The other day it occurred to me how incredibly rare it is for me to purchase a game from a big box retailer, or brick and mortar game store. The last time that I made an “in-person” purchase was last November, when I went to the Wrath of the Lich King midnight release at my local EB Games. In that case, I went more for the experience of freezing in the snow for hours with my friends than for the actual game itself.
I have always been a massive proponent of digitally distributed media. Most of the time, all that I really want is the game, movie, song, etc. I couldn’t care less if I tried about cases, manuals that I won’t ever read, and discs that I’m liable to lose or damage. The fact that digital content is often cheaper than traditional content is just the icing on the cake. It is as if the publishers are paying me for the convenience of not having to worry about storing and looking after a physical product. What a bunch of suckers!
As wonderfully as digital content fits my own lifestyle and needs, though, I still want the brick and mortar game store to continue. Game stores, comic shops and their kin have always been safe havens for the nerds of the world. Little slices of Nerdtopia here on Earth, if you will. They are places where we can go to enthuse about our hobbies without being judged or criticised, because everyone else there is at least as nerdy as we are. These stores are a great resource for networking with fellow geeks whether you are looking for friends, a guild, or even a tabletop group. If you happen to be the mythical girl gamer you can also browse for potential boyfriends there.
Despite my fondness for game stores, as I have already indicated, I seldom shop at them. The higher prices, combined with the inconvenience of travel just does not appeal to me. What I really wish these stores would do, or the game publishers for that matter, is offer more for the consumer with the packaged game. Make it worth our while to buy the physical version. Manuals and cases just do not excite me. Working Designs was a great publisher for this sort of thing. You would pay a premium for it, but with some of their games you received soundtracks, documentaries, trinkets, cloth maps, and any number of other nifty little collectibles. I wish other companies would do the same. Unless they attribute this practice to Working Designs’ business woes, in which case …
I am genuinely concerned that game stores are in danger of becoming extinct. Big box retailers will probably continue to sell games to clueless parental units for a long time to come, but as the current generation of gamers embraces the digital age we live in, fewer and fewer in-person sales will be made, and it will become increasingly difficult for game stores to draw customers away from the department stores. The people who are most likely to shop in a game store are the same people who have made Steam such a roaring success, while many of the loyal shoppers at big box retailers have never heard of such a confounded, crazy thing as digital distribution.
Just a cute little map, a bonus disc, maybe a cute figurine or two? I need some sort of reason to purchase my games in-person. I will pay more for a bit of cool swag, and even overlook the fact that the stupid bilingual manual is taking up valuable real estate on the shelf.