Game Stores: The Survivors


Sorry the blog hasn't hit for a few weeks. A long work trip plus a pretty significant bout of illness took me out for a bit. 

I found two stories that came out roughly at the same time that I think are important and inexorably linked. Our disdain for GameStop has been marked in a few episodes of the podcast and given some of our experiences (more in another blog) and observations it's easy to understand this story reporting many store closings. They do bad business and even that in-depth article misses a lot of it (again, we'll cover in another blog). GameStop's situation screams Blockbuster, to those who remember it.

But, in a heartfelt and intriguing story by Vice, I think we get a glimpse of the future of brick-and-mortar video game shops. Look backward. Max Games, and the other tiny stores like it, don't have to worry about the speed of the current market or the looming digital crisis like large retailers do. Their focus is what video games as a whole used to be: a tighter community experience, honed by shop owners with a precise view of the products they want to carry - not the shotgun, commercialized "get every game on a shelf" approach inside the big-box shops.

I can and will likely get all my new Nintendo games on Amazon. Anything for my PC gets bought on Steam. It's too convenient. The model of used sales at GameStop gets blown out of the water by savvy eBayers too. Extrapolated, the only market left for those with a passionate viewpoint on gaming is to roll back toward the classics. Video game stand-alones will be the new record shops. Finding and repairing only Atari 2600's for resale, curating game collections from the cartridge generations, and presenting it all in a marketable fashion will eventually draw people back in. I know it will, because just like our parents can't walk by a record store (heck, even I can't), we won't be able to pass up the store with a Virtual Boy hanging in the window and the rainbow of GameBoy colors lining the register case.

Sure, this type of shop will face strong headwinds. Raspberry Pi's with digital versions of old games might limit the consumer base a bit. eBay would still be a persistent source of competition. But, the tactile experience of seeing those games in person would still dominate in the retail space. Run competitively with their environment (not accomplishable by the larger retailers), there's now an opening for the locals to get back in the game. If you have disposable income and want to head out on a field trip, give one of the shops already out there a try. But, I bet soon, there will be many a lot closer and easier to find.

I'm all jazzed up. Who wants to open a classic game store with me?!

That interesting thing I always find: It kinda should come as no surprise that GameStop is flailing around trying to find direction, given the whiplash-y history of ownership and direction the company has had.

More Net Neutrality

Gritty Games: A Star Wars Story