I’ve recently noted a few comments and questions directed at online stores, most of which boil down to – what’s the value of an online game store? What do we contribute that another entity, whether it’s a physical Bricks & Mortar store or a publisher could do themselves. Here’s some areas of value that we, as an online game retailer add:
Online stores add additional reach over and above what a B&M store or a publisher website is able to. Whether it’s the reach across national lines (Canadians that US publishers can’t reach easily) or to small towns (it’s generally accepted that towns with a population of less than 50,000 are difficult for game stores to thrive in), online stores expand the market.
In addition, market saturation is never 100%. I lived for years in Vancouver without knowing of Drexoll, yet they are a firmly established B&M store. Online stores, in many ways, are really ‘easy’ to find. Or should be at least…
Publishers are good at publishing games. B&M stores are good at running B&M stores. They aren’t necessarily good (or should be!) at running an online store, shipping games to customers, online customer service, etc. For a publisher, there’s an order of difference between managing 20 to 30 distributors to managing 2000 – 3000 customers. For B&M stores, the added complexity of managing 2 inventories and online customer service can be extremely difficult.
Sometimes, when you try to be / do everything; you end up being good at very little. Slow shipping, missing inventory, bad customer service, annoyed retailers & distributors, etcetera. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on what you are good at.
Online stores provide a level of convenience for those who either do not want to, or are unable to purchase at a B&M or publisher. We ship games direct to your doorstep (or office) and allow customers to shop at their leisure. Want to purchase something at 2am in the morning? Sure – no problem. It’s the kind of convenience that some customers want.
In addition, compared to publishers we provide the convenience of consolidation. Rather than purchasing from a dozen publishers to buy a dozen games, it’s easier (and better!) for the customer to find / buy from 1 location. That doesn’t even include things like accessories (dice, dice bags, storage solutions, etc) that we carry that a publisher would not.
Of course, there’s the part where online stores are willing to sell games at or below MSRP. However, online stores also stock and sell games from multiple publishers, thus being able to sell and ship more than 1 game from 1 publisher. It brings the overall cost per game shipped down, often quite significantly – leading to lower prices for the customer again.
As an example, the base cost of shipping a game from BC to Ont is $13. Add 6 games, it still only goes up to say $18. So, cost per game shipped is like $3. It’s rare you’d get a publisher with 6 games that a single customer would like to buy.
Of course, all the other ways of how we compete play in too – all the things that we do to be competitive with other online stores are also things that differentiate us from a B&M store or a publisher run webstore.