Written by Technology

Games on the High Street

Now I’m not much of a gamer these days. I take a broad interest in the industry and perhaps buy one – maybe two – games a year. I have an Xbox 360, but my Wii hasn’t been switched on in many months.
Anyway, I say this as I’m vaguely aware that Mass Effects 3 is coming out soon. With a star-studded voice cast, music from Clint Mansell and of course some incredible looking gameplay (based on what I’ve read, as I’ve not so much as looked at a trailer for it), I’m aware it’s coming. It’s what the industry calls a AAA title.
So at the weekend, while doing a bit of shopping, I popped into both Game and Gamestation locally to see if it was out, or discover its release date. Oddly, in neither shop did I see any mention. I realised that it might not be released for a week or two, but gaming is an industry that loves a pre-order, so I found it odd that there weren’t racks of empty boxes alongside a date and an urge for me to pre-order the game.
It was only later when I was going through a stack of recent newspapers that had been building up unread that I saw the news that Game and its sister company Gamestation will not be stocking the game. They’re similarly not going to be stocking Mario Party 9.
That’s because the company is struggling and EA in particular is refusing to deal with them over their big new release.
I understand that EA might be taking a risk by dealing with a “troubled” company. But I wonder if they’re not shooting themselves in the foot in the longer term.
If every games publisher does this, then that pretty much seals the fate of Game, and with it, High Street specialist games stores. Yes, there are still some independents, and HMV. But the latter faces its own challenges. As does Blockbuster, the only other really notable multiple with a hand in gaming (Does WH Smith still stock video games? Can you tell in their thoroughly cluttered stores?). In the main, the business is being pushed online. Is it such a good idea to have all your eggs in a handful of baskets like Amazon and Play? Suppose you fall out with Amazon, where does that leave you?
There are supermarkets, but they only maintain space on their shelves while it pays for itself. They’d drop games completely without any fuss if their margins per square foot of floor space aren’t maintained.
Perhaps this is a smart move by EA concerned about a potential loss of earnings on a major title. And the video games industry isn’t quite what it was a few years ago, so those millions matter.
But I can’t help but think it’s the industry ensuring that it has a smaller High Street presence in the short to medium term. Out of sight, out of mind…