This week, we are launching a number of changes to our Covenant Tulsa retail environment – particularly Events and Memberships – and these changes represent a philosophical shift in our understanding of how best to generate deep connections and long-lasting friendships over tabletop games. This is by no means a declaration that “alas, we have solved the retail puzzle!” but instead one of many steps toward a better model that serves a greater proportion of the Tulsa community.
So, let’s take a look at what is changing and why.
The dissonance lurking just under the surface of standard tabletop gaming events is something that has been bubbling up in recent years. Like many of you reading this, we mainly grew up in the “tournament” culture and never questioned its merits. We put together our best decks, sat at a table for 8-12 hours straight, and assumed that the pinnacle of gaming was the adrenaline rush of competing.
But in the past 7 years, this assumption about competitive play has been fully and uncompromisingly deconstructed. Competitive events play an important and valid role, but they are not the preferred style of event for most players (by a longshot) and they are among the least effective at growing and sustaining a player base. Data in this industry skews heavily toward those who are self-reporting in local store environments, but it does not (and perhaps cannot) account for those who choose not to play locally, or at all.
This is a problem, specifically because it leads to stores asking “how can I entice my established players to play in more tournaments and buy more products?” instead of “how can I reach new players and non-participating players and turn them into active community participants?”
These questions have dramatically different answers, and the changes to our events are an attempt to answer the latter and the former. It is crucial to solve for both.
- Standard weekly events no longer link prize distribution to performance, allow for deck/list switching between rounds, and rotate through a variety of formats – including official prize kit events, new player events, release events, limited events, and custom non-official formats.
- Competitive events (Store Championships, Regionals, etc) remain a key component of the event calendar, and now serve as a more significant and unique opportunity for players to compete. These events will be run according to all official rules and requirements.
- Social events are now a more common fixture of the schedule. These are events not tied to a specific game but instead aimed at more universal themes (paint day, chili cook-off, etc.)
- Weekly game days have been adjusted to better promote community crossover and reduce conflicts. Of course, you can still come in anytime and play anything you want.
- The quarterly, universal league is no longer active in favor of better per-event prizes. Current league points must be cashed in by May 12.
This shift better balances the incentives for store attendance by adding more events that every type of player can attend and enjoy. The majority of events allow for the exploration of new decks, lists, and themes without worrying that they might not be “the best”, while the more serious, competitive events still satisfy the need for players to test their mettle in a more high-stakes environment.
All of this stems from our belief that game nights should be a relief from the day-to-day stress of modern life, a time to connect with new and old friends and get lost in universes that we all love, together. Even so, this is undoubtedly only the beginning.
One consistent chorus that we’ve never deviated from when it comes to local retail is the hazard that shops face when their model relies almost exclusively on MSRP product sales, or product sales at all. In response, we’ve had some variation of a membership model from the beginning. The problem with memberships is finding the perfect balance between value gained for members, revenue gained for us, and the level of scale needed to actually create a sustainable store model.
At the same time, when you start restricting access to tables or games by making them members-only (or heaven forbid, start charging table fees), you risk alienating players new to your store or, more importantly, new to the hobby. We want more people to be involved in tabletop, and the reality is that you are going to lose a lot of would-be community members if you are expecting to make money on those early interactions.
These changes to membership incentivize new players getting involved in the community with free starters, discounted events, and referrals, while also giving member-exclusive benefits for investing in the space.
- A new member, at the time of sign up, receives one free Starter for the featured title of their choice (up to a $40 value).
- $5 discount on every in-store event hosted by Covenant
- $10 store credit for membership referrals
- Exclusive seasonal token distributed at special monthly events
- The return of member-exclusive events, ticketed and catered
- Free in-store pre-orders and special orders for any tabletop game or accessory, regardless of if we normally stock it.
If you want to get a friend or co-worker involved in a game that you play, it is now easier than ever. For $15 upfront, they can start playing right away with their free starter set and jump into any weekly events for free the entire month – and you get $10 in store credit for getting them involved. These changes are all about making it easier to get more people involved in the games you play – which should be the critical value proposition of every local store.
This new store environment is a response to the feedback we have actively gathered over the last year, both objective and subjective. We are determined to make Covenant the best place in the world to connect over tabletop games, and that includes bringing new people into the hobby.
As we continue to gain insight from our incredible locals, speak to those inside and outside the industry, and ask ourselves hard questions about what we are doing and why, Covenant Tulsa will keep evolving. Come in and experience this new approach for yourself, and let us know what you think!