Are High Street Game Stores Living On Borrowed Time?

By Martin Blessing

We are moving quickly in the digital age. Movies and music are available to us at a touch of a button wherever we may be. The internet has all but killed off the necessity for a music and video store, so surely video game stores are living on borrowed time?

Most of us will remember the high street brand Blockbuster. You couldn’t walk down any high street in the UK without spotting the unmistakable bright blue rental store. When I was younger, Blockbuster was a haven for video games. Not buying, but renting. It was a fantastic way to test the market for new games at a fraction of the retail price. Moving to modern times and you won’t find the once great rental chain on high streets anymore. Not to put too fine a point on it: you won’t find them anywhere.

The reasons for its closure was evident. The internet age was here and it was taking over quickly. It all started with services such as LoveFilm, where postal rentals were far more convenient than leaving your house. Then online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime started to develop. Cable and Satellite services like Sky and Virgin Media now offer a plethora of movies on demand. Soon physical copies of DVDs started shortening in circulation and the public soon took to making good use of their internet connections to watch their favourite movies. Internet speeds gradually started to quicken and still are to this day. Movies can be streamed seamlessly and downloads are almost completed in next to no time.

In this day in age, it’s hard to think back to the day where you would need to leave your house to watch the latest film. Sad to admit, but now it would like seem like somewhat of a chore.

“Video game stores such as Game have had a couple of close shaves but are still dominating the market when it comes to offline video game shopping”

Music followed almost like for like. Stores like HMV are almost definitely on their last legs. Why? Services like Spotify and iTunes are too convenient for the public. Not only in remote access to a library of music, but cost too.

But gaming doesn’t appear to have got to that stage. Yet. Video game stores such as Game have had a couple of close shaves but are still dominating the market when it comes to offline video game shopping. Nevertheless, the switchover hasn’t been fully digital. Like most shopping, online stores are the way to go in terms of price, but us gamers are still purchasing physical copies.

We are aware that digital games can be purchased online, directly through the console’s marketplace. The most alarming thing about using the Xbox Store or the PlayStation store however, is cost. The mark-up on some of the newer releases – and even some old ones – is incredible. A new release may set you back £60 (or more, in some cases), which you’d likely pick up for £40 or less physically. Even considering convenience, I wouldn’t let it sway me for the sake of twenty pounds.

So why is this the case?

It’s evident the marketplaces hold a monopoly over the digital download scene. Let’s face it, they have no stock issues so there’s no need to offer cut price deals to increase storage space. Even that aside, they have no competition so they can pretty much charge what they like! What console gamers need is a platform like Steam to be allowed to be installed on to the console platforms, offering independent deals to gamers. Not only this, but it would introduce competition and we would have sales and deals galore. Unfortunately, I don’t see Microsoft or Sony jumping up and down on allowing their stores to be taken for a ride.

“People appear to be content and are happy to still continue purchasing their games offline, albeit there really isn’t much alternative”

In addition, there isn’t such a public outcry when it comes to video games. Like the aforementioned music and movies, people could genuinely understand why high street stores were closing left, right and centre. With video games however, people appear to be content and are happy to still continue purchasing their games offline, albeit as mentioned before, there really isn’t much alternative. On that note, there doesn’t really appear to be any progression towards digital downloads in the future either. But we know for a fact the fundamentals are there in place to mass market the digital download scene. Internet speeds are more than capable these days. Let’s face it, most of us have been forced to download an update for a game that’s almost as big as two games combined!

We all live the digital age nowadays. It consumes most of our lives, and it can’t be too far off to suggest the way we purchase games is in for a change soon. But until we can bypass the digital marketplaces that are in place on our consoles, this is the lifeline that high street game stores can cling on to. But for how much longer, only time can tell.