Micro Center wants to know how they can get more of my game-related purchases

Today, I received an email from Micro Center asking for my help: they want to understand how they can win more of my video game purchases. If I still had time to play computer games (besides the occasionally Civilization IV bender) I’d probably be more useful. But, I figured, let’s see what we can do.

I like Micro Center.

I like that it’s the closest I can get to Akihabara without having to fly to Japan. I like that when I was helping my brother build a PC for his video-editing business, there were people there who were excited to help us build a monster of a machine – and who were truly knowledgeable about the pros and cons of faster dual-core versus slower quad-core processors. I like that while he was checking out could mindlessly wander through an entire aisle of wireless mice and somehow still be amused.

But as I read the email and opened the attached survey, I realized what they were going to get from me was unlikely to help them in a profound way. There was nothing there that would really give Micro Center insight into my motivations as a buyer, the things that upset me when I’m trying to install a game, what I was doing when I discovered my favorite game, what my best game-buying experience ever was, or what I like to eat when it’s 4am and I’m three turns away from finishing the hanging gardens.

These are the kinds of things that might help you surface and address a computer game (or any) buyer’s needs and help you understand who your customers really are and how you can amaze them.

Getting to the good stuff…

The only open-ended question in the entire survey came at the end. “What else can we do to capture more of your game purchases?” Here are some ideas:

Exclusive content?
Could Microcenter team up with developers or publishers to provide exclusive expansion content for games? For instance, buy Skyrim at Microcenter and get a quest-pack not available anywhere else? (CompUSA did this with – and now I’m dating myself – Daggerfall, and those quests were some of the most sought-after add-ons for that game.)

Classic Gaming Arcade
How about creating a “classic PC gaming arcade” where people can demo old games like those found on GOG.com – and then purchase them and take a mix of them home on a USB stick? Being able to play Caesar III or Fallout II would make me a lot more likely to spend time in the store.

Web Makeover
As much as I hate to say it, a website that didn’t remind me 2002 might help. When it comes to selling computer games, Steam might be your biggest competitor. Dress the part.

Building Community
Once a month, hold a sponsored gaming nights at Circuit City. Have a late-night party where kids can show up and blow each other up in multiplayer Battlefield 3. Maybe associate sponsors could even help offset the cost: energy drink companies, gaming accessory companies, etc.

Here’s the thing.

I’m not even a hardcore gamer. Imagine three hundred people, who all understand the real motivations of gamers – sitting in a room and talking to each other and to you, giving you ideas that blow these out of the water. Or even better – detailing their motivations for and frustrations with buying games at a retail store, so you can think of solutions they haven’t even considered yet. I’m talking about real, long-term conversations with customers. Video journals of a shopping trip filmed on iPhones. Prediction market activities. Isn’t that better than a few checkboxes?

Your industry is both disrupted and growing at a breakneck pace – its times like these that a company can do great things. But checkboxes and a pile of survey answers isn’t enough to truly go deep – you need to have a conversation. Don’t you think it’s time to change the game?