Sunday, 28 October 2012

Critical Fumble - Follow up

So following my last post Critical hit has made some changes and posted a response on their PledgeMe page. 

I thought I would offer my measured response to the update on their page.

As Momma said "If you start something you had best finish it"

So gentlemen, allow me to retort. 

I’ve recently had some questions as to what we have in terms of a business plan, and other such things. If you’re interested in knowing more about any of the items listed below, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Questions? Or did someone link you to this post. I know I haven't asked any specific questions directly to them, but if they are responding to this post it would be nice of them to acknowledge that. 

We do have a business plan. It’s probably got a few flaws in it, but I am talking to people about it. I’ve been in contact with WECC, and GrowWellington, as well as an expert from my bank. We’re getting it sorted, so that it’ll be ready to show to potential investors. You can see it, if you’re interested.

They should probably have mentioned this up-front. It's a pretty important part of starting a business. Saying "We have developed a business plan" sounds a lot better when your asking for cash off people than what was initially listed. 

I'm very interested to see how much the pledge site has changed and updated in the last few days. Still, that all seems in response to my post and not a planned approach to communications and marketing.    

We have profit/loss forecasts, cash-flow forecasts, capital expenditure budgets, and a break-even analysis. Yes, they are based on real figures obtained by research into the market. They’ve even been looked over by an accountant.

I must admit this made me giggle a little. "They’ve even been looked over by an accountant". I would freaking have to hope so. I talked to a few people who have also run the numbers in previous years, some even sent me spreadsheets (that may or may not have been looked over by an accountant). 

Londo Mollari is unimpressed
One of them is a successful businessman in wellington with over 15 years business ownership experience. I won't name him, but this picture will tell anyone who knows him exactly who he is. 

His response was this "Its a massive risk for very little return. NZ is at the end of the supply chain, we are massively exposed to currency fluctuations and sometimes stock just won't arrive. Rental costs in central Wellington are insane, and the cafe market is saturated right now. Online competition will kill them and so will GW. Tell them they're are dreaming if they think now is a good time to start a profitable games store, if they work hard, buy well and market well they might make it, but they won't be rolling in cash. It's certainly more effort than it's worth right now and the risks far outweigh the benefits."

We have a location in mind. We’ve been talking to several real estate companies and landlords, and we’ve settled on a decent location. Better yet, the landlord actually want a cafe-type business in there and are willing to help pay for fit-out.

Don't have funding or a finished business plan but they have a shop picked out? The real positive is that the landlord sounds willing to stump up some fit out costs, which is good. I'm just wondering what kind of lease you'll have to take after the shop is refitted. 

Does the landlord know they are window-shoppers with no finance I wonder? 

We have experience in this area of business. Susan, who will be managing the store, has worked for years in retail and also has years of experience managing a cafe and as a barista.

I've had several people email me about this particular factoid. I personally have no issues with Susan but people have been telling me that she was part of the problem in the store. Susan will be managing the store, but what will  the other two partners be doing? Studying? Working odd jobs? building relationships between Science and students? Or developing web-apps?

A games store will need to do some serious turn-over to keep 3 people paid. And if Susan is the only one in the store how will they prevent the same "absentee-owner" syndrome that killed WGS from happening to Critical Hit? 

If Susan is leading this, i'd like to see her lead. As it stands the site clearly has Daniel, the student with no retail experience, as the leader. 

We are serious about this. Something that I feel needs clarification, as it crops up all too often in this area of retail. Not once has the phrase “Wouldn’t it be cool to run a game store” passed our lips. We don’t want to run a game store just for the sake of running a game store. This is a business. Not a hobby.

They say they are serious, yet everything presented to date is amateur. I'm glad my post has had an effect. It's better that this is pointed out in the planning stage than in the bankruptcy stage. 

I notice the team profiles have been updated, which is good and should have been day one. 

"Daniel Atkins is the kind of person who doesn't give up when faced with an impossible challenge. This entire thing was his idea, and he's put a lot of effort into getting it this far"

This bit of pufferey makes Daniel sound like a fool. Good business people know when "the cheese has moved". Bad business people plug away with outdated ideas and business models. IMPOSSIBLE TASK, ill just keep banging my head against a brick wall!  

I know i'd prefer to give money to someone who hadn't declared they would ride a sinking ship to the bottom of the Atlantic. 

Also, make the other two (who weren't on the pledge site to start with) sound like passengers swept up in one guys vision. "This entire thing was his idea" Is that a vainglorious declaration of pride by one person, or the abdication of responsibility from the product from the other two?

Why haven’t we just got a business loan? Believe me, the bank was the first place I went. I’m a student - I don’t have property to secure a loan against. They were only willing to offer 50% of what we needed, and only if we got the other 50% ourselves. This is entirely sensible, even if it does put us in a difficult position. We need money to get money.

Need money to make money is true. Under capitalization is what kills most start up businesses. Nothing wrong with taking the loan, but I can see the bank being reluctant to lend... being a student and all with no assets. 

See how that works? Bank looks at them and says "Student with no assets = big risk". Can't think why they would think the Wellington gaming community would be any different?  

Why crowd-funding? We know it’s not likely to succeed, given the amount we’re looking for. We’d be total idiots if we were reliant on that happening. But it doesn’t cost us anything, and at the end of the day, it’s free publicity.  

Not all free publicity is good publicity. The only thing it could cost them is "good will". See this note on the page. 

"Pledges will only be charged to your credit card if the target is reached by 30/11/2012 at 11:59 p.m."

They asked the community for cash, knowing they wouldn't succeed. What's the point in that?  They list raising the 50k as an objective, a public objective for the organisation. Now they are saying that the objective is not likely and that they're not idiots to know its not likely?

I wonder if they treat all their objectives with this kind of disposable contempt... seems like acknowledgement that this "impossible task" has been given up on already.

Oh wait.... Here's a motto

Critical Hit "We don't give up on impossible tasks! We just fail them!"

Bonus trivia: Critical Hit's webpage  Note that they are a store in Melbourne. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Rant (Explicit)

OK, so last week I talked about what I would like to see in a game store. I may have lamented about the state of Wellington game stores and reminisced on the fine wine that is Mark One in Hamilton.

A good game store is such a gem; it requires real commitment and passion from owners and investors. It requires strong leadership and a robust understanding of sound business practice.

A muppet with a pile of cash who starts a game store will soon be a poor muppet with debt.

It’s even worse if said muppet isn’t playing with their own money. I mean, if you sink 100k of your own in a venture you have a real stake in its success.

Nothing says "Game Store" like stock photography of coffee
When you really, really want to lack any credibility WHATSOEVER, you crowd source your wet dream of owning a game store.

Allow me to share this.

Yep, it’s an attempt to crowd source for a local games store in Wellington.

Words fail me on this….. well they don’t, but the rant that’s coming will take some time. So grab your fire retardant underpants and send the youngsters out of the room.

Part One: Legitimacy?

I like crowd sourcing, I think it’s a wonderful utilization of the internet and the global economy. It’s almost pure capitalism in action, person a has idea/product and needs finance to proceed. Anyone who wants in on the ground floor can buy in, and scaling rewards act as incentives for people to invest more.

It’s pretty fucking grand.

The best uses for crowd sourcing seem to be getting old stuff reprinted, launching reboots/remakes of classic IP and starting off wacky new ideas.

One kickstarter I was really keen on was Wasteland 2.

Wasteland is a great bit of IP, the game that inspired fallout. Wasteland 2 is being run by Brian Fargo. Fargo is a veteran game developer and producer, he has about 40 game credits and a reputation (not all positive, but games created by the company he founded include Fallout and Baldurs gate).

The guy is legit, and you know with the funding he received from kickstarter that he has the skills to get the job done.

Here is the biographical information of the guy trying to kick off this games store.

Wasteland - Good idea, legit crew, loads of cash donated
“I'm currently a Masters Student at Victoria University of Wellington, where I'm studying Computer Science - though recently I've been splitting my time between that and starting my own business. In my spare time (what little of it I have these days) I enjoy writing, playing Magic: the Gathering, planning and running table-top RPGs, and occasionally LARPing.

I've been an active member of the Wellington Gaming Community basically ever since I moved here to study at Vic some 6 odd years ago. The recent loss of Wargames Supplies has hit the community hard, and I want to do something awesome for the people that have always been awesome to me.”


Nothing in this biography fills me with confidence as a potential investor. Well, ok he seems to know the product at least and that’s better than some owners.

I wonder if he’s worked in retail before? That might be a good thing to mention. Something like “I’m looking for cash to start a business and I have some basic business knowledge”, heck even if he pumped gas at a local petrol station I might have more confidence in it.

This biography says one things and one thing only.

“I am a geek who wants to own a game store because it would be cool to hang out playing games with my friends all day and get paid money for it.”

Also, this bit from the site REALLY gets under my skin.

“Critical Hit is comprised of three Wellington Locals, who are all active members of the gaming community. We know what it’s like to be deprived of a good local game store, and we’ve all had a lot of fun being part of the gaming community—now it’s time we did something awesome for them.”

You are really fucking kidding me, your awesome thing to do for us it to ask for our money so you can play game store owner. Cheers, how big of you to take my money off my hands.

Also, three locals are mentioned in this section, but only one is mentioned on the site. That builds confidence.

Part Two: Incentives

These are simply laughable; I guess it’s hard to incentivise geek gamer wish fulfillment that’s lacking any foundation in real business practice.

NZ $10   Magic Beans
By pledging this amount, you'll get a free coffee when you come to visit us for the first time!

Ok, not too bad and he may actually get some people to part with $10 for a coffee and a game store. Pity he has put 5000 possible $10 donations; good luck finding 5000 gamers in Wellington though.

NZ $100  An Invitation to the Ball
When you pledge this amount, you'll get an invitation to our super-secret awesome launch party, in addition to the $10 reward. The launch party will be a rocking event, and we'll even have special discounts available during the party. (Carriage not included)

Megapope gets the nod on this one “FUCK YES, $100 TO GO TO A BALL WITH GAMING NECKBEARDS, SIGN ME THE FUCK UP”

Having an exclusive launch party for a gaming store is fucking stupid. You want everyone in on the event, you want random people off the street in on it. Gaming is already a cliquey mess without trying to be exclusive.

NZ $250 Member of the League
We have arranged for the running of a six-player game of The League of Extraordinary Gentlegamers. This is a high-class function, and a strict dress-code will be enforced (monocles appreciated, but not necessary). Wine and light snacks will be provided. Secure your seat now! This is a stand-alone reward, and does not include the lesser rewards.

So I fork out $250 and I’m not welcome at your opening event? Well fuck you sunshine! Seriously though, $250 to be invited to an exclusive roleplaying game that I know nothing about with people I don’t know. THAT’S WHAT I CALL VALUE!

NZ $1000 Knight-Errant
If you pledge this amount, you receive all the benefits of the previous rewards, as well as having your name engraved on a plaque and mounted in-store, and a VIP card that entitles you to 5% off most products.

Plaque is kind of nice I guess…. 5% discount…. Really HOW FUCKING GENEROUS OF YOU. Gee, after the first $20,000 I spend in store that investment will really be paying dividends!  I notice it says “most products”. $1000 up front and you can't even say 5%.... a measly 5% off everything not already discounted. Wow…. What value.

NZ $5000 Lord of the Realm
All benefits of the previous rewards, but you get 10% off with the VIP card, and we will also address you as your choice of Lordly Title. You may also choose to have a mounted photograph placed with your plaque.

Same as above, to justify the investment you would have to spend an insane amount of cash in store. So much in fact, you could probably have just forked out the 100k and started your own store. 


The fundamental issue for me on this is as follows:

If I put $100 on kickstarter for wasteland 2 I still get the game as well as the shiny bonus. I probably would have paid $100 for the game anyway.

Giving someone $100 to start a store is giving someone a hand-out so they can run a business. There is no real return on your money, asides from a store that better get profitable without hand-outs very very quickly.

I don’t see the value proposition, and im pretty sure very few people will.

Part Three: Reality…. It’s a bitch

“We understand that a great many members of the gaming community are not exactly flush with cash. That's okay! If you can't support us with money, there are many other ways you can help. Tell all your friends about what we're trying to do; spread the word!

Kids want to own a candy store.... geeks want to own a games store
Of course, if you'd rather invest than donate, don't hesitate to get in touch! '

$50,000 needed…

In the form of donations from the Wellington gaming community…

I honestly don’t know whether this is just massive naivety, hubris or self-delusion. Who do they think will pony up the 50k from. It’s pure fantasy to expect this to crowd fund.

The Wellington Gaming community couldn’t keep Wargames supplies (WGS) alive. Games Workshop is still around, so forget any investment from the GW fanbois, they have all the need in the 2 GW stores in town.

Then there is pukeko games, a trademe based wellington games store that is growing in reputation amongst the Warmachine community for great prices and great service.

WGS showed that running a game store in wellington in no easy to thing to get right. Online sales, alterative supply lines and GAMES FREAKING WORKSHOP provide some pretty stiff competition in this market.

So yeah, where is this money coming from. Hint one…. Not from me.

Part Four: Show me your workings

I am really curious to see what research has gone into this endeavour, if there is a business plan, if they have any idea about running a business, sorting out a supply chain…. And the other 10,000 activities that go with running a retail business.

Retail is hard work, really hard work. It’s long hours, small margins and requires careful purchasing and turnover of stock. Central Wellington is expensive, under capitalization and poor business planning kills so many businesses in their first year.

I think I would like to see a shit load more thought and discipline associated with a project like this before I would consider parting with a single, shiny silver dollar.

Final word

Business sense says “There must be demand for a service to exist”


Yes, I found an image for Muppet investment... I WIN THE INTERNETZ

Saturday, 13 October 2012

What makes a great games store

A few days back, Chris from Mark One comics and games posted this to the stores facebook page

“I think I've mentioned before my pet hate of visitors walking in to Mk1 in a brief moment of calm and quiet and declaring the whole day must be like this ... The chap who just departed seemed to take an inordinate amount of glee in observing my beloved shop's end of days so I picked at his thought processes further. (I don't know why - a masochistic streak?) I told him about our very busy morning and that the shop was in fact a healthy and spry 20 something year old business with many a plan for the future. I was told I am delusional and wasting my time and that retail in general and book stores in particular were a thing of the past. (especially in Victoria street he emphasized!).. Whilst telling him all evidence pointed me to a different conclusion, I asked him why this seemed to provide him such joy? Was he in fact the bad news fairy delivery messages of woe, crushing optimism where ever he would find it?

He didn't like being called a fairy.”

My first reaction was this

I thought, you go Chris!

Then I thought “Why is Mark One successful?, what makes it such a successful store with great longevity when so many games stores crash and burn”. Mark One, along with Jambo in Napier,  are very good local friendly gaming stores. They do a lot of things right, but they do it differently. So now I’m thinking, “what do I like in a game store”


A good store, like any enterprise needs leadership 

Several horror stories from game shops revolve around absentee owners and staff with limited authority and accountability. For a store to succeed it either needs the owner onsite, and emotionally invested in its success, or it needs an empowered and accountable manager.

The person making the orders needs to be dealing with customers, they need to understand what their customer base is interested in purchasing as well as forecasting and preparing for emerging trends. A bad store is one that gets on the band wagon way too late.

Good people, skilled people, Informed people (Not dirty students)

Too many stores employ cheap labour from students who hang around in the store too much. I like the staff at a store to be professional and to demonstrate care about the store.

If the staff don’t care about the store, pretty soon the customers won’t. If the staff are playing Magic the gathering or painting all day…. Well…. That just looks awful to a customer.

I would also like to know who the store staff are, even a simple shirt or badge to designate who the staff are and who the dregs hanging out in the store to play Magic with their friend who works there would be nice.
I want game store staff to do two things, provide good customer service and have good product knowledge…. Especially about release dates and when items are arriving. A lot of the time, when I want something, I want it on release, and I want to know when that is. 

What we don’t want to hear is “Um, I don’t know?”

This all reminds me of one of the worst game store experiences I’ve ever had. Out of morbid curiosity I decided to check out Vagabond in Hamilton. First off, the staff member was painting with 3 of his friends, not a good start. It took a while for him to show interest in someone entering the store (I got in the way of his painting you see).

We laugh at him, but if he ran my local store I would probably punch him
I asked if they had a copy of “Android” the boardgame, as it had just been released and I was interested in obtaining a copy. The “dirty gamer student employee mouth breathing space filler” responded with…. And I quote

“I haven’t heard of that, we only stock more hardcore gamer games here, perhaps you should try Toyworld”
I may have lost my cool at that point and told him precisely what I thought of his product knowledge and the state of the store. Never again will I go into a vagabond.

So in summary; don’t hire gaming muppets for minimum wage as they will stink up your store and make the place feel amateurish.

Selection… and the magic words!

For me, the magic words for a gaming store are
“I can get that in for you”

That’s all I want to hear if I’m looking for something and it’s out of stock. A store should have a good range, but stocking every item from every game range is impossible and impractical. The selection should be good, and it should be responsive to customer demand. But as a shopper I have reasonable expectations of what a store will carry.

A great store has good supply lines, can order at competitive prices, and contacts you when something arrives. Mark One goes one better.

I’m a 2000AD fan, and whenever a new trade paperback is scheduled to come out I get an email notifying me if I’m interested in ordering it. Not that my order is in stock, but that there is something I’ve said I want, and tis due out in 6 weeks and would I like it then.

I think this is great customer service and great business.  (It also makes me buy more as the prompt gets me thinking “yeah, that one sounds good”)


I don’t like dingy cramped stores, I like well lit open stores with some air circulation. Just because I smell like a ball of grease dipped in cheeseballs doesn’t mean I want my gaming store to smell that way.

Openness in a store is also about its staff and general atmosphere. If a store has a gaming table right in the entranceway that is a turn off. You have to shimmey past people to get to the product and it must be intimidating as all heck to new customers.

A store should be welcoming and you shouldn’t feel like you are intruding on some secret club house.
When non gamers walk into bad game stores,
they are feeling what you feel after seeing this pic
My partner loved going into Mark One. She has expressed before how awkward some stores make her feel with the cliqueishness of the staff and, sometimes, with the patronising nature of the staff to female customers. Her comments on Mark one were “It felt like a family store, they had a great range from mainstream comics to indy comics, hardcore game to family games, but most importantly I didn’t feel like when I walked in everyone stared at me and thought “it’s got boobs, whats it doing here”

She does not rate Games Workshop Wellington the same way and feels incredibly uncomfortable going into that shop for any reason.

Gaming Tables/Loitering with intent

I’m torn on gaming tables at the store. From one point of view it’s a great way to demo games and grow the community. From another point of view its an obstacle in the store and fills your store with sweaty gamers that can turn off casual visitors.

Mark One has no tables, Jambo has a bazillion and they both work.

Jambo has the tables behind the main shop area, so the gaming is occurring in the background. It’s like a backdrop of activity and isn’t blocking the retail aspects of the store. I like their approach. Mark One however, would have to sacrifice a good amount of space to accommodate a gaming table and I really don’t think it would work in that store.

The worst example is GW Wellington, big gaming tables completely crowding the store that are frequently surrounded by mewling children and sweaty male adult gamers. Having the tables front and centre is an eyesore but that store is a cupboard and lives off demos of games and store activities. It works for them…. But it really doesn’t work for me.

This is my personal hell
I’m leaning towards the Jambo approach, have some tables but put them at the back, away from the main store and with a nice barrier. It gives the store a gaming atmosphere without making it a roadblock to visitors.


So peeps, what do you think of gaming stores, what do you want, and what drives you up the wall.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gun Mages - Pew Pew

I really do wish that I got to paint these guys without the horrific pressure I put on myself for A Call to Arms.

I like painting robes, the natural lines and easy opportunities for shading/highlighting are great. I really do like how the blue turned out on these guys, I dialed it up a fair bit in contrast to the dark finish on the Storm Nouns. I wanted the gun mages to say "HEY, LOOK AT ME, IM REALLY BLUE & WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?"

Overall, pretty stoked with how they look.

On to the black 13th.... which are real bittersweet models.

The sculpts are pretty cool, and the unit is very characterful. Unfortunately they are not made in the same scale as the rest of the entirety of Warmachine.

Yep, someone decided to make them in a true scale as opposed to heroic. Consequently they look like teenagers cosplaying as gun mages on the table.

It's pretty damn stupid, especially as they are one of the most feared units in the entire game.

I made some custom bases, just to elevate them so they didn't appear completely lost on the big bad battle field.

Oh, I really like the glowy effect i got on the captains hand!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...