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Friday, March 31, 2017

Game Over for GameStop?

Remember Blockbuster Video? I sure do. Back in the day, this rental store was the place to go for video games and movies. Towards the late 2000s, streaming services started becoming a thing.Now Netflix and Hulu are large and in charge. And Blockbuster? The once great king of video rentals couldn't compete and faded into irrelevancy and it looks like GameStop could very well be joining them.

About a week ago, news released that GameStop would be closing the doors of up to 150 to 225 GameStop stores. You don't have to look hard to find a GameStop as they are literally everywhere, what with them being the king of video game retailers. Shutting down 2%-3% of your stores is no small thing. When you're closing stores as opposed to opening them, that's a big red flag that sales are down.

I know there are thongs of gamers out there that aren't shedding any tears over this news. It has become popular to crap on GameStop over the years with the way they aggressively push used games on customers and the low value you get for your trade ins unless you have a lot of games to trade. Game publishers certainly aren't going to be losing any sleep over GameStop's decline in sales as they've been a thorn in their side for a long time. GameStop's business model is used game sales and used game sales is money that game publishers never see. Through online passes and locking content on used games, publishers have been trying to fight GameStop tooth and nail but it looks like they are finally winning thanks to two words: digital distribution.

The popularity of digital downloads has only gotten bigger over the years because it is super convenient. Human beings are lazy at heart and it is way easier to download a game on the sofa than leaving your house, dealing with traffic, the weather and what have you to pick up a game. Now I love my physical games as much as the next guy but I cannot hate on digital downloads when it is cheaper on indie developers and especially when it comes to older games. Digital games also save gamers tons of shelf space and as a gamer that loves his physical media, I can easily look around my place and see how attractive going digital only is.

But as much as I enjoy a huge library of digital games, there's nothing quite like being in a store, browsing and coming across a game or accessory you may not even have glanced at had you not been out and about. This is how I've acquired a large assortment of my gaming figures, plushies and other gaming memorabilia. Yes, you can shop online for all of the things I just mentioned and I do regularly but I still enjoy the experience that comes with being in an actual store. It is something the digital download stores just cannot replicate.

On the flip side, a plethora of casual gamers could care less about everything I just mentioned in the above paragraph. The hardcore gamer may not want to hear this, but we are largely outnumbered by the casual crowd. If digital downloads allow them quick and easy access to a game, they could give two craps about a game they could actually put on their shelf.

Digital distribution is the way that publishers can finally give GameStop the middle finger they've been wanting to give them for taking so much money away from them via used sales for years. When your entire business model depends on used games and consumers would rather get their games quicker digitally, of course profits are going to plummet. There really is no way GameStop can compete against digital game downloads and more GameStop stores will more than likely be closing in the future.

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