Times are Changing – Gamestop to close 500 stores nationwide.

Gamestop will be closing 500 stores, this may come to a shock to several people, but it really should not. I won’t be cursing the name of Gamestop, although I do that enough in my spare time (I worked there). The bigger question would be what has forced Gamestop to take such actions? To me it was an inevitability that Gamestop would be closing a large amount of its brick and mortars. Their main profit wasn’t from strictly game sales, it barely saw a lot of return in console sales, they gain no extra money from reserves (That money all goes to the game fee, mainly done so they don’t overstock on a game and they are partially guaranteed a sale in the future.) and subscriptions don’t generate a lot of revenue. So how did Gamestop rise above the other big game stores and eventually engulf them? Used game sales, buying and selling used games was their biggest money maker, sure they were buying games from people, but at most for ten to fifteen dollars for the newest game, then turning around and selling it for close to the new retail price. This was most likely a game someone had bought from them. Its a sound business strategy, which was acquired when they bought out Funcoland. Yet times have changed and this brings me to why they have had to close 500 stores. We’re in a new age of gaming. The console exclusive is all but gone, digital distribution is the way of the future, and video game rental is much more convenient.

Console exclusives, the great decider of which console you played on. Those games which you knew were out or were to be released that really drove the decision to buy a console; are no longer that much of a concern. Game developers and publishers alike are no longer looking to sell exclusively to one platform. Mainly its that selling the game on more platforms means that you have a wider audience and that the game can reach a wider audience. This should look good for Gamestop, except that it just creates another competitor. I don’t mean another brick and mortar empire, but the bane of mine and many other gamer’s wallets. Steam.

As the most popular and the most widely played games are no longer exclusively on consoles and reach the PC audience much more often. Even I as a long standing console gamer have fallen to the world of PC gaming, and it is glorious. Most if not all of my video game purchases are made through Steam in one way or another. This eliminates my restriction to Gamestop or any other brick and mortar’s hours of operation. I no longer walk through game aisles or even set foot into Gamestop just to browse. Which has also given rise to the Indie Game, as stated in the Indie Game documentary by Ron Carmel “… it used to be that retailers had a lot of power over every game creation company because that was the only avenue available to sell games, so no one was willing to start distributing their games digitally because Wal-mart would get upset at them and they would take their products off the shelf and nothing would happen. But Valve changed that when they came out with Steam. They had no loyalties to retail so they just did that and then everybody else said well we have to compete with them and there was kind of this whole flood of Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation network and WiiWare and it kind of followed suit with that.” This doesn’t speak for everyone and isn’t the main reason for Gamestops closing, but the rise of Steam has certainly made a dent in Gamestop’s pocket. The digital distribution of streaming video as well as dvd rental through the mail certainly made an impact on the Video Rental industry as Blockbusters and Hollywood videos are basically non-existent.

Why Rent when you can own? Unfortunately that statement only pertains to something you want permanently. If someone is only going to sell a game once they beat it in a week, why not rent it? Gamefly has taken this idea and ran with it. The monthly rental service allows you to play through any games you’d like for as long as you’d like and if you like the game enough you can keep it for less than the used game price. If enough people take on this practice, it can do enough to the used games market to leave a pretty large scar on anyone who profits from used games sales.

These factors were present several years ago, and have built up and are possibly the reason that Gamestop is closing so many stores at the same time. This doesn’t mean that Gamestop itself is going out of business and it basically has nothing to do with their employees ,no matter how annoying we were as we asked everyone to reserve and subscribe. Its just part of the move to the digital age. The brick and mortar store that relies on the sale of digital media and the age of walking into the franchise game shop may be coming to an end. Then again my memories of Gamestop were one crappy manager,parents demanding refunds because they didn’t know that I told them specifically that the game was bad for the small child they were with (thank you to the grandparents who listened and would literally look at their 8 year old grandchild and say “There’s no way we’re buying this for you”), men reeking of weed and trying to sell me 10 copies of Mickey Mouse Christmas, endlessly alphabetizing the shelf of games just to have everyone re-arrange the shelf in 10 seconds and a sea of angry Christmas shoppers. Which is why I could understand why Khail said a very emphatic “FUCK YOU GAMESTOP” and laughed maniacally at its closing. Yet I also understand that from a business stand point Gamestop was going to close a bunch of shops at one point or another.

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