Remember Game Stores?
Over the weekend, I was meandering around my local shopping centre while paradoxically pondering the iniquities of consumerism, when I noticed a game retailer. In this particular case it was the chain store ironically (or not) called Game. Now it's been a considerable amount of time since I've been inside a dedicated gaming store, because I buy pretty much anything of this nature online these days. So, in a fit of nostalgia, I decided to go inside and have a look around. The first thing that struck me was how console-centric the store has become with substantial floor space given to both new and previously owned PS4 and Xbox One titles. The PC section was relatively small and focused upon the latest releases. However, there were numerous PC multi-buy offers for older titles. The store also sells a lot of hardware for both consoles and the PC as well a wider gaming and pop culture memorabilia. They also buy and sell consoles, phones, tablet and the like.
I had a chat with one of the guys behind the counter and he was quite open about the state of business, describing the regular ebb and flow of customers centred around the release of top titles. PC related sales were obviously not as important as they use to be, although he did indicate that there had been a lot of interest about the PC release of Monster Hunter: World. There is a healthy trade in second hand console games as well as phones, which seems to help business immensely. Big spenders are often parent or grandparents who come in to the store and seek advice regarding what to buy as gifts and birthday presents. Certainly, the company’s core business model has changed radically in recent years and they have had to expand their remit to stay both relevant and profitable. This store was also experimenting with gaming and “geek culture” themed events to try and attract customers.
So as a sign of solidarity for high street retailers, I bought a copy of Assassins Creed (yes, the original game) at the bargain price of £1.99 and a new bog-standard Microsoft keyboard (I get through about one a year) then went about my business. Out of curiosity I noted what other stores in the area sold games and found that both Argos and supermarkets ASDA and Sainsbury’s were aggressively competing with prices. As for the copy of Assassins Creed, this is the first physical copy of a game I've bought in over six years. The last time I bought a game that I installed from media was in December 2011, when I pre-ordered the MMORPG Star War: The Old Republic. I had forgotten about this aspect of gaming. I briefly became nostalgic as I removed the shrink wrap from the packaging. However, installing the game from the DVD-ROM quickly erased any goodwill. I was surprised at how long this process took, having been spoilt by the speed a direct download via Steam over a fibre connection. Once Assassins Creed was installed I consigned the physical media to a cupboard along with Max Payne, Half-Life 2 and TOCA Race Driver 2.
Like many others, I have adapted to the digital age and have outgrown my affinity for physical media. The majority of my film and music collection are now digital and I’ve sold off most of my DVDs and CDs. The only ones that I’ve kept are rarities that cannot be replaced. There’s no nostalgic sentimentality as far as I’m concerned, regarding having something “tangible” and being able to “hold” the media. It’s all gone because I want the space and I hate clutter. However, I fully understand those people who still have a strong bond with hard-copies. I come from a generation that bought vinyl for a while before CDS became the norm and I appreciate the sense of ownership that having a physical copy of an item brings. But I also like the benefits of online services, such as fast downloads and installations as well as the automatic patching. I also like the fact that I can take my music collection with me and access it any time. With this all in mind, I wonder if my local Game store will still be there this time next year?