The very end and beginning of a new era

Hello dear reader. I would like to start this entry with a big thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years and who still do. It’s been an awesome ride with all of you, and although sometimes shaky and bumpy it has still been a very enjoyable experience that I am proud to have lived through. Over the course of the past years, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many interesting people who have even become close to me.

It’s rewarding to feel the way I do after working for so long in the Arena. The past 7 years have offered me a chance to express my inner nerd and live one of my passions. The number of tournaments has been amazing and each and every interaction in my matches has been a unique experience. My strong feelings for the Arena burned bright and felt immovable. Each day presented a new challenge be it a new deck on the horizon, a new strategy, generally always something new to look forward to. And I felt that for a very long time. Until…I didn’t.

Am I giving you a strange vibe? Something like this entry might be different than previous ones? Dear reader, you’re right. You’ve got me down to a T. So make yourself comfortable as I invite you to go on this short trip with me. I won’t take too much of your time. Or well…maybe enough that you’ll feel the times passing by, but also won’t be dissatisfied after reading the entire entry. If the title of this post might just be interpreted as another rant about Coronavirus, that’s not really the main theme that I want to expand on, even if I will mention this virus here and there. Let’s begin 🙂

The journey so far

I have reached a certain moment in my life when I can no longer ignore the ever-growing pulls and twists of my “other” passions. I used quotes there because I can actually say that the store has been the other passion all along. The ones who know me a bit more, also know that I graduated from an Arts University. I have a strong artistic background, starting with my father having been a conductor of various classical orchestras over the course of his career.

From a young age I was surrounded by classical music, artists of all kinds with varying degrees of famousness. I began my artistic journey when I was about 15. Since then, art has been an integral part of who I am. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment when I knew that I had…something, that others did not or maybe did not want to develop as much as I did. But that’s not important to the overall purpose of this entry.

As you have probably guessed, I have been struggling with keeping my creative side under control for, let’s say, the better part of 3 years. I have been going through loads of ups and downs that manifested themselves in my day to day life. In the beginning I couldn’t really find the core of my issues, but as I continued on the path I found myself on, things started clearing up showing me what is the actual main concern in my life. When Corona hit, it was a shock for everyone. It’s been almost a year since the preview version of an apocalypse happened. However, it has also given me a much needed break to asses my thoughts and feelings of where I am at.

The first months of Corona felt strange. Most likely for everyone. There was so much free time. I spent most of it playing PC games like League of Legends and Hearthstone. That got boring, but not much else was happening so what else could I do? It soon turned into more like an addiction. The need for the dopamine hits from winning a match were central to my very boring, usual day. Once I was allowed to open the store again, I didn’t feel like anything much changed. It was the same protocol like after being on a long vacation where I needed a bit of time to ease into things again.

One day though…I started on an arts project. It was most likely my subconscious forcing it out of me, making me feel very guilty when I didn’t give it attention. It took a while until I actually got into it, but when I did, I couldn’t stop. Ideas kept flowing, I couldn’t sleep without thinking more and more about my project. I woke up and worked more on it, went to the Arena, counted the hours till it was closing time, and when I would finally get home, I would immediately continue where I left off. This has been going on for more than half a year. It hasn’t stopped since.

I think I always knew that the Arena wouldn’t be my final stop, more like another step on the staircase I call my life. When I started with the store, I can honestly say that I strongly believed in it with all my being. I also don’t think one can achieve anything in life if one doesn’t give 100%…at least. But realistically I have been very much underperforming for the better part of the most recent years. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it from the outside, but I could have grown the store much bigger than it is now had I been more interested in material gains. I have never had this money-focused view on things though and I don’t judge anyone who has them. Who am I to tell anyone how to live their own lives?

Some of you know that I felt sad when I couldn’t play in a Modern or Legacy tournament. Well, I didn’t just feel sad, I pretty much showed my dissatisfaction sometimes quite clearly 😀 There were plenty of times when I hoped that there would be an uneven number of people at a draft so I could play as well. I was focused much more on being a player rather than being a store owner. While I don’t believe that’s a bad thing, it’s something for the next person to think about and maybe balance it out a bit better than I have.

Stepping down feels right

Honestly I think it would have been wiser to let someone else steer the ship into better waters a long time ago. I was stubborn though, but I see now what the future of the store should look like. The previous paragraphs should have made this abundantly clear, but I’m going to go ahead and tell you again that the main reason for me leaving the store isn’t because of corona and even less because of financial issues.

While Corona has definitely been a pain in the ass to deal with, it has not been impossible to manage. I would even say that’s it’s almost the opposite. I have tons of orders online after finally being finished with uploading all my cards. Together with the help from the state, it has been more than enough to stabilize. Over the course of this entire corona-debacle I have never felt scared even for a second that I would have to decisively close.

Perhaps you’ve also noticed that I only had a few calls for support from you, all my customers and friends. The first one was in the first weeks of corona because I wasn’t sure what would happen next. The moment I was guaranteed financial support from the state to keep open, I didn’t feel like I needed to burden anyone by spamming the group chat or Facebook with “Buy this or that” messages. I avoided that at all costs.

I did not want this virus to force me to ask for help especially if I didn’t need it to survive. In fact, my belief lies in the fact that the moment everything does open, people will flock to my store once again, exploring their passion for cards and most importantly express the inherent need of human beings to socialize. We just feel better when we’re in a place where we know others understand us, even if it’s just a small part of us. I feel like that at least.

That’s what my store stands for. I remember some customers telling me that without my store they would have felt alone and unhappy in Ingolstadt. It warmed my heart that I gave them a reason to feel better. If I was unsure of myself and my decision to open a store, I was proven in that moment that I have done the right thing by going on this path. I don’t regret it. However, I now acknowledge that it’s also time to let go. Everything I’ve been through up to now has made me the person who I am now. The one writing this entry wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Why not take the store with me?

This is a valid question, one that I have contemplated for a long time. I could do it. I have everything needed to just pick up and leave to a different city or even a different country. The current stock is filled with good stuff. I have tried not to lag too far behind on what’s new, but also be weary of sudden closures because of Corona. It’s a healthy ensemble of product. If I could fully open tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel understocked. I know there are some things I missed, but it’s not like I can’t get the next thing once everything settles down.

The Cardmarket account is flooded with orders. I had around 600 orders in one weekend after I opened my account again. That’s about 9300 cards that I sold in a week. I had to put it on vacation mode to be able to manage everything. I now open it every few days again and stop it after I reach 50 orders or so. Preferably less, because I need to pick out hundreds of cards each time. This would be even bigger had I decided to crack open Kaldheim as I did with previous editions.

The amount of work would be impossible for me to do even if I would be awake 24 hours per day. There is no limit to the single card market. It really has been a great equalizer for me. I turn it on and make enough to cover what I need. That’s not the say that it’s an endless bag of gold. No, of course, it’s not. I just gave myself enough rope to hang on to over the course of the years. And it has paid off.

However, I wouldn’t take the store with me because I don’t want to continue in this line of work. Let’s just all agree here that I am not the right person to have as a store clerk 🙂 I am not the best match for this role, so it would only make sense that this current situation would happen sooner or later. I did express at some point that I would have left someone else work for the store and I would leave, but that’s just unrealistic.

I would always have to have one eye on the business and the other on whatever I would be doing. That’s not ok. Remember the 100% thing I mentioned earlier? I am not this mega business man and I wouldn’t want to have the store hanging over me every day. That and having someone work under some imaginary stress that “the boss” might not be happy with how they are doing at the store. Total nonsense.

The best solution is to sell the store to someone who wants to step in and keep the nerd torch burning proud and high in Ingolstadt. The community here deserves to have a store. When Ghosthouse closed years ago it was absolutely terrible. There is no way that I would let Ingolstadt go through that again. I have called this city my home, for many years. I owe it this at least.

When will it happen?

Firstly, I wanted to make my intentions public. I may have said some stuff in previous entries or maybe in chats at the store perhaps hinting at wanting to sell, but those were more knee-jerk reactions rather than fluent movements if I could compare it like that. I am now sure of what I want for my life so time is no longer relevant in terms of the exact moment of selling. It could happen in a week or a year after this entry goes live on the blog. This is not to say that I will take forever and a half to do this, but I am also not in a hurry. It’s important for me to find the right person to continue with the store. The next owner should understand some things about the community and how to best manage it and its needs.

Let’s talk financials

I am certain that some of you might be thinking “Wow cool! I’m going to buy it. I’ve always wanted a game store!”. The current inventory in sealed products and single cards is quite big. My squirrel ways of stashing all my product for rainy days have made this happen. I was taken aback at how much it grew over the years, silently becoming a steady, solid mountain I could lean on in my time of need.

The amount I want for the entirety of the store is 150.000€. Wait, what?! But that’s ridiculous! 150k is so much! That’s like buying a house or something! Yes, it is. There’s always that age-old joke that a Legacy deck is more expensive than a car. Not really a joke anymore 🙂 Let me tentatively break down what the sum means. It does look intimidating for sure unless you have an idea about how a business works.

The main part of this money is in single cards, which makes up for more than half of the store’s value. Actually…I have more than 100.000€ in single cards (Cardmarket’s final sum after uploading everything), all sorted in labeled boxes might I add. How I got here…I didn’t even realize it to be honest. I started out with my collection in a small folder…The folder wasn’t even full. I grew it exponentially year after year. It went from a few thousand to over 10.000€, then it exploded when I took Cardmarket more seriously.

I wanted to get into that side of the card business and I can definitely say that it is very, very lucrative should you decide that is your main focal point. It’s no secret that stores buy at about 60% – 70% of a card’s value, some even go as low as 50%, and then sell for 110% or 120%. Over time this adds up, especially if card spikes happen, which they often do nowadays. When I sell the cards together with the shop, it would also be at around 75%, mostly because everything is completely sorted and ready to just be sold. I think it’s only fair for the new owner to get the cards cheaper so that they can have a good start in the business immediately. The discount on this goes in the tens of thousands though…It’s a huge offer with a monstrous beginning in the Cardmarket world.

The truth is that anyone working in this branch knows that the amount of money that can be made in single cards is immense. Even after taxes, it’s still a net plus. I kind of hate it that it’s like this, but with the commander boom happening it’s no surprise, not to mention the sudden Pokémon and YGO craze that’s going on. Free tip: the YGO single card market is way better for making money. Its spikes are gigantic compared to Magic.

Achieving consistency in the YGO single card market can yield substantial financial rewards. I chose Magic because I am a Magic player and because it was the easiest accessible route I could take. The Magic single card market is much more stable than the YGO one in my opinion, but that’s more of a guess than a fact on my side. I never delved so deep into YGO to really know that. There are plenty of professional sellers only based on YGO singles, so it must be profitable otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

Alright, but what about the rest? The remainder of the store is a mix between furniture, inventory products, a website with an integrated online shop, etc. I really don’t think I need to detail everything here. You can see for yourself a list of everything that’s included in the shop if you’re interested. That’s the easy part. The rest of the money that gets us to the 150k mark is stuck in intangible benefits. These are benefits like having a running business with an existing customer base, having various levels as a Magic Tournament Organizer and Konami official store, and many more some of which I will detail in the benefits section.

Let’s say you’ve decided to buy the store though. First and foremost: congratulations on becoming a business owner! It will be a very rewarding experience. You will be independent and that feeling alone is going to make everything worth it. You will learn discipline, patience, and a lot more over the course of a few years. Trust me on this one 🙂

So now you have a store. But how does it work? How do you plan tournaments? How do you make sales in the store? What button do you press for this or that? And to that end: you don’t have to worry yourself at all. I will guide you for a full month from the moment you open till you close in each and every way so that you have the smoothest transition possible from whatever background you’re leaving behind. Any type of question will have an answer that I can provide you with. And honestly, the more questions, the better. I want you to go into this new adventure armed with all the knowledge you need to be successful at this. The local gaming community is counting on you to be able to offer a sanctuary for all of us nerdy folk.

What about the risks?

This is the make-or-break for whoever might be interested in my store. There are risks of course for every type of business. A store like mine suffers mostly from fear of natural disasters since it’s easy to set fire to a bunch of cards or get flooded. But then again, there are a lot of businesses like this. It’s not really that uncommon to fear the elements of nature. They are after all a bit more inevitable than other threats.

When I started out I had a wobbly income. After a certain amount of time, it stopped fluctuating. It stabilized at a sum of money I felt was comfortable for the amount of work I had put in. The flip-side of this is that if you work like a mad man, you can make a lot. Overall, I would say that income might be an issue if you are expecting the same money you’d expect from a 9-5 job. In this type of business, the income is more dependent on how much work you put in and the quality of that work. In the very end, you will only have yourself to blame for making too little, but conversely, you only have to thank yourself for making a boat load.

Would you ever have to fear competition in Ingolstadt? Aside from Müller and Gamestop, no. They even tell people if they want to buy the real stuff for Magic or YGO they should come to the Arena 🙂 This is an expert store after all. Why wouldn’t you have to fear anyone open another store in Ingolstadt? Because the city can’t handle two dedicated card game stores. The risks for the store that opens last are way too big to even be close enough to be worth the trouble.

This means that you’ll be the only game store in a 70km radius. Maybe more, not sure exactly. Having a blueprint for events, a great location, a massive inventory is decidedly too much to fight against especially starting from zero. If anyone would open another store like the Arena in Ingolstadt, they would be insane. This city is the type of city that has one of each, except food stuff. It’s just not big enough to be able to accommodate more of the same type of a unique business.

The final risk would be the downfall of card games. I have thought about that. It’s definitely a major contention point. Will it happen? It could. But the earliest time frame I would see it taking over would be in the next 10-15 years. I had thought that with the release of Magic Arena, the online game for Magic the Gathering, prices for the paper version would drop. My assumption was that people would migrate from Hearthstone and from paper Magic and that’s that.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The prices for paper Magic grew. Now with corona, even more so. Why though? I mentioned the need to socialize as a massive part of what makes us human. We love to be in the same room with other people. And how better to express love than by having a beta Underground Sea to slam on turn one versus your friends 😀 I think playing paper Magic gives a lot of people a sense of exclusivity. It’s cool to own the cards in paper form rather than online. It’s a different feeling. That’s why books will also never go out of style offering the unique pleasure of physically having it in your hands.

Enough though with the negatives. Let’s talk positives now.

What about the benefits?

The biggest plus is by far, in my opinion, that you will be your own boss. You want to take a break, you take a break. You want to work longer, you work longer. Your choices are yours alone. Nobody can tell you what to do and what not to do. This to me is canon.

You get all the discounts from all my distributors that I have been in business with for the past 7 years. This means you buy at the prices I am currently buying at. That’s a huge chunk of money that you’re saving, especially if you’ll follow my advice on the amount you should order. There are also more benefits to this, but that’s for more in-depth discussions.

13k reviews on Cardmarket. A strong number to start with. You begin at the half-way point, not from zero struggling to grow the store’s reputation there with cheap prices on your cards. It’s much better to just start with half the work being already done. All my cards are now sorted into boxes, labelled with the correct edition and box number. Hundreds of hours have gone into that, and now the entire collection is on point. Check out the cards that are currently online here.

An extremely flexible schedule. Set your own work/play time. Choose the days you want to take off. Sculpt your life around your needs rather than your obligations. Work harder a week, take the next week off to drive with your family or partner for a short vacation. Wake up earlier in the morning or later, all dependent on your lifestyle. You choose the schedule on which the store will function. Plan every event to fit your preferred time frames (I will help with that of course).

You get a recurring revenue stream from the start. This means that there is a steady income already in place. There is no insecurity regarding the customer base. It exists and it is consistently purchasing from the Arena. You don’t have to fear the idea of opening your doors to no customers. I have been in business for 7 years. Usually, if a business is not working, it will die out within the first 3 years of its existence. The Arena can go a long way considering how well positioned it is. More on that in a private chat.

You get to live your passion, much as I did. I doubt anyone would buy my store only for the pure financial rewards, however, let’s also be realistic: living your passion is fine and all, but you’d also like to earn enough to have a good life. For your monthly salary, you can expect an average income with spikes every three months, with the biggest spike being from September to the end of December. That’s obvious for many reasons. Will you get rich from this? It’s possible if you buy into Reserved List cards and First Edition YGO and Pokémon cards. I once did go in this direction. It’s a long-term investment, but it’s definitely very much worth it if you plan on doing this for a long time. It’s the simplest choice and the most rewarding in the end.

The growth potential for each branch the Arena has been working on is big. Among the most important factors are reaching Platinum level for Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments and being asked multiple times to become Premium for Magic. Both of those factors are very important and I will detail what that means, financially and logistically, face to face.

Another point of growth is the boardgames section. Although I ignored them multiple times, boardgames still sell and they sell for a good percentage overall. It definitely helps that there is a lot of new content being pumped out consistently and games such as Gloomhaven have made their way from Kickstarter to stores. Every boardgame developer wants that his game is in every store so deals are made for hobby stores to be able to buy them from distributors rather than just from Kickstarter or similar sites. Germany is also a massive powerhouse when it comes to purchasing boardgames. I am a Magic player and didn’t go far into this, but the base is already set. I also bought multiple boardgames and furniture for them already that you can currently see at the store.

The gaming PCs and Playstation seemed weird at the start. It was difficult to get them to work. However, in the long term it has been paying off. Before Corona all three PCs were rented out for a full day to students. It’s definitely another alley to inspect if you want to go forward with this. Realistically, it’s passive income. There is a software that controls all the PCs from your main desk. It’s easy and simple to manage this part.

Back to the income situation which I think it’s what most want to know about. It’s heavily dependent on how much money you want to make. Like I said before, in this business, you get as much as you put in. You wanna chill and play in every tournament? Don’t expect to sell as much as you could. You want to go hard and work non-stop? You’ll make way more than you’ve been making at your 9-5 job. As most of you know, I chose the former part playing a whole lot 😀 No regrets there though. I had my fun and it was awesome.

You get to be surrounded by like-minded people which is definitely a plus since you can discuss your passion with everyone around you. Will there be bad customers from time to time? Sure, that’s something that can’t be avoided. But overall, it will be a positive experience in my opinion. You will become a better person over the course of a few years. Much more understanding and aware of what others need, want and offer. It’s been an enlightening experience for me and I am grateful to have been through it all, good and bad.

As for the store’s reputation, ask anyone in Bavaria who is into competitive Magic or YGO if they’ve heard of the Arena. They most likely have and I probably have their names in my tournament databases because they have participated at some point in a PPTQ or Regional here. Some might like or dislike me, but nobody can point a finger at the store and say bad stuff about it. If anything, I’ve always tried to keep my store at an easily approachable and friendly level. I would define the Arena as your friend’s living room where you go to chill and play games (except you have the benefit of buying stuff there as well :D).

The last benefit is a bit weird to say, but it’s also a fact. You’re not me. Let me be very exact on what that means. I burned a lot of bridges with my abrasive behavior during my time at the Arena. I could have made much better connections and evolved into a much better store and person. For various reasons, I did not do that. Maybe I was influenced by others, maybe I didn’t have a clear mind at those exact times…

Whatever the circumstances, things were said and done. I managed to get my store to where it is now without having the full support of all the communities around here. That’s on me. But that is not on you. You will start with a blank slate. It’s your choice who you will work with, support, and promote. If I got here with half of the people I could have actually had, imagine what you can do if you do things right.

Closing thoughts

Something that I want to say is that I want to apologize to everyone that I have wronged. I am only human. I make mistakes, but I hope that this choice to leave will restore some balance to the communities of trading card games in Ingolstadt. It doesn’t matter if you dislike me or not, I would still like you to have a place to play regardless if I am at the Arena or not. I would prefer to leave knowing that things settled down and everyone’s happy with the outcome. It would be a good farewell.

If you want to have a more detailed discussion on any topic written here, feel free to message me so we can set up a meeting at the store. I have a ton of information to give out. I wasn’t being idle for the past 7 years. There are plenty of ways to make the Arena grow into a monstrous giant. I am already contending with the biggest single card stores in Germany. It’s a matter of how far you would want to go with it. There is a lot of room to expand much, much more.

You’ll also notice that I have removed every other blog entry from the site. I really hope the next owner will also put out content on here to connect with everyone and share their thoughts and what this type of gaming store owner life means to them or maybe just post their thoughts on the metagame for Magic or YGO. Either way, I will be following closely from wherever I might be 🙂

I mentioned that there will be a boom of people coming in after the store can open at regular times. I would like to catch that wave before I go. It would be nice to feel just like when I first opened the store again, one last time at the Arena. Things would go full circle and I can’t think of a better ending for my journey into Magic the Gathering and Ingolstadt.

I know that this goes without saying, but the price of the store is negotiable. I am willing to negotiate until we would figure out a solution that benefits both parties. It’s normal to have concerns and I would like to help clear up any worries you might have. We can talk about every detail that you want to know more about. It would be nice to find someone who will fit the role of store owner really well. But don’t be disheartened by thinking you might not be good enough. You’ll grow into it, trust me. You will succeed.

I’ll end with my inner feelings. I have always been honest about how I feel, so I won’t stop now. Especially now…This is not an easy decision to make…selling the store. Or to leave. It’s hard. Very god damn hard…I have become so attached to the shop…I grew it from nothing to something. Mistakes and all, I still put a part of my soul into the Arena, and leaving it behind feels like I am saying goodbye to a part of me as well.

Now, writing the final paragraph of this blog entry, I feel how everything is real, how everything is no longer just a thought. This is happening. I can’t help but feel like I will cry, which I definitely will when I will actually leave the Arena. But that’s how life works. In the end, someone will say goodbye. It’s the same story and it never changes. Things need to end so that new ones can begin. I accept that and am ready to move on now.

See you in the Arena!