No games on the high street?

Word on the (high) street seems to be that the troubled HMV is looking to get out of the market, meaning there will shortly be nowhere to buy new games here in Bournemouth town centre. Tesco Express might get in a new FIFA or Call of Duty, but if you want something more obscure or older than a couple of months? No chance. There’s CEX for used stuff, but that might be threatened and doesn’t do much to help the industry.

I’m really torn on this issue.

On one hand, it’s a very bad thing that gaming now has so little high street representation. The likes of Dixons are long gone, of course, so when the new consoles arrive there will be nowhere plugging them from ornate window displays – nor, indeed, anywhere to actually, you know, buy them. I don’t drive, which makes the out of town shopping centres with large supermarkets and the few surviving Game stores a pain, so online is my only option. It would be my first choice, admittedly, but the choice would be nice to have.

Game closed

But another part of me is glad. So many major retailers have gone down the pan in recent years that it’s tempting to put the blame solely on the economy. It’s not the only reason, though. It hasn’t helped, for sure, but what we’re seeing the rejection of the outdated mode of selling, where the £49.99 RRP is seen as something other than wishful thinking on the part of publishers, to be chuckled at and disregarded before selling it for £40 or less.

I buy the vast majority of my games online, and you get so used to paying £37.99 for a new release from ShopTo that a rare expedition to find the endangered species that is a branch of Game can be a genuine shock. I remember going into one with the intention of grabbing something I’d neglected to preorder online and walking out empty-handed because the £50 price sticker felt so absurd. I hadn’t paid that much for a game that wasn’t a rare JRPG in so long that I’d genuinely forgotten that suckers actually still did it.

Analysts like to blame the proliferation of 69p iOS games for this sticker shock when it comes to buying console games at retail, but even among friends and family who don’t consider themselves hardcore gamers, they still buy as many as they ever did. They’re just not doing it for the same silly money. People are buying games from Amazon, ShopTo and the like because they’re cheaper and more convenient. They’re better in almost every way, and that’s why they’re winning.

This ultimately won’t affect me directly because I’ll be buying my next-gen consoles online and I expect all my game purchases to come from online retailers or, if they can be trusted to price them competitively without retailers to keep happy, completely digitally. Part of me will miss a presence for gaming on the high street just like part of me – OK, all of me – misses the independent retailers that used to be everywhere. Times change, though, and it’s a natural evolution that could turn out for the better.

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