JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – At the beginning of 2019, G2K Games operated nine stores in the region, with locations spreading across Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
One year later, co-owner William Lewis is one of two people boxing up the remains of the Johnson City location. After a flurry of clearance sales over the holidays, the remaining inventory is packed away in cardboard boxes as Lewis works to remove shelves from each wall.
The Johnson City closure capped off a year of six stores closing for the small chain over the year, following closures in Kingsport, Bristol, Morganton, North Carolina, Waynesville, Virginia, and one of the chain’s two locations in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
By the end of January, Lewis said the store’s Abingdon location will also shut its doors.
Born in Norton
Lewis and his brother started G2K in 2001 in Norton, Virginia. Lewis said the business model originally centered around LAN-based gaming, where computers are connected through a local-area network and was popular with dial-up internet.
With the rise of high-speed internet, G2K changed to center around retail.
“We started doing that and the business kept kind of increasing for everybody, GameStop, everybody,” Lewis said. “It just kind of kept growing and growing.”
G2K adopted a similar business model to other gaming stores, including national chains like GameStop. Customers could recoup some of the expenses on their used video games through trade-ins, and that’s where G2K found profit for a time.
Lewis said that began changing a few years ago.
Convenience over value
Sales have been declining for the past few years, Lewis said, but a steep decline over the course of 2019 made G2K owners make the call to downsize.
Although G2K made the move to include other forms of used media on the retail front, the model was centered around profits made from video game trade-ins.
The problem for brick-and-mortar stores has been the rise in digital downloads, Lewis said. National chains like Walmart, Best Buy and GameStop have put some eggs in the digital downloads basket, and some analysts predict a near future where all video game sales are digital.
Lewis said it’s a switch in business model where a convenience-based model usurped a value-based one.
“For the longest time, customers really wanted to get value back out of the stuff they had purchased,” he reflected. “Now it’s kind of switched to a model of convenience – people still want to do that, but for every one of those new games that don’t get traded in, that’s one game less that’s not there for a customer to buy used.”
In the past few years, Lewis said some G2K locations lent some focus to hosting card and board-gaming nights, but it was just too little, too late.
“We didn’t do enough card game business or board game business to really offset the amount of video game business that we were doing,” he said.
The store closings don’t spell the end for G2K Games. Lewis said moving forward, owners are focusing on the remaining two stores – one in Rock Hill, South Carolina and the original location in Norton.
Lewis said the Rock Hill location will continue to focus on hosting card and board game tournaments.
“What the future is, I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re still going to focus, regrouping and focusing on these two stores and not sure what the future will hold, but we’ll still be around with those two locations.”