My column this week explains why GameStop’s demise wasn’t entirely the fault of digital sales. This was a company that made bad decisions and prioritized short-term gains over customer retention. Maybe they were always fated to go the way of Blockbuster video, but they did a lot to hasten the process.
I really do believe there’s room in the retail space for dedicated gaming shops, even in this world with a dozen competing digital platforms. If the market can support stores dedicated to mobile phones, then there ought to be room for selling and servicing gaming hardware. Sure, you can get games digitally now. But you can’t download a console, a graphics card, or a controller. Lots of people like to buy physical goods at a physical store.
Apple has built customer loyalty so strong that people will leave their house and stand in line for a chance to buy $800 phones when you can get a phone with 90% of the features for a tenth of the price. It’s hard to create and maintain, but customer loyalty is a powerful force.
Gaming is more popular now than it’s been at any time in the past. In another timeline with a different leadership at the helm of GameStop, people would say things like, “I know the game costs the same on Steam and I could download it without needing to leave the house, but dangit, I LIKE going there. My dad took me there back in 2001 when he got us a PlayStation 2, and I have so many good memories of the games we got there. The guy who works behind the counter is really cool. He’s been there for years and he really knows his games. The lady who owns the place is nice and if you bring a machine in for servicing she won’t even charge you anything for silly little two-minute repair jobs. Also, sometimes when I go in to buy a new game I’ll throw in an obscure title I found on the discount rack. That’s how I discovered the Persona series.”
I realize I can’t prove any of this in a “show your work on the blackboard” sense. Maybe it’s a weak argument to claim that gaming shops could work because I’d go there if the store I described existed.
But still. I really would go there if it existed.
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WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.