The Best Resource to Build Your Player Base
A game store is only as welcoming as its player community—which means it takes a good community to build a great one.
Some great feedback from players helped us track down two stores that managed to do just that.
And, as it turned out, both of them agreed: the best way to welcome new players is to involve your current ones.
"Steve is not an average retailer. He is a friend."—Customer, Amazing Heroes
Steve Nemeckay's goal is to make his store an inclusive, inviting space, where players meet old friends and greet new ones. To reach that goal, he creates a kind of artificial "tribe," with customs and privileges that engender camaraderie.
Perks for tribe members include the occasional I.O.U. entry fee and frequent after hours events. As part of your "initiation," Steve might give you a nickname based on your Magic play style. Like "The Glacier," a 6'6" Magic player known for deliberate decision-making.
It may seem silly, but nicknames can be both a source of easy familiarity and confirmation of hard-earned kinship—it's a privilege to use someone's nickname, and proof of companionship. With players on a nickname basis with each other, they're naturally inclined to treat each other with respect.
Of course, nicknames can be sensitive, so Steve makes absolutely sure his players are comfortable with them.
But once initiated, players do everything they can to help Steve's tribe grow.
"Great atmosphere...[Brian] is an outstanding instructor."—Customer, The Arcane
Brian Rodgers of The Arcane likes players to do the initiating themselves.
"The most valuable thing in all of Magic," says Brian, "is someone to play against." In that spirit, he goes out of his way to be a liaison between new faces and regulars.
For example, a player making the leap from kitchen table play to FNM might be introduced to Ron, a regular of Brian's adept at getting new players "tournament ready."
Gestures like that go a long way towards easing people into the group—especially for more introverted new players.
Like the new player who showed up on New Year's 2014. Brian introduced him around, and he spent the night eating pizza, playing Magic, and having a blast. Once the ball had dropped and the fun was winding down, the new player approached Brian, visibly moved.
"He told me that it was the first time he wasn't alone for New Year's."
That player lives an hour away, but still comes in weekly.
That's because Brian has created a destination-worthy atmosphere in his store. But he didn't do it alone. When called upon, both Brian's players and Steve's couldn't wait to help build their communities.
There's a good chance your players want to help, too.
By Matt Neubert