Five Years In – Game Capital fills a niche in the region
By Kat Halfman
DE PERE – In the beginning, Jeff Wiza, owner of The Game Capital, located at 805 Main Ave in De Pere, said his clientele was mostly made up of competitive gamers, who generally care more about what they get than how much they get. experience of getting it.
As the business has grown, Wiza said the store, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this month, has begun to focus more on the player base that looks beyond the value of what they take away from the event and more about the fun they have in playing and interacting. with other players.
He said what sets The Game Capital apart from other game stores is its focus on Pokémon, Funko Pop figures and Lego sets.
“Most other card shops focus on Magic the Gathering,” Wiza said. “Before the opening, I went to game stores across Oshkosh and Fond Du Lac to check their windows and see what they offer, and I think a game store may have had Pokemon cards on display Pokémon has always been my background and my beginnings, and there seemed to be a hole there, so that’s what we focused on.
He said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, interest increased and the store’s focus on these niches paid off.
“COVID-19 happened, more people were collecting and playing online, and getting into it more, so we coincidentally found ourselves in a really good position,” Wiza said. “I think the focus on the full Pokémon experience is changing, because it’s still a thing.”
Wiza said he first launched The Game Capital as an online-only company, which went official in 2008, but the real beginning dates back even further to the fall of 2004 when he was a student. first year at university.
That’s when he discovered eBay and soon found himself the proud owner of a $200 Pokemon card collection.
To start expanding his collection with new sets, Wiza said he started selling cards he didn’t need.
“It practically doubled in size every two years,” he said.
In 2017, Wiza and his wife, Hilary, opened the store’s first physical location on Reid Street.
With high hopes, Wiza said they moved The Game Capital to Main Avenue in December 2019.
Little did they know, he said, that the COVID-19 pandemic would hit a few months later, forcing the closure.
“When it first happened, it was obviously a big shock, and full of massive uncertainties, like ‘What does tomorrow look like, next week and next month? Who knows,” he said. “Once we had to close in April (2020), there were only two of us coming to fulfill Amazon orders.”
Wiza said that during this time the orders were mostly board games as people found themselves locked inside and looking for something to do.
“It was an adapt or die situation,” he said. “If you stay in your ways and the world around you changes, before you know it, things aren’t going so well.”
Fill a niche
Wiza said The Game Capital’s massive collection of Funko Pops is likely more than all of the other stores in Brown County combined.
He said they are also expanding the store’s Lego collection in hopes of having as many unretired collections on the shelf as possible – with the aim of having a much wider selection than the big brands like Target or Walmart.
“Our goal is to be family friendly and cater to more than just trading cards,” said Hilary Wiza.
Game Capital also hosts weekly events for Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic the Gathering, WIXOSS, and Flesh and Blood.
Jeff Wiza said that when there was a new release, the store held pre-release and launch events, which attracted many collectors, as well as competitive gamers.
He said Game Capital’s primary target is casual gamers, to keep the store accessible to new fans, but also to host high-profile events like the Pokémon Elite Cup, which draws competitors from as far away as Milwaukee and Chicago.
Pokémon has restarted its regional tournaments, but Wiza said the Elite Cup has yet to be restarted since COVID.
In accordance with tournament rules, he said masks are mandatory in the store’s play area, located to the right and rear of the store, and that only two people are allowed per six-foot table.
“We are still safer than the vast majority,” Wiza said. “It’s very hard to know where it makes sense to stop on this, because it’s an awkward thing, and I’m sure some people come in because we’re safer, while others might avoid because they are tired, fed up and annoyed by it, but we try to do what is best for the community.
He said every Game Capital event has player caps due to space limitations and social distancing.
Wiza said that starting Friday, May 20, Game Capital will introduce open play, where any customer who spends at least $5 in-store will receive a wristband that grants them access to the play area.
For more information on The Game Capital and its events calendar, visit thegamecapital.com/events.