Here are the stores that hung it up between July 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, that I know about. My information sources are imperfect but I am confident that this list does not fundamentally mischaracterize the situation. I required a firsthand-source announcement or the discovery of the store closed in order to add it to the list.
- 2 Drop Game Shop (Fort Myers, FL)
- 8-Bit Legends (Clermont, FL)
- A Kid At Heart Games (Round Rock, TX)
- Arcana Hobbies and Games (CT)
- Area 52 Comics (Gainesville, GA)
- Arkadia Gaming (Phoenix/Ahwatukee, AZ)
- Battle & Brew (Atlanta, GA)
- Board Game Island (Galveston, TX)
- Cerebro Gaming (Lake Charles, LA)
- The Comic Book Collector (London, Ontario, Canada)
- Comic Cafe (Hammond, LA)
- Comic Outlaws (Phoenix, AZ)
- Cosmic Comics (Bellingham, WA) - reported may still be open
- Desert Sky Games and Comics (Tempe, AZ) (other location remains open)
- The Dice & Dagger (Mandeville, LA)
- Dragon's Lair (Tampa, FL)
- Excelsior Games and Comics (Greenville, MI)
- Fongo Bongo Games (Salt Lake City metro)
- Full Spectrum Wargames (DFW metro)
- The Game Academy (Tampa, FL)
- Game Haven (Norwalk, CT)
- Gamers Guild (Florida) (may have been sold to new ownership)
- Gamers Hall (Jackson, TN)
- Games & Gizmos (Redmond, WA)
- Game X Change (Clearwater, FL)
- The Gaming Goat (Las Vegas area, 2 of 2 stores; Chicago area, 2 of many stores)
- Gizmo's Games (central California, 2 stores)
- Heroes Landing (Clearmont, FL)
- Hero's Corner Comics (New Orleans)
- Hobby Land (Montana)
- Karliquin's Game Knight (Boulder, CO)
- Knight's Title Games (Tampa, FL)
- Legends Tournament Center (Bedford, TX)
- Light Speed Hobbies (Portage, IN)
- Lost Harbor Games (Westfield, MA)
- Microplay (Reading, PA)
- Oak Cliff Games (DFW metro)
- Quantum Leap Games & Hobbies (Killeen, TX) (sold to new ownership and expected to reopen)
- Retro Reboot (Pineville, NC)
- Retro Station (Woodbury, NJ)
- Scarecrow's Games (Millsboro, DE)
- Shep's Games (Aurora, CO)
- Silver Star Comics (Tempe, AZ)
- The Score (Murfreesboro, TN)
- Tables Board Game Spot (Las Vegas metro)
- TD4W Games (Delaware) (may have reopened)
- Toyriffic (Maplewood, MN)
- Untamed Worlds (Lynchburg, VA)
- Valhalla Games and Comics (Plano, TX)
- We Got Game (Mankato, MN)
- Wildpig Comics (Kenilworth, NJ)
- Zanadu Comics (Seattle metro)
And no, I'm not being cheeky counting my own Tempe store on that list. I had two stores, I now have one. Never mind that the one is bigger than the previous two combined. I moved locations, but I also closed a comic and game store, and therefore that counts as one down.
So, what do we make of all this?
Both of the stores closest to my new Chandler location closed within 90 days of my arrival. Arkadia Gaming and Silver Star Comics were their names. I did not target them in any way, I did not make efforts to poach their customer base. I do not expect to get any significant migration in the near term from their clientele. There is a myth that a new store can open and steal all the customers from an existing store, or something like that. While some audiences are migratory to a fault (X-Wing players, I'm looking at you) the reality is that most are not, and will focus at one store while occasionally-to-infrequently visiting others. When a player's Friendly Local Game Store closes, a substantial percentage of its customer base simply quits the hobby.
I think an important lesson to take away from DSG's experience with Arkadia and Silver Star is to remind ourselves as business owners that a store that closes is not necessarily bad, nor did it necessarily operate poorly. It is possible for a store to operate well and still come up short. Granted, failure to survive is usually indicative of at least some missteps, but nobody is batting a thousand out there. Retail is in a state of upheaval, just as social media and technology are, and those of us piloting these barges are steering against choppy waves and just doing our best to steer prudently enough to stay off the rocks.
As Captain Picard famously said, "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life." A quick look around the list provides plenty of evidence of that. Hobby Land in Montana closed due to owner retirement; customers from the area speak of it with reverence. It would be a miscue to suggest that they "failed." Gizmo's Games was a planned closure, with owner Lloyd Loomis deciding he needed a break and taking advantage of both his locations being eligible for ending-of-lease. Zanadu Comics was an era-defining store in one of the toughest markets in the country for small business, and is as much a victim of the artisanal comic magazine problem as anything else, rather than some speculative lack of execution.
It's true that some of the stores on that list probably did fail, as such. When a clubhouse store has holes in its floor and has aimed so low in its local market that its players are indifferent to that? Probably no longer really on the yardstick by which we assess a peer. It's just a thing, something that exists, something that irritates competitors in the area, but has long since been doomed, and it is only a matter of time before entropy catches up.
There are not a lot of guarantees in business, aside from ever-increasing costs. My own situation, while favorable in the long term, is still stabilizing in the wake of an expensive, cumbersome, and disruptive move. When another store transitions into history, every survivor learns something, even if that something is marginal or another data point on the list of known causes-and-effects. If we're lucky and we keep this barge afloat, we can learn enough to know where the next rocks are going to be. Staying alive is the only sure way to maximize the range of positive outcomes.