William Ellis is no stranger to rolling the dice. But even he was surprised when he decided to roll the dice on Battlefield Games in Killeen three years ago.
Ellis had been into “war gaming” since the early ’90s, but he never expected he would own his retail store dependent on selling the games he loved. Ellis turned his hobby into a small business when he bought and relocated the gaming specialty shop.
“Six months before I bought this place, I had no idea I was getting into this business,” Ellis said.
Ellis spent 20 years in the Army and was stationed at Fort Hood twice. The first time around, he did a lot of gaming at a store called Slaughterhouse Games.
When he returned to the area, he discovered that the business had moved and changed its name to Battlefield Games. As he prepared to retire from the military, he began looking around for a business to invest in.
He asked the previous owner of Battlefield Games for the inside scoop on running a retail gaming operation. To his surprise, the owner asked him if he wanted to buy his business.
“I had zero business experience,” Ellis said. “I literally bought a copy of ‘Small Business for Dummies.’”
Ellis did his due diligence and decided to go for it. Three years later, he is running a thriving business and helping to maintain a tight-knit gaming community. His store’s inventory lists more than 6,000 items, including popular games like Warhammer, Infinity and Pokemon.
Ellis said his store carries the largest selection of table-top strategy, board, card, miniature and role-playing games in the area. And the store’s eight gaming tables, five activity tables and 10 card-gaming tables stay busy throughout the week.
Ellis makes his money selling games and other accessories, but he said supporting the local gaming community is what has allowed his business to flourish.
Except for situations where gamers get something in return, such as a tournament with prizes, Ellis does not charge customers for playing or hanging out at his store.
“We don’t sell people games; we sell them hobbies,” Ellis said. “If you think you are going to sell them games, you will fail. You have to sell the hobby. It’s how we survive.
“The revenue is created by providing the space for people to come. They can buy games online or at Walmart, but they buy them here because this is their community.”
To that end, Battlefield hosts several regular and special events each month. There is a weekly Magic the Gathering gathering every Friday night. Other “alternative” events such as miniature figurine painting contests are constantly added to the store’s calendar. The store also has a league and a Tournament of Champions for serious gamers.
“We actually have a championship belt for the Tournament of Champions,” Ellis said.
Three years ago, Ellis had no idea where life would lead him once he left the military. Today he finds himself running every aspect of a successful small business and is a leader in a niche community. Ellis said being able to work in a field that he loves makes all of the hard work a lot more pleasant.
“I’ve got the world’s biggest man-cave,” he said.