How Video Game Retail Has Survived

How Video Game Retail Has Survived

HMV is a music and video game retailer that’s popular across commonwealth countries like the UK, Canada, and Hong Kong (Free trivia: “HMV” stands for “His Master’s Voice”). Unfortunately for the chain, its popularity is waning: In the wake of poor profits through 2010, 60 HMV stores will be shut down by the end of 2011.

HMV doesn’t command a strong presence in the United States, but maybe the chain’s loss of profits heralds a darker time for physical media distribution in general. HMV’s troubles are mostly being blamed on the music industry’s shift to digital distribution, the same kind of upset that’s occurring in the games industry. Today HMV dies; tomorrow, GameStop?

Things do stand to get tougher for merchants who peddle games and music in retail outlets. America has already seen some of its own big media distributors die out, including MediaPlay and Sam Goody’s. But it’s possible to hold on, and even thrive. GameStop has proven over and over that it’s a survivor, thanks in part to its busy used games market. Developers hate it, gamers grumble about getting ripped off, but GameStop is flying along while other retail chains drop dead out of the sky.

There’s no guaranteed formula for success in business, but there is some agreement that it’s important to find a niche and fill it. GameStop pushed its used games market during the economic downturn, but it also worked to make its name synonymous with game retail. When game-ignorant parents need a recommendation for their kids, they’re going to think of the employees at GameStop–the word “game” in the chain’s moniker helps a lot in that regard–instead of the hard-to-collar employees that skulk the crammed alleys of Wal-Mart or Target or K-Mart. Similarly, chains like MediaPlay and HMV were/are meant to appeal to young buyers with a large selection of media–but those young buyers are likely to grab music online, and will get their games at a game-specific store instead of shuffling through the mounds of product available from huge distributors.

The competition in games retail is brutal, but it can survive if it continues to find and fill those niches. Even a small games merchant can do well if it remembers that gamers love a fun, laid-back atmosphere with employees who enjoy chatting about that one great unifier: Video games. Games have a rich background and a culture that’s very fun to indulge in. Even the act of distributing them in a casual environment instead of a sterile box that adheres to specific measurements handed down by head office can go a long way in getting customers off Xbox Live Arcade and into the store.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. I’ve been in the game industry since 1985. I’ve seen
    many changes. Right now there a number of retailers who shouldn’t be selling games. A couple years ago anyone could sell video games. Now it takes experience and real skills.
    Many companies will stop carrying games. It’s a good thing.
    It will let the industry and money go back to those of us that love it. I won’t shed a tear when the likes of HMV
    and others go away. Anyone who thinks of a game as a UPC code to put on a shelf shouldn’t be a game merchant.

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