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How I built a successful old school gaming business in a market dominated by digital

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by Alastair Cameron

How I built a successful old school gaming business in a market dominated by digital.Andy Beresford

Director of Home Leisure Direct, Andy Beresford talks about the secrets of his success to Startacus...

"I set up Home Leisure Direct in 2007 in a small picturesque village just outside Bristol.  It has since grown to be the UK’s leading games room retailer with an enthusiastic team and a growing customer base.

Love what you do 

I’m a passionate game player with a love of Golden Age and old school arcade games, Pinball and Donkey Kong are two of my favourites. Even before the days of Home Leisure Direct I had a games room set up in my home – a well used area where my family and I spend fun time together. The knowledge and enthusiasm I already had for games room games was a home leisure directdriving force behind the start-up of the company. Starting a business requires tenacity, commitment and a lot of time. This passion carries you through the challenging early days, and equally importantly, is something that is translated to your customers, it informs every aspect of your business and how you run it. I wanted to thrive through recommendations and trust.  My passion for my products drove my vision – a company which was known for excellence: outstanding service, great products and business integrity. Eight years later and with a collection of business awards under our belts it seems this approach has paid off.

A nation of gamers 

In 2007 I was setting up an old school games company in a market monopolised by digital gaming, but I was never deterred by that. Games room products offer a kind of uninhibited fun that adults don't often come across. But grown ups still need to play and unwind and have fun. Historically, the British are a nation of games lovers. Long before the days of digital gaming Victorian’s were happily engrossed in their parlours playing ‘Are you there Moriarty?’ and ‘The minister’s cat’. 

Fun, mastery and fair play have been underpinned by fierce competitiveness for generations of game players in England.  The British invented so many of the world’s greatest competitive sports including cricket, old school gamingrugby, badminton (originally known as Battledore and Shuttlecock) football, table tennis, and snooker, to name but a few. 

The online and digital gaming revolution is a mere babe in arms compared to the long and engrained history of non-digital game playing in this country.

Armed with this knowledge and a passion that I wanted to share, I was never concerned I wouldn’t be able to sell my products.

The importance of work culture

It’s always been really important to me have a great team at Home Leisure Direct. I wanted to create a thriving work culture, and a place where employees wanted to go to work each day. All of the staff at HLD are passionate gamers, and share my enthusiasm for our products (including the two office dogs!). We organise regular pool tournaments, table tennis matches and retro gaming sessions which ensure everyone is on top of new products but also improves the culture and creates an atmosphere of playfulness and positivity. There’s a thriving scene connected to old school gaming which we are actively involved in, and enthusiasts reconnect at pinball nights, pool tournaments and Golden Age gaming festivals.

If each one of your team is also an ambassador for your company, this has direct, positive benefits on bottom line – from reputation building through to work satisfaction and by extension increased productivity.

old school gamesA classic gaming revival

In recent years we’ve seen a massive rise in sales of games room games, particularly pinball machines and pool tables.  This is due to an old school gaming revival which has seen younger generations enjoying the delights of old school arcade games. Boutique pinball bars are springing up in UK cities, and Digital Natives (people born after 1980) have learned pinball virtually, and are now migrating to the real thing in search of more old school games‘tangible’ thrills.  Computer games have struggled to become more 'realistic' through better graphics, sound, and peripherals such as steering wheels and vibrating controllers.  But the limitations are always going to exist with vital/computer/arcade gaming. With pinball you are playing against gravity and the more you practice the more you improve your game and high score.

Entertaining at home has also become more popular since the austerity measures and the smoking ban. Many customers want to save money and have their fun in the comfort of their own homes.  Pool and pinball tables are frequently bought by families for an unused dining room. People are also increasingly keen to drag their children away from the screen to more wholesome family fun.  These games offer the same level of excellent gameplay and entertainment but in a social environment and with non of the ‘zombifying’ side-effects of screen dependency.

As more people discover the joys of real and old school games, I hope HLD will continue to thrive.

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Published on: 30th March 2015

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