Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hands up if you will miss your local computer game shop when it’s gone?

Anyone? No-one? Is it already gone, or bought out by a large chain that seems intent on running it into the ground? Mine has a couple of shelves of current PC games squeezed into a corner, and then a larger section of low priced budget PC titles and game guides. It's fairly clear which they make the most money from by the layout. The only reason I even bother to go in any more is on the offchance they have cheap second hand games (which they don't) or to see what's going on in the console markets.

There was a time when I would have missed my local gaming shop but now? Stick a fork in it, it's done.

Tobold writes today about the demise of retail games shops on the high street. The story that sparked this one off is quietly hilarious. Inside the Deus Ex: Revolution box is a voucher to play the game for free using OnLive, a streaming service. (This is roughly equivalent to putting a voucher for a kindle copy of a book inside a hardback.) Gamestop have decided to open up every box and remove the voucher, so as to avoid promoting competitor (ie. digital download) services to their customers.

Right. Because they removed the Steam voucher for Portal 2 on the PC from every PS3 Portal 2 box too? Nope, of course they didn't. Random retailer is random.

I can't help comparing the plight of computer games shops to boardgame/ tabletop shops and bookshops. The boardgame shop is I suspect doing the best of the bunch, if not in turnover then in longterm prospects. And this is because they provide gaming space, they hold social evenings in which people can turn up and find others to play with, and people who play board games NEED other local people to play with. A boardgame shop can support an entire local community of hobbyists, and the good ones are working hard to do exactly that. Of course you can buy the games online, but if you wanted to try the game out first, why not support the local games shop that's hosting the event? And if the difference in prices isn't huge, a lot of gamers are happy to do exactly this. It may not be a growing hobby but it does have a stable fanbase who are willing to support their retailers.

I think bookshops are doomed in the long run also, but at least you get the sense that they are fighting the inevitable. Local bookshops host reading groups, author signings, they have coffee shops and reading rooms, they encourage staff to pick out recommendations (which are usually pretty good), they sell book related gifts and sort their books into genres so that genre readers can have a shot at finding something they might like, they have regular interesting sales, and are generally appealing places to hang out and browse.

The trouble with bookshops is that it's all too easy for customers to enjoy all the bookshop facilities and then go off and buy their books online or as ebooks. The retailer is putting a lot of effort into advertising goods for other people. This is where the publisher sponsored author tours and signing events spring from: publishers know how effectively bookshops sell their books and that they need the support.

But still, even if I do prefer ebooks these days, I will at least miss the bookshops when they are gone. Not so the computer games shops; they gave up on trying to attract my custom years ago.

Sent from James' iPhone

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