My dear friend Dawn posited a question in a retailer Facebook group this past week that has had me thinking.
What leads to the decline of a gaming group in our brick and mortar locations?
I had no idea, and hadn't spent a ton of time thinking about it before she asked that question, but today I'm going to examine some of the gaming groups that have died off at Total Escape Games over the nearly seven years I've been here and see if we can't get to the bottom of the issues.
To start this project off I asked my employees to name some games that have lost their game groups, and also their sales steam, within the four walls we call home so much of the week. They were able to put together a pretty solid list for me, and I could immediately see the variety of reasons they died without doing a ton more research.
It appears they fall into a couple of different categories.
Rules Changes Hurt the Game
This can be a big one for us. If players no longer like the game it becomes nigh impossible for us to support said game.
There are three important examples here of publishers putting the proverbial gun to my bottom line. The seventh edition of Warhammer 40K was an unmitigated disaster for us. The Core Rulebook is among the best selling products ever in our four walls, and my can you watch the drop come quickly after that. Players hated the rules set, and my Games Workshop numbers plummeted nearly 80% from 6th to 7th Edition.
8th Edition has been good, and my players are returning with some excitement these days.
The best example of poor rules ruining a play experience, and not being the fault of Games Workshop, is the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. D&D wasn't the top RPG game during the era of 4th Edition, as players, clearly unhappy with the changes between 3.5 and 4 moved over the upstart Paizo and played the game I still jokingly refer to as D&D 3.75.
These two games were killed by the manufacturer by making too drastic changes that alienated their player base.
There is a lesson to be learned in this category as well, as it would be remiss to not mention the Mark III release of Warmachine and Hordes from Privateer Press. We sold a ton of the new battle boxes at launch, and then watched an unhappy player base go running away screaming as if someone had set their britches on fire.
After watching existing players flail at the game and express their unhappiness, we started a Journeyman League, and sold it to people as "It's a new game, no one knows anything!" That sales pitch worked, and we've built a community for these games again. As of my Nov 30th blog Privateer Press was only down about $400 on the 12 months to 11 month comparison I made at that time. It was rescued from the garbage heap by a passionate employee who has done a darn fantastic job of rebuilding that community.
We now schedule Journeyman Leagues twice a year, once right after Christmas to gather up that sweet sweet grandma money from people looking for a new game, and once over the summer.
Talking about the work that an employee has done in reviving Mark III brings me to the next category in our list.
Loss of A Product Champion
Product Champions are a darn big deal. In some cases we have manufacturers who designate those champions (and don't get me started on Men in Black...) and sometimes as stores we find those people, develop those people, and empower them to build their communities.