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


  1. The whole thing just reeks of bad planning. I have actually done a lot of research into opening a store in Wellington. These guys have several major flaws.

    1. Profit. They need to know how much they need to sell to cover their overheads. Short answer: more than they realize.
    2. Competition. GW store, Pulsar Max and every coffee store in Wellington. What sets them apart?
    3. Wargame supply. They need to know exactly why WSG failed. Judging by the names on the pledge. That may be hard for them to accept.

    1. Completely agree, especially with point 3.

    2. Can I play Devil's Advocate for a bit?

      1. Profit - This they do know. I know they have run the numbers over and over. They know what this is going to cost. It isn't just a whim or a flight of fancy. They truly want this to work.

      2. Competition - GW isn't really competition for them. It's one range of product, and for a Independent Retailer to stock their stuff, they have to hold a huge range of it. I know, I was there at WGS when the paperwork came over from GW. It really isn't worth the time and effort stocking it. Pulsar Max - This is where it starts to get tricky. I know that WGS and Pulsar had an unwritten agreement that WGS wouldn't stock Trading Card games and the like (MTG ect), and Pulsar wouldn't stock board games ect. Each stuck to their own thing. I don't know how things are going to go down with this new store and Pulsar, especially if they start trying to get in on the trading card part of it.

      3. WGS - One of the three involved worked for WGS longer than any other staff member there. They know EXACTLY why it failed.

      /End Devils Advocate.

      Right, next bit.

      Part One - Legitimacy? I'm going to have to agree here. While the crowd sourcing thing is a great idea, they really didn't do too good a job writing the campaign for this unfortunately.

      Part Two - Incentives - (These have currently dropped in price on the campaign from the time this post was written.) I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. You have raised some good points, but at the same time, haven't offered any viable alternatives to the incentives they have at the moment. They are open to suggestions, so if you have any ideas of what you think may be a good incentive, feel free to let them know.

      Part Three - Reality.... It's a bitch - WGS didn't fail because it's customers didn't spend the money. It failed because the boss wasn't involved, and didn't let the staff do what was needed to make the business work. Yes, it may seem a little naive to hope to get 50k from the Wellington crowd. But at least they are trying. I know I'm going to chip in and help. Label me stupid, and if it doesn't work out, well, then I will have learnt a good life lesson, albeit an expensive one. But it is a risk I'm willing to take.

      Part Four - Show Me Your Workings - Business Plan? I'm willing to say that I am 100% sure they have one. Know how to run a business? Yes, they do. Sort out a supply chain? They have the contacts they need to do this. Why isn't all this on the campaign? I'm not sure.

      Look, I know 2 of the 3 people involved in this project. I'm going to support it as much as I can. I realise that this looks very haphazard at the moment. But they know what it is going to take to make this work.

      Please, just give it a chance. Let them fix the online campaign, and give people more solid information pertaining to all the work they have put into this and you will see that this isn't just a group of hopefuls looking to make a quick buck.

      These are three professionals trying to build a legitimate business.

    3. First off Cameron, nothing I will say is directed at you personally. You’re a good guy and I can see your loyal to the people you know who are involved in this and I respect that.

      But to me, they don't sound like professionals trying to build a legitimate business, they sound like kids thinking it would be cool to own a game store.

      Business is serious work and serious effort. This attempt at "marketing" has told me an awful lot about them. I cannot have faith in this initiative based on what they have shown to date.

      You may personally vouch for them, but when someone is asking for money I want to see something tangible.

      If you do want to give them recommendations, try these

      • Instead of coming out first and asking for cash, they should have opened up with a site asking questions of the gaming community. Do some research, survey, find out what people want, find out the needs of the market and collate the research into a vision for the business.
      • Communications and marketing planning – The approach taken screams of poor planning. It’s half assed and incomplete. Come out with a full mature and developed approach when you’re ready to seek funding. As right now, you aren’t. Get involved on facebook and the NZ RPG forums, get the community involved and interested before asking for cash.
      • Business planning/investment pack - When sourcing investment capital they should be able to say, this is who we are, we have x experience, this is our vision for the business and here is a guide for potential investors (with projected sales figures, costs, turnover, overhead costs and returns on investment). Anyone putting a dime into a business without seeing these numbers is a fool.
      • Brand – Stock photography of a cup of coffee is pretty weak sauce. It certainly doesn’t scream professionalism, it looks very very lazy. Coem up with a logo even, a strap line (Not the Games store wellington wants, but the games store wellington deserves) Also, critical hit is a games store in Melbourne, I don’t know if they know that?
      • The suggestion below is golden. Use crowd sourceing later on once the majority of capital is secured. Use it for stretch features to improve the customer experience. Want fully terrained tables? If we get 5k we will make some. At 10k we will have a set of painted Warmachine models for demo games in store. At 15k COMFY LEATHER SOFAS! Etc etc etc. Use the crowd sourced money to provide community goods, I believe people will be more comfortable parting with cash if they see a return for it.

      Minor point - That agreement with Pulsar max was freaking retarded. CCG’s are an important market and great money for shelf space. Pulsar won on that deal easily.
      GW- It’s always competition. Don’t think of them as solely competing on their product grounds, they don’t think that way. They want people to not play other games and play theirs instead. GW will always be competition to a Games Store as they will be trying to turn people from baordgames and other mini games to theirs. Mark One stocks GW at pretty crappy margins just to get people in the store (Another store sells GW only 200 metres away as well). If you have the product in you may get some GW fans in, and may be able to turn them on to other product (This here is Warmachine… want a demo). NEVER, EVER play down the importance of GW in the Wellington Market. Nathan knows how to run a shop and is incredibly tenacious. GW has staying power and an amazing ability to get people in the store consuming the product.

      That’s my constructive criticism (mixed in with a spoonful of contempt)

      If they do get the business off the ground I will be there. If their value proposition is sound I will shop there. If it isn’t I will go back to buying my stuff online, like I did for 90% of my purchases in WGS last year.

    4. I would also recommend this article, sent by email from a fan :)

  2. I don't know what the business conditions are like in NZ, but I have for 3 years now plugged away at the idea of opening a store here in the UK. It take methodical planning, and a lot of market research. The amount of data that I have accumulated is immense... yet... despite all this I still feel I don't quite know enough to sink my own funds and time into it. Having spoken to banks they feel my work is thorough and comprehensive. some would be willing to loan part of the capital required to get me off of the ground. But I'm still wary and I'm normally an exceedingly positive guy, who is happy taking risks. After reading their webpage I have to say they sound clueless and totally unprepared for what is about to hit them if they open their store. It's not easy and it requires far more thought than they seem to have put into it. Actually the naivety contained within it, annoyed me reading it all the way over here in the UK.

    1. I imagine they wont be too different to the UK, both economies are pretty shaky right now. I think the major differences would be that GW has a bigger strangehold on the minds of gamers in the UK, and that NZ is extremely exposed to import issues (distance, time, cost) and movements in currency.

      I agree, its the smugly lackadaisical approach to this that rubs me the wrong way, not the concept of opening a store. I'd like a game store to suceed in Wellington.

  3. My concern is that if you need $50,000 to be given to you to start a business, there is already doubt about whether should start that business.

    Personally, I think it may have been more successful to have started the business, showing that commitment, and KS for wishlist stuff in the store. "We will add a board game shelf with the top 10 games on BGG if we get $20,000 etc" "We add a coffee machine if we get $30,000" etc

    1. There is nothign wrong with asking for startup capital, its kind of the corner stone of capitalism. However, people who contribute are investors and are aiming to get a return on their investment. Flat out asking people to gift money for negliible rewards is the crazy part.

      Your second point is a really good one. If they had secured most of their funding already they could have used the pledge process for adding stretch goals. We get 2k extra we will buy a comfy sofa, 5k and we will get 2 extra gamign tables with terrain etc etc

  4. All good points. Part of why WSG failed was staff. It's harsh but true.

    Good staff would of acknowledged customers concerns when they were bought forward. They would of made customers of all ages feel welcome and respected. They would have knowledge of the product and the retail skills to sell.

    WSG did not do any of these well.

    I have done a lot of planning. If the people involved want me to run through the numbers just send me an email at "moose moose 316 @ gmail" remove spaces and add a .com

    1. I agree. I had few issues with the staff personally, but I did share a car ride to Napier with some people who had some very strong opinions on the staff there. The major concerns seemed to focus on appearance of the staff (far too casual and not at all business) and a resigned attitude to the state of the shop and the pricing model. The opinion was that they employed gamers, not retailers, and that the absentee owner fostered a culture of depressed resignation and lack of care from the staff.

      As much as GW annoys the crap out of me at times, at least you know who the staff are from the customers. That's a pet hate of mine.


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