Five or 10 years ago you wouldn’t be able to drive a few blocks without running into a video store. My childhood included a lot of trips to Blockbuster or, my favorite, Hollywood Video. The success and existence of those retailers has gone the way of record stores.
My not so bold prediction? Gamestop is next.
The landscape of purchasing games is following a very familiar pattern, the same pattern that already changed music and movies.
Gamers for every console and platform are able to buy their content digitally. It only takes a few buttons or clicks of a mouse and your game is ready to download. PC gamers have been able to purchase and download their games using the program Steam since 2003.
On consoles, the online stores for Xbox (Live Marketplace), Playstation (PS Store) and Nintendo (eShop) are well established and the most convenient way to shop.
Today, the perks of shopping for physical releases are dwindling, but not completely nonexistent.
Gamestop, and to a lesser extent, Best Buy, still has strong selections of pre-owned games and devices that gamers can buy for less than a brand-new copy. Consequently, when someone purchases a game on disc they can return the game within a short period or trade in the game for in-store credit. These things are one of the major positives still left for video game retailers, but the convenience factor is just too great with digital shopping.
I think it’s safe to say that a retailer like gamestop is almost completely at the mercy of the megacorporations that are Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo.
For example, when Xbox One was revealed on May 21 the executives who announced the console said that Xbox would not play used games. Microsoft did reverse that policy in June a few months before the console hit stores, but the implications for Gamestop would have really hurt their business model.
One of the last remaining factors that I feel is stopping most users from going completely digital in the way they buy games is the limited storage space on consoles. PS4 and Xbox One both launched with 500 GB models, which could run out of space pretty quickly if you keep your game files on the system. Games files are often 30 or even 50 GBs of data onto your system. On the Xbox One external hard drives are supported via a USB connection. On PlayStation the process to open and replace your internal hard drive is simple to DIY (so easy I could do it!)
I think if every gamer had at least 2TB of hard drive space the need for discs, and video game stores, would drop even more.
The only reason I still like going to GameStop is to window shop and chat up the knowledgeable employees about different games. The conversation is cool and would be missed but I think if GameStop went out of business we would all be just fine as gamers.
Times change and it’s sad that retail stores which used to be so important are becoming obsolete. The harsh fact is GameStop’s days are numbered.