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Life in a "Small" Video Game Store - Gerald Chan

Opinion

Published on March 20th, 2012 | by Gerald Chan

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Life in a “Small” Video Game Store

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I read this article by Walter Lim that talked about the challenges of Daniel Goh starting his own craft beer stall in Chinatown (The Good Beer Company). With every word that was devoured, each example that was presented struck a cord as I tried to grow Qisahn.com (as instructed by the boss) and faced numerous road blocks along the way largely due to the reputation that the company had developed.

Unlike Mr. Goh, I had no budget to speak, no experience running campaigns and no clout what so ever in the gaming industry in Singapore. I was an unknown, and I think I still am outside of video game circles.

I think Mr. Lim did an amazing job framing the post in perfect segments and so I’d thought I’ll just go with that.

Identifying Your Unique Stories

I didn’t see things this way until I read the article.

It summarized exactly what I should have done in my time at Qisahn.com. Instead of leveraging on what was the main “sell” of the store, I chose to focus my time and effort on other endeavours that did not work out as I would have liked it to have been.

It also didn’t help that the company did not want that much coverage due to the nature of the business. The video game industry in Singapore isn’t as pretty and simple as many would think it to be. It’s disgustingly dirty.

Unlike Mr. Goh, I had no insight into taking different angles to appeal to others. Hopefully, I pray that I have gained enough in my time there.

Social Media Engagement

I am actually proud of this aspect. Back in the day, when companies collected ‘Fans’ instead of ‘Likes’, I can proudly say that Qisahn.com was right up there in terms of the local industry.

I grew the social media base of nothing. I had to rely on good content, seasonal sales and scrounged up freebies in order to promote the social media properties.

Qisahn.com still is the most “Liked” video game store in Singapore and enjoys a similar healthy following on Twitter as well.

More Likes and Followers results in more sales? Yes but not as much as you’d like it to be.

Harness the Mainstream Press

One aspect that I wanted to explore but didn’t due to how things were run back then.

I did pitch the idea to the boss but was promptly shut down. “Gain too much visibility and things could turn sour fast,” I was told.

I do recall of a particular game store that had to change his business model because renting of games was not exactly legal in Singapore. So, he changed his model into the ‘second-hand bookstore’ model (for the lack of a proper term). The higher price customers had to pay was much more as compared to before although the buyback price was actually the same compared to rental previously.

All I can say was that he would have thrived while relying on the rental model but it was after a newspaper article that covered his store was he immediately instructed to cease the rental of video games.

Issues and Challenges

Instead of breaking out into a rant, I would just like to share one example I had when trying to garner more offerings for the customers.

I had written to Edelman in Singapore as they had handled the Microsoft Xbox 360 Singapore Account. One day, I had received a call from a Caucasian lady who said she had received my e-mail. My heart leap. Breakthrough!

But it was not to be.

The conversation was more of an interrogation more than anything else. In retrospect, she sounded pretty darn peeved that she had to make the call. I presumed because her boss told her so.

I was asked if I was a retailer and I replied yes but I would like to provide coverage with my blog. She asked me yet again if I was a retailer and I said yes. The reply following that was “You should find your distributor.” And slam went the phone. It was quite shocking. I guess I am rather naive but I didn’t expect such treatment at all.

Guess when you are a small fry (and spoiling the market), people don’t really do give a shit. Amazingly, Sony Hong Kong came through and that was a good high following an awesome low.

This episode taught me to pick myself up after a fall. However, I would never forget the treatment.

Building Communities

I didn’t touch the aspect of customer in the previous section because community was where Qisahn.com was born out of.

If you were born out of Hardwarezeone, the community would also be the one to nail the coffin shut as well. I’ve learnt to manage my emotions well especially when handling online personas.

Forums are tricky business. Here you are as one person tackling a torrent of individuals, the benefits and disadvantages are equal in the sense that in times of praise, the highs can be unimaginable. But so are the lows. The recent PS Vita controversy is a clear illustration of how things went badly based on unclear information.

When Mr. Goh takes the time to speak to his customers, a similar act in the store would be met with scorn. I have seen the customer feedback along the lines of “the shop guy took so long to explain things to the person in front of me. Waste time!” Yup, such remarks are very common surprisingly for a store that prides itself for being approachable and friendly.

Like everything else, the community is always ready to grab their pitchforks and torches as compared to handing out bouquets.

I am rather brief on my sections mainly because there’s just so much to say but so little attention span. If you’d made it down this far I truly thank you. There’s so much I also would like to discuss but I guess it deserves its own separate blog post.

Anyway do check out Brewing a Good Story @ Social Media Breakfast by Walter Lin for an insight that not many sites would tell you cos it’s simply not a ‘best practice’.

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About the Author

Thanks for visiting my blog! If it's video game related, I'm pretty much all over it! I'm Singaporean and in real life I'm involved heavily in social media.



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