When Did Game Stores Stop Selling?

When Did Game Stores Stop Selling?

It’s comedy time! Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, folks: A man walks into his local game shop and asks for a copy of Okamiden on DS. The clerk looks at him as though he’s talking a foreign language, grunts incoherently and scowls at his release clipboard before suggesting the man ‘checks online’ for the game he’s never heard of. The same thing happens three more times in other local shops, leaving the man empty-handed and not a single copy of the game anywhere to be found. Hilarious!

Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke and there’s no punchline – despite our best attempts, we genuinely couldn’t find a copy of Capcom’s latest highly-regarded DS title anywhere in our local area when we tried to get it just four days after it came out. Granted, we’re obviously the kind of people that are just as likely to buy something online as we are on the high-street, but that’s hardly the point. Sometimes, just sometimes, convenience takes priority over price and if we’re feeling lazy, we’re perfectly within our rights to want something in our hands right here, right now instead of waiting for Mr. Postman to arrive.

Based on how things are moving in retail stores though (in the UK, at least, which is where this writer finds himself), that’s becoming less and less of an option these days. For instance, this isn’t the first time that we’ve been hampered in trying to buy titles from a certain well-known chain. Attempts to pre-order Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom and de Blob 2 were both refused, with both titles being ‘online pre-order only’ and not guaranteed to be arriving in store on launch day. They did in the end, to be fair, but in tiny quantities and stuck on a shelf well away from the ‘New Releases’ spot.

In the case of Okamiden though, it’s literally nowhere to be found – UK stores like GAME and Gamestation (which, admittedly, are part of the same group) are only selling the title online, seemingly with no plans to stock it in store. And why? Because in their eyes, it’s not a big seller… even though by not stocking it, they’re not even giving it a chance to prove them wrong.

Of course, that’s not how it ended up being reported by the people that care about such things. Various industry and specialist press types soon had stories up about Okamiden’s failure to break the All-Formats Top 40 (tied nicely into the news of Homefront making it to number one), before the comments sections were flooded with people having a go at Capcom for failing to promote the game properly. When it doubt, point the finger…

Did anyone actually think to look at the root of the problem though? No, of course not. No-one got on the phone to, say, GAME and asked why they weren’t stocking in its bricks and mortar stores; no-one questioned the buyers over their decision to restrict sales of a title that, by rights, is perfectly suited to the DS. They just laid the blame at Capcom’s door and had done with it, which isn’t particularly fair in this case.

Sadly though, it’s looking increasingly likely that the problem’s just going to get worse (again, in the UK at least). It seems odd that in the days when online purchases and downloadable content sales are soaring, high-street stores are almost cutting off their noses to spite their face – if it’s not a game that’s going to rake in the big bucks, they’re just not interested, but equally they control which games are going to sell simply by increasing or restricting their exposure.

Combine that with the decision to start charging for pre-orders where they were once free and even allowing people to pre-order second-hand titles before the games are even out, and you have to think the inmates have finally taken over the asylum… or the financial reins of high-street retail, at least.

About Martin Mathers
Martin Mathers has written about games for the last 12 years and worked on some of UK’s best magazines including X360, Official Nintendo Magazine and gamesTM (which he helped create). He now consults for publishers, freelances for numerous websites and writes his own blog.

2 Comments

  1. This is fine with me. I’m done with video game retailers. The reason they don’t sell the middle-tier games is because their money is based on used sales and AAA games.

    I don’t buy used (i like developers) and most AAA games I’d rather just get somewhere else to spite these game retailers; espcially considering its the same price everywhere.

    So, anything that keeps them from getting even a minimal amount of money is good news to me.

  2. All the signs right now are that GAME will be lucky if the business still exists at Christmas. The funniest thing about all this is that they are tearing their hair out over the terrible state of their sales figures at the exact same time that they’re turning your custom away with derision.

    I worked at Head Office for years and I could tell then that the policy of supporting the mainstream at the expense of the gamer was an idiotic and short-term strategy that would bite them in the ass. The buying department there is staffed with literally the stupidest and most unpleasant bunch of people I ever met in any walk of life.

    Good riddance!

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