Gamer Doc, a California-based start-up billing itself as an alternative video game retailer, is expanding to the East Coast and plans to have new stores in Boston by the end of this year, the company’s president said recently in an interview with Blast.
“My whole belief is that the community of gamers all over the world, including Boston, is insulted by commercials, bored with TV content and is looking for a source of entertainment with more depth,” said Gamer Doc president Jim Belanger, 54. “Video games are providing that.”
“They want true freedom to play what they want when they want,” Belanger said. “They’re kind of rejecting the old ways of marketing.”
Gamer Doc has generated news buzz in local and national markets.‚ They sell games, but instead of just putting product on shelves, there are video games being played all around with game systems being repaired in the back and gaming-related events and contests going on in the middle.
This interactive “gaming community” experience promises to be unique.
“We’re like a Gamestop, a Blockbuster, an arcade and a repairs center all rolled into one,” said Jason Renfro, 37, who opened the first Gamer Doc in Los Angeles.
Locations provide services based on the needs of the customer. By talking with staff, gamers and new players can increase their knowledge of specific games and systems. Customers can actually play games and participate in events in the store like tournaments, gaming leagues, new game demonstrations and release date events.
In the original Gamer Doc location, the model seems to have worked too well — “In December there was so much business in the store that we had to cancel all the events,” said Renfro.
When events do happen,‚ Gamer Doc locations will often recruit regular customers to help out the staff. Knowledgeable gamers can be a great asset to the community in a Gamer Doc location, Belanger said.
“They are key to our success,” he said. “We have a process of recognizing, and involving, the knowledgeable gamers to get them into the system.”
Belanger said GamerDoc planned to open three franchise stores in and around Boston
A franchise store is paid for by a group of investors. An agreement between Gamer Doc and the investors defines the market area. The challenge for the company is to find qualified franchisees, this will affect the timetable for store openings in Boston, Belanger said. The company sees benefits to franchising.
“The benefit to the owner is to be part of a growing and exciting brand,” the founding president said. “For the customers, we find generally, franchisees are more committed to the customer experience.”
Belanger and David Huether started the company in 2007. Many of the staff members on the current roster have been with the company from the beginning. There were many retailers selling video games at the time, but the pair had a different idea. Instead of simply selling the video games, they wanted to begin recognizing the role of “hardcore gamers” in the store.
“On the Xbox 360 there were these malfunctions called ‘the red ring of death’ that made the system inoperable,” Belanger said. “Hardore gamers were amazed when we gave them loner machines, so they could get back to playing their games,” Belanger said.
The focus on hardcore gamers will be reflected in the layout of the store. Locations will even have a specific line where gamers can quickly pick up their games and go if they want.
“Our idea is to make it so that people can get their games, and get to playing them right away,” Belanger said.
Belanger has been gaming since 1977. His first game was a “cocktail” version of the Pac-Man arcade game that sat two people for simultaneous play. His first console was an Atari 400. He currently owns an Xbox 360 Elite, a PlayStation 2 and a Wii.
He ended any ambition of PC gaming after repeated destruction in World of Warcraft, at the hands of his co-workers.
“Overall, I see the gamers of today are as the golfers of my generation, you have to play every stroke every time, or you’ll never know if you’re really good.”