Okay, here's my rant on local, physical, game shops.
My home town has had a Challenge Games (Games Workshop, and Paintball), and a home run place called Mad Hatter's House of Games for several years now. I got started with the Star Trek CCG as a middle school student at "Hatter's", occasionally bought Battletech stuff there, and generally went there for gaming events (few and far between).
My brother spent a lot of time at "Challenge" because of warhammer fantasy... and I swing by there from time to time while I'm at the mall.
Now, with Paizo, and RPGNow, and other sites... I order lots of stuff online... it's cheaper, you typically get more stuff (pdf's to go with your dead tree copy), and I don't have to either write a paper check or run my debt card through one of those old carbon-copy card swiper things. (Yeah, Hatter's still uses one, and the credit card companies still accept them... scare's the **** out of me honestly... that thing makes 3 copies one you get, one goes to the c-card company, and one the store keeps, more than once I've seen a bunch of them just dumped in the trash... no shredding, whole carbon copies of peoples c-cards or debit cards in the trash...)
Lots of better off stores are complaining about the online shopping, but to be honest, my friend "prillo" ordered his 4rd edition battletech boxed set through the mail, from a catalog that came with his new copy of Mechwarrior 3 that he ordered online back in '98. Then there's bookstores, sure once upon a time finding a gaming book in a bookstore was unnatural. Now, not so much, Hastings has them, and we just had a new Barnes&Noble open in my hometown (the old one was getting a little small for the traffic), and they currently have a better selection in 4th edition DND than either actual gaming store in town. Other options have been with us for 11 years now... and longer if you count mail orders through catalogs... so why are they complaining now?
I think it's because a lot of them are like Hatter's, they've waited to long to make the way they do business to keep up. They've done it to themselves. But what could they have done differently?
I donno... I'm not gonna speculate either. I know what I'd offer if creating a gaming store from scratch now... but 10 years ago, I'd probably have made the same mistakes... but 10 years ago I was a high school student.
But that's mostly ranting... I said I'd talk about printing, and gaming stores continued life. Well, I think they're gonna go hand in hand.
Recently while working on my own setting, I had a pendrive on me, it had a copy of one of the maps I was working on... saved to be printed at 13x19 (I'm considering a new printer), and I was just finished eating with some of my buddies when I realized I was standing in front of a Kinkos-Fedex store.
I went in, planning on printing the map. First, I asked if they could print 13x19... the answer was "only on our plotters, which are charged by the square foot" and that was expensive... I was thinking about 10 prints, and the math came out to about half as much as a 13x19 borderless printer I've been eying from HP... no thanks...
"But you can print 11x17 at our self service station." I jumped on this... I went over, plopped down, and stuck my debit card in the thing to charge me by the minute for use of the pc to do the printing. 1 test print, plus a few extra prints, I'll be out of here on a buck and a half. Boy was that wrong.
First, it takes the pc a while to recognizance my pen drive, then I find that the printer that prints 11x17 doesn't do it unless you hand load the paper into the manual feed tray... no big extra minute.
Then I can't get the pc to realize that the manual feed tray is set for 11x17 paper, even though the printer knows it's got 11x17 in it. I ask for assistance guy comes looks at the printer, says "It should work fine" and leaves the room. Doesn't even give me a chance to explain my problem or even bother to look at the computer with me.
So, I've now spent 3.43 on some completely worthless computer use time. I kill the login session... go to ask for a refund, or maybe some help... and all I get is "sorry".
Now, 3.43 isn't going to break me, but that's got to be the absolute least effective way I've ever spent anything, including the time that I bought things and then left them at the register at walmart, because at least that was my fault.
So how do I think physical game stores should counter loss of sales to big bookstores and online sites. Among several other services, I think they should invest 500-600 bucks in a good model 13x19 borderless color printer, paper, some laminating hardware and materials... and offer to print custom and legitimately purchased electronic maps in house. It won't turn things around instantly, and it won't do it alone to be sure, but I know I'd spend lots more time at either Hatter's or Challenge if I could get some of this stuff printed. I'm not the only one either, and I live in a "little" town when it comes to gaming. There are cities with lots more gamers, of all types (including custom campaign setting builders) who'd use it.
I'll probably come back to this, as there are some "services" a gaming store could provide to make this even more attractive to the pen and paper gamer. (Can't afford a copy of Campaign Cartographer... come set on our pc for the afternoon... 5 bucks to use the pc, plus 10% off anything you print today) I just need to get back to work.
So what say you?