It is both good and bad to be back from a 9 day vacation. We left South Padre Island yesterday morning where it was 60 degrees and arrived in Indianapolis late this afternoon and it was 15 degrees. Nothing like a 45 degree shift in temperature DOWN to bring me back to reality. I loved the time on the beach with our family but we are anxious to get back into the swing of things back home again in Indiana.
While I was gone I have been both discouraged and inspired for our stores and our industry. It seems like all of a sudden the new year has woken up a few stores that were holding on to hope and a few stores are starting to announce they are closing their doors. There are always a ton more that just silently fade away but anytime we find out stores are closing it is a bit depressing. On top of hearing these stories our own store was SUPER slow to start 2011. So I was in a general funk last week (while on vacation which makes it hard to relax).
Then we hit Friday night and we had 80+ show up out of the blue for our normal monthly lock-in. That was a record for us by 17 (previous record was 63). We still had a few seats left because of normal daily customers playing that didn’t stay the night but at one point every seat in the store was full and people were waiting on spots to open up. We followed that up with a decent Saturday and private group lock-in and PRESTO! our month was trending back towards normal sales numbers.
One thing I have been considering is how organized “events” bring people out to play. The first two weekends of January we didn’t have anything scheduled and the sales numbers were below average. As soon as we plan a lock-in over 80 gamers show up to hang out all day and night on a Friday. Where were those people previously? I believe that many gamers just need a reason to get out and play.
I don’t necessarily mean big payout tournaments either. Just an organized, planned and promoted “event”. Game release party, overnight event, friendly competitions, recreational events, etc. I would agree that *some* customers organize their own get-togethers for groups of friends to get together and raid in WoW or play some League of Legends. But most gamers are not that organized and want to be included in something without getting too far out of their comfort zone.
I am in the process of building a simple tool for gamers that attend a game center to find other players throughout the nation to “scrimmage” or join together to play games. All of us have a computer at the front counter and an employee sitting behind it that can verify and assign groups to players. I want us to queue up players who are interested in playing a match against someone that is a bit more organized than a pub match. It seems like I always have League of Legends and Black Ops Xbox 360 players in my store that are itching to prove their manhood. I want to use that to create a king of the hill style of ongoing competition between game centers. More on that later this week.
Another item I want to work with is team gamerscore competitions. This is based on my own passion for unlocking gamerscore on Xbox 360 and I have a couple groups online that are interested in playing. These won’t be based on game centers at all, although I will encourage other centers that I work with to join us. The concept is simple, during a set time period (maybe a week for example), players will unlock achievements in Xbox 360 games and 4 players will add together the increase in gamerscore for their team score. Anyone can participate and new players have an advantage because they have many more easy games to unlock than those of us who have been playing for awhile.
Tomorrow I wanted to start my product reviews with the Turtle Beach Earforce X41 headset for the Xbox 360 but we sold the pair I bought last week out of our pro shop! I am going to try and get another few sets of headphones, controllers, mice and keyboards ordered so that I have a stockpile of items to review. Once I have finished reviewing them I will throw them on eBay and auction them off starting at a $1 for all of my blog followers.