Reality of running a game store

Reality of running a game store

Phoenix Resale interviews lots of gaming business owners. In this episode he interviews Mark from Dynamo Collectables and we get an absolutely fascinating interview of a guy that got out of being a restaurant server and into selling video games. The interview is packed with lots of real numbers and interesting wisdom:

  1. He started at home with a simple Twitter social media post: “I’m buying video games”. He put his money on the line ($25k) and bought everything. He started working 7 days a week, 70 hour workweeks selling on eBay until his house was packed floor to ceiling.
  2. Experiment, try things, and when you find something that works – double-down. He was doing video games, then picked up a few Pokemon cards. They sold out instantly. So now he buys and sells Pokemon cards.
  3. Buy low, sell fast. Focus on velocity over margin.
    • Be willing to buy a game for $30 and sell it right away for $40 vs buying at $20 and wait 8 months to sell for $50-$60.
    • He sold slightly below eBay/competitor prices. This caused lots of friction with other sellers. His attitude: lets sell it a little lower and both still make money.
    • Instead of gouging for fully charged handheld games after a recent hurricane, he discounted them and sold everything he had.
    • Buy slightly above Gamestop/similar competitors, sell slightly below them. This creates volume and customer velocity/word of mouth you buy higher and sell lower. The velocity more than makes up for it. It’s more like doing right by people as opposed to looking at them as targets to extract money.
    • This strategy means you’re not nickel and diming all the time and fret about pricing and selling at just the right moment. Just give customers a good deal if you’re buying or selling and you’ll keep growing.
  4. Emphasis on quality games people want vs a shovel load of sports games that never sell.
  5. Don’t get overly attached to your copy of Earthbound. Buy and sell everything without attachment.
  6. They have flea market nights and let customers buy and sell their own things in the store certain nights. It turns into people buying and selling to the store for the things they can’t find or just browse through.

He also talks about the proper attitudes you have to have. You have to mind it like a business first. Running it like a clubhouse for friends to play games with you usually ends with the store closing in a year or two. Focus on customer service and experience – because a lot of other game retailers are bad at. You are not selling games – you’re really selling nostalgia and an experience (which he learned from server background).

He also talks about the time and money requirements. $25k was not enough for them to really start and he didn’t make any money for 4 months. You should know this business is a roller-coaster and constant anxiety is par for the course.

Finally, there is very real personal costs. Without a very understanding wife and family, this would not work. He works 7 days a week and regularly puts in 70 hour weeks with only major holidays off. He has to work conventions and meet with sellers on birthdays and holidays. If he’s not running the store, he’s doing marketing or connecting with people who may need to liquidate an estate sale that day.

In my own opinion, it seems like he’s working an unsustainable pace that he knows will have to end at some point. His hope seems to be to work hard for a decade or two in order to enjoy family and time off later. I think this is a very risky strategy. As old construction workers will tell you – if you’re sacrificing your health now it is unlikely to be there later when you want it.

There are only certain times in your life you can enjoy certain things. I had the energy to do massive road trips and climb mountains as a 20 something. But those activities are much harder on me now. Your kids only grows up once. Once they are adults and move out – you can’t get that time back. Your wife is living her life too – and would like to live it with you. Finally, none of us are guaranteed a long life. You may never reach that goal of retirement. If you’re working yourself dangerously hard, you may find yourself dead of a heart attack due to overwork, an unexpected cancer diagnosis, or even a car accident. Even when pursuing your dreams, you need to make time to live and enjoy what you’re given. Life IS the journies, not the destinations.

Domestic violence in lesbian couples is double that of straight or other couples

Domestic violence in lesbian couples is double that of straight or other couples

  • 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
  • 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.

After hearing about a domestic abuse case between two lesbians here in Portland, I had no idea that domestic violence in the LGBTQ community was so high – especially between female couples where the rates are almost double that of straight couples or gay men.

Deep Nostalgia

Deep Nostalgia

MyHeritage Deep Nostalgia is a tool that came out about 3 years ago and can add animation to static faces in your photos to bring life to them. People first tried it on historical images:

Then it became a trend on TikTok to upload images of relatives that have long since died. While it’s not perfect, it brought many to tears to see their loved ones again.

Of course, this can be a double-edged sword. This technology can bring the past to life, but it can also be used to create fake videos of living people.

AI can guess where you are from a single picture

AI can guess where you are from a single picture

Rainbolt is one of the world’s best players of Geoguessr – a game in which you are given a 360 picture and you get about 20 seconds to guess where in the world it was taken. A team at Stanford took 2 months and built an AI that can guess 92% of countries correctly and a median miss error of only 44km – which is astounding.

Here’s a head-to-head competition between the AI Predicting Image Geolocations (or PIGEON) and a pro geogussr player:

But there’s another side of this kind of technology. NPR did an interview and presented a few personal photos to the algorithm. PIGEON was able to guess the location the photo was taken to a really high degree of accuracy. This means you can find places taken in old family snapshots, but it also means that algorithms like this can reveal everywhere you are, and have been, based on your social media posts.

How it works

The algorithm that PIGEON uses is an interesting combination of AI model techniques. Besides the AI based learning, they use some interesting methods such as ‘geocells’ that uses political/geographic regions to help narrow locations instead of just naïve squares.

Rainbolt even pointed out that PIGEON picked up on camera lens smudges in the sky that were very common in Canadian google image captures:

There’s so many other details. Definitely check out their paper here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2307.05845

Summary

This is yet another example of where 3 graduate students were able to develop a system that is better than the best experts in the world. And in this case, they did it in less than 3 months with off the shelf software and hardware.

You can only imagine where things will be in just a few years. Anyone that doesn’t think AI is already changing the world is missing it as it’s happening.

Emote Portrait Alive: Generating Expressive Portrait Videos with Audio2Video Diffusion Model under Weak Conditions

Emote Portrait Alive: Generating Expressive Portrait Videos with Audio2Video Diffusion Model under Weak Conditions

EMO is an audio-driven portrait-to-video generation framework. Input a single reference image and the vocal audio, e.g. talking and singing, and generate vocal avatar videos with expressive facial expressions, various head poses. Generate any duration depending on the length of input video.

You can make still images talk, sing, or cross-actor operations in which still images can deliver the performances of other actors or in different languages.

It reminds me of other AI facial animation software like MyHeritage’s Deep Nostalgia.

Project: https://humanaigc.github.io/emote-portrait-alive/

Github: https://github.com/HumanAIGC/EMO

Haloasis

Haloasis

Haloasis is an interesting device that uses a rapidly spinning LED bar to produce a constantly changing display inside a clear plastic tube. It seems geared towards creatively displaying lyrics from your music. It’s not even in kickstarter yet, but it’ll be interesting to see how they do. I’m curious how loud it is, because these devices are never exactly quiet due to the high RPM spinning LED bars.

I think it could be more cool as a display for interesting information since my karaoke skills are less than amazing.

Amatures vs Professionals

Amatures vs Professionals

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics

Omar Bradley

Anybody can come up with good ideas. No matter how clever you think you are – ideas are cheap. Trust me, someone’s almost certainly thought of your super-cool idea.

Even if your idea isn’t particularly unique, it’s in the EXECUTION where the professional is separated from the amateur. Can you actually build it? Can you make the right tradeoffs to build it on time? On budget? With high quality? Will it be sustainable or turn into a maintenance nightmare? In a way that customers will like and use? That’s the logistics.

You can’t just say “I’m going to buy an RV park” and expect to pull that off by the end of the week. A professional knows that there is a required amount of time for each step and the sum of those is the actual time it takes to realistically make a purchase. When you make unreasonable expectations you put yourself under undo stress and may even abandon the idea of buying an RV park because you feel that you are a failure. Instead, put a decent timetable to each action step and, even then, acknowledge that there is some element of luck involved in finding an RV park and will remain persistent even if you start to violate your initial time allocation.

AMATEURS TALK STRATEGY AND PROFESSIONALS TALK LOGISTICS

Idea people lead teams full of chaos, missed deadlines, and failure because they don’t know the logistics of how to make the idea reality. The logistics are what separates good ideas from a bad ideas. Working out the logistics tells you if you can actually deliver the idea on time, with high quality, and in a sustainable way.

There’s a second layer of logistics beyond just delivering on time.

Countless MP3 players and cell phones were made before Apple got into the game. But Apple destroyed them all. Apple’s success was not due to having a technologically superior product or particularly unique ideas. Instead, they knew how to define an experience then constrain the product to something the logistics said they could solve in a delightful way. The technology experts picked the right technology/methods to deliver the experience flawlessly – versus what would do the same thing but give poor or inconsistent experiences. That one approach is what led Apple to completely dominate the music and phone market when dozens of other players were first and had more modern technology.

Links:

Buy a WW 2 Era Sea Fort

Buy a WW 2 Era Sea Fort

Spitbank Fort and No Man’s Fort are some unique properties for sale. The sea forts were 2 armor-plated forts completed in 1878 off the British coast. They defended the Portsmouth dockyards during WW 1 and WW 2. It must have been rough, because it was reported that “Life on site was grim; those serving were deliberately chosen for their inability to swim, to avoid any attempt to escape.” Ouch.

After 1956, they were decommissioned and sat empty until they were turned into a museum in 1982-2009. Spitbank was reportedly purchased for more than £1m in 2009 for and converted into a luxury hotel that folded during the 2020 corona virus pandemic. In late 2020, Pendulum live broadcast a concert from Spitbank.

Now they’re both for sale.

Check out their websites for the cool sales information.