Love from first-time publisher Hush Hush Projects.
That’s quite a bit of cardboard being curated. But those also places have always stocked a variety of games, and have simply been allowing their catalog to evolve from endless Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly variants to endless Ticket To Ride, Munchkin, and Love Letter variants. Even so, it’s progress.
But the thing that’s caught my attention has been seeing modern hobby board games starting to appear in locations that I’ve never seen them before. And the owners of those locations investing their time and energy to educate themselves about the industry. Hot Topic has been dabbling in games a bit recently. And the largest comic book shop in my home town now has a wall adorned with variations of Risk, Axis & Allies and Warhammer minis. But the biggest surprise came when I walked into a locally owned “pop culture” store in my area that’s been around since 2001 called Dragon Vine. They originally started out as a comic book shop, but their inventory of board games has been steadily increasing over the past couple years; to the point where games now receive as much floor space as comics, t-shirts, Hello Kitty, and Star Wars merchandise.
And for good reason, because, over the last 12-18 months, board games have grown from being 6% to over 20% of their income. That’s right: in a store brimming with merchandise based on pop culture IPs, one out of every five dollars that it generates comes from board game sales. They didn’t set out to be a board game store, it’s just been a natural evolution of their inventory as more and more of their customers have specifically asked for games to be stocked. Their store didn’t seek out board games - board games have sought out them.
And that’s what has me wondering: is the face of the local game store irreversibly changing, in that a store’s that focus solely on games may soon start to become the exception rather than the rule? Do you have one of these “geek culture” stores in your town? And, if so, does it also sell a growing number of modern board games? Feel free to give your local “pop culture game shop” a shout out in the comments below, and let me know your favorite board game that you’ve discovered there.