Game: Convenience Stories
Genre: Simulation, Strategy, Casual
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), iOS and Android)
Developer | Publisher: Kairosoft
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: US $14.00 | UK £11.69 | EU € 13,00
Release Date: April 27th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Kairosoft.
Convenience Stories challenges you to build a local corner shop, the kind that is open all hours and stocks all manner of items. But it doesn’t end with just one store; can you build more? And will your rivals go bust as you dominate the world of convenience?
Here at LadiesGamers, we’ve generally had a positive reaction to Kairosoft games, so I was thoroughly looking forward to playing Convenience Stories. Will I discover hidden business acumen, or will it just be an inconvenience?
A Story of Convenience
At the start of the game, you create your store name (or keep the default one), and choose the corporate colours and uniform style. You then have a choice of setting up in Tranquil Town or Lakeside Town. Lakeside is more expensive and has a higher sales target than Tranquil, so I opted for Tranquil Town!
Kaye Cash is your guide in Convenience Stories. Not only does she give helpful tips and keeps you on track, but she initially finds fixtures and fittings for you to use. A shelving unit is already in the shop, and she finds a refrigerator in the backyard, both of which she encourages you to fill.
It’s quite exciting getting the first customer and seeing them buy something. Unfortunately, your shop doesn’t impress them, so Kaye helps you with some fixtures and items to raise the shop’s reputation and appeal.
The game continues at quite a fast pace during the first year. You learn about staff, product development, partnerships, manager’s choice combinations, ratings, customer requests and more. At the end of each season, you receive a sales analysis. Luckily, the game focuses on sales, not profit! And if you run out of money, then you do get several extra cash injections.
Like most Kairosoft games, there is something addictive about watching the pixelated characters move around and interact. In Convenience Stories, you watch your staff rushing to restock shelves, serve customers or clean the floor. You see your customers wander around the store selecting their purchases, leaving gifts, and maybe taking time out to have a drink on the bench outside – after all; shopping is tiring work!
The Customer is King
At the heart of every business is (or should be) the customer. And Convenience Stories is no different. There are several customers at each location who have wishes and requests. The wishes are items they would like to buy – some you might already know, but others might be a mystery. You cannot force your customer to purchase their wished-for item, but once they do, you can offer promotional products. These boosts can encourage that customer type to visit more, buy more, come at different times or even visit rivals less. Customers also have two requests for shelf quality values. Fulfil both of these, and the customer will travel to any location you are based at.
Deal or No Deal
In order to find all the customers, gain new products, shelving or fixtures, expand the shop and get promotions, you need to negotiate with various partners. Negotiations unlock mostly based on rank, and some are area specific. Each negotiation has a starting cost and a success chance. You choose the negotiation methods, for example, a text message, meeting or lunch, which will increase the success chance. The more expensive the method, the more percentage increase and loved methods give an extra 10% increase. Get 100%, and it’s a done deal. Anything less, and it’s a roulette-style chance of success – although the higher the percentage, the fewer ‘failure’ slots are available to land on. Fail, and you can try again, with the negotiation starting at the last chance percentage (not the original one).
Staffing to Success
Behind every good business are the staff – well trained, well paid and keen to work. There are four shifts to cover the season, and you start with an allocated member of staff in each. Initially, the staff don’t have much stamina, are slow and don’t have much service knowledge. This means they slowly walk around the shop and need constant breaks – annoying when they are in the middle of serving a long line of customers. However, you can train them using the medal points and select which skill(s) to focus on. Be aware that levelling up staff skills increases their salary, so you must balance training with cash flow!
One of the partners you negotiate with runs a recruitment agency, so you can hire more staff to cover the various shifts. I eventually recruited more staff on the first shift of the season and only had one till open so that my staff could focus on restocking the shelves.
Stack the Shelves
Although you start with a handful of shelf types and products, most stock comes from successful negotiations and product development. Development uses idea points, which you can win, find or receive as gifts. After unlocking Pumpkin Products, you can swap medal points for idea points. It’s great you can research up to 3 products at a time.
When you first select goods for a shelf, you fill it to capacity – 50 of each item on small shelving units, 100 on medium and 150 on large. The more expensive the item is to buy, the more expensive it is to stock the shelf. If you move an item within a shelf, there is no cost. However, if you move items between different shelves, you pay the stocking cost again. Consequently, it’s important to think about where to place the items. Luckily, there is no cost for a shelving unit. So, in the early game, it’s better to have more shelving units and spread out the goods, as you will quickly develop more products to fill them.
At the end of each season, there is a stock delivery. The quantity can be set automatically according to the previous season’s sales or manually depending on how much involvement you want. If the stocking levels aren’t quite right and you run out of products, you can get an emergency restock of 100 items.
Initially, all items still on the shelves at the end of the season will be deemed 100% waste. Negotiating with Recyclin’ Mike can decrease the waste percentage.
If you place certain items on the same shelf, you can unlock a manager’s choice – this helps to increase the shelf’s quality and increases the items’ price. There are many combinations – one of the easiest ones is placing similar item types together, for example, all bakery items. As you unlock more bakery goods, you can try different combinations to see if there is a specific group. If you do find an ideal group of products, then you can create a template to use at other locations.
There are a few ways of levelling up products, which increases the appeal, quality and price. You can use boosts which will level up all items of that type on the shelf or run advertising campaigns for specific products.
One of the negotiations is for contest entries. This is a great way of making some cash and gaining idea points. You can select which member of staff and shelf to enter, but the best of both is pre-chosen. The higher the staff service level and total item quality, the better chance of winning. Best of all – it’s free to enter.
Expand Your Convenience Stores
One of the unusual aspects of Convenience Stories is that you can open different stores at other locations – it’s like starting a new game each time. When you successfully achieve your targets, you have the option of opening a new store or reopening a previous store in the following year.
All your previous stores run on autopilot, and you receive some sales revenue from them. One thing to bear in mind is the cost of setting up a new location. Not only is there the initial fee, but you have all your freezers, bookcases, shelves and refrigerators to stock.
The first two locations are based on sales targets only. However, after that, not only is there a sales target, but you also need to outperform your rival.
Another interesting feature is the economy. Generally, the economy will be ‘normal’; however, you might encounter a ‘boom’ or ‘bubble’ economy, where prices increase (not the time to be negotiating or stocking shelves), but it is the time to swap your medal points for cash. Conversely, you might have a ‘recession’ – a great time for negotiating and swapping your medal points for idea points. Who says games aren’t educational?
The Convenience Stories Story Goes On
At the end of each year, you receive a Total Yearly Rating. There are five factors, the current year’s sales together with any sales from previous shops. The rank you have reached, the number of trophies you’ve collected and completed customer requests. This rating dictates whether you qualify for the Convenience Stores Council Award Ceremony. It took me seven years and a 1,507 rating to get an invite, and although my score didn’t win me any of the main prizes, I did win an award for ‘Always sparkling clean’!
The end of year ten marks the end point of the game, although you can continue playing. It can take about 20 hours to get to this point.
Your final score is the same as the year 10 Total Yearly Rating. This score becomes a target to beat in subsequent playthroughs. For your next new game, you can use the smiley face points to transfer aspects of your previous game, including product levels, staff experience, extra cash, extra idea or medal points, increase in satisfaction and fixture levels, dream status, samples, staff contracts and discovered manager’s choices. However, the new game starts from the beginning with all the same comments and assistance.
But there are many reasons to carry on playing your first game. You may want to unlock all seven locations, welcome all of the customers, complete all the customer requests, make all the partnership deals, find all the manager’s choice combinations (over 150+), unlock all the products, win all the contests and, of course, win the Grand Prize at the Convenience Stores Council Award Ceremony.
The game works well in either docked or handheld mode, although it can be tricky to click on some of the pop-ups (cleaning spots or restocking shelves) in docked mode. There is an excellent use of the touchscreen functionality, making the pop-ups much easier to click on in handheld mode. The font is generally large enough to easily read on a small screen.
The menus work well, and the ‘back’ returns to the previous screen in many cases. The music is typical for Kairosoft games, but it is a little annoying when in a recession economy.
The game autosaves at the start of each new season, with a manual save also available. However, you can only have two instances of game per user.
This is the kind of game where the screen is constantly active. For some gamers, it might be too busy to look at.
Convenience Stories shares a similar style to all the Kairosoft games. There is a reassuring familiarity of bright colours, cute pixelated characters and wholesome humour.
There is a complexity to Convenience Stories; some of the terminology and concepts could do with a little bit more explanation. However, there are some great autofill processes which make the game much more accessible for different ages.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of running my own convenience stores.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot