Giving up the...


Apologies to regular readers but here is yet another angry rant about game retailers in the UK. Fortunately, most have been driven to extinction by failing to see the writing on the wall over a decade ago when online mega retailers could beat the high street specialists in choice, price and service. PLUS the only convenience that high street retailers offer is immediacy. I can pick up a game there and then and be playing it that day in theory. However, as a concerned citizen it saddens me to see the decline of the high street retailer.

Last week I found myself with some extra money following my birthday and consulted 'the list'. Now, I'm an avid gamer. I've played thousands of games, own hundreds and write for three gaming blogs. However, I also have a fairly demanding job, a family, friends who I don't see half as much as I should, passions other than gaming and a hundred other little things that take up my time. Not only does this mean that those heady days and nights marathon sessions playing games are over but it may take months or even years to play through a game that lasts for about ten hours. I already own tens of games which remain unfinished so rather than hoover up every game that comes out I try to stick to a one in one out policy. I try to experience most of the content a game has to offer by at least 'beating it' rather than 100% it before I pick up another game. More often than not I'm picking up games months or years after they've launched so well outside the product cycles that dominate the industry and to keep track I keep a little list of the titles that I'm interested in for when I get chance to pick up a 'new' game. So top of my list on my shopping trip is Sin and Punishment 2. I loved the first one, the sequel received widespread praise and is one of the top games for the wii. I feel guilty not having played it yet having the testicular fortitude to cal myself a gamer. I also like to support the people who make games so I prefer to buy new rather than preowned. That's right I actively prefer to buy games new. Pre-owned games tend to have tatty manuals (if at all), missing materials (the maps in GTA for example), jam on the disc and cheat codes scrawled in human blood in the 'notes' section of the manual. So I was in town, cash in hand, I daresay I was skipping too and popped to the nearest GAME, list in hand but with a shiny copy of Sin and Punishment in my mind.
Not only could I not find a new copy of S&P I couldn't find any copies. The same for the rest of the list with the exception of Super Mario Galaxy 2 which, was too expensive for my budget anyway and a game that I'm sure will stay on shop shelves for years to come so I didn't find it neccessary to snap it up just yet. So here's my two primary beefs with the way that high street game retailers have got their market all wrong and hence why 3 of the 4 game shops within 5 miles of where I live have shut down in the last six months.

1)Gamers are Discerning. >I often wonder how surfing the net must be like for a non gamer. Rarely is there a google or google image search that doesn't bring back a hit on a gaming website on the first or second page. The internet is where gamers hang out and to a large extent we own it. There are hundreds of thousands (millions?) of gaming sites and what are we all doing? Reviewing games, listing our favourites, pouring over hype for upcoming games, remembering older games, critiquing gender in games, or graphics, or stories, sharing memories, arguing over who would beat who in a fight, gaming online and maintaining background levels of casual racism and sexism. This indicates that as a mass we're pretty discerning putting the medium of games through its paces unlike any other media from amateur sites and forums through to some of the most popular sites on the whole of the web. So how does GAME build its business around such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience with a short but rich history? By organising their entire business around the games that came out last week. I'm sick of labouring this point but there's no support for older formats whatsoever or for games older than seven days. Not only does this mean that I walk out of the shop despite having good money to spend, it also means more casual gamers have a less than 50% chance or leaving the shop with a decent game if they don't read reviews. Want a decent game so you can brush the dust of your Wii? Well fuck, don't go to game. instead go to this page on metacritic then buy the games listed at the top there from amazon or play. You won't find many of those in store because they are old and we all know that games rot quicker than fruit. Have you tried playing a game made in 2008? Oh holy fuck, it's like going back to the stone age. They'll have a recent game, definitely but not necessarily decent. If GAME needed more evidence that gamers are discerning then they need look no further than their own pre-owned shelves. Row upon row of absolute shovelware and out of date sports games. Gamers hang on to the games they love leaving game stocking games that nobody wants.

2) Online Already Won. An absolute failure to respond to online retailing. GAME's own online store in no way competes with the likes of amazon, play or even ebay despite the fact that these sites started with very little support for gaming way back when. A counter strategy would have been to make the retailing experience second to none or at least have some support for the new customer with knowledgeable staff and shop layouts that draw customers to the games that they will enjoy. Instead most of the GAME stores I've been to have the charming air of a high school changing room and a pawn shop. That nonsense 'top ten' bollocks that doesn't seem to reflect quality or the sales charts. Very few of the staff seem to know about games at all and don't even seem self concious that they wouldn't even shop in the stores they work in.

So it's goodbye GAME from me I tried to support you but it's me bending over backwards to shop in your store rather than the other way around. I guess GAME and the like will sort of stick around as a throwback type place to have big launch events at (although the recent 3DS launch in London was at HMV, not a stone's throw from the flagship GAME store.....). The end of my story is that I went to CEX and picked up three of the games from my list which came to less than £20. Sure, they were preowned but I don't feel too bad when I can't find the fucking games new at my own convenience. If you have one nearby I recommend going, the choice is truly excellent and they have these crazy archaeological PS2 games you can buy too.

UPDATE: Edited for crappy mistakes.

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