I remember about 9 or 10 years ago having a conversation with my dad about the music industry. Not a conversation in the traditional
sense of the word, my main role was to look like I was listening and to nod at the appropriate places. I suppose in hindsight it wasn't a conversation it was more just 'listening to the rants of a cantankerous middle-age man realising he was slowly becoming out of touch with the modern world'
. He didn't understand why the ipod was selling so well, he blamed the falling sales of albums on the move from vinyl LPs with large elaborately decorated sleeves to the smaller and (in his opinion) less collectible CDs. He blamed the music companies for favouring and promoting the newer formats and used the term 'shooting themselves in the foot' several times. Flash forward to now and indie record shops have become a thing of the past and large chains like HMV are struggling.
Now maybe its my turn to do the ranting, clinging onto the past with rose tinted observations - or maybe not
You could argue that the only major difference between the digital music market and the games market is the file sizes involved. In the past its been much faster and easier for customers with even the slowest Internet connections to download a 8MB mp3 compared to a 8GB game. but as speeds get faster there are less and less reasons to ever leave the house to venture outside into 'the big room'
Now at first glance I am not the most impartial person you could speak too on the subject of Digital Distribution.
The thing you need to know about me is that I work as a manager in a major retail chain selling games and movies in the UK. That wasn't always my plan. I was studying business at high school and planned on going to university. I thought I would take a year out to earn some money and have a break from studying. I've always loved games and movies so the idea of having a job where I could talk about them all day appealed to me....
I had no idea how much I would love it.
8 years on and the 'gap year' is still going strong and after moving around several branches of the same chain I'm now the manager of the same store I started at back in 2003. If digital distribution replaces brick and mortar stores I will be looking for a new job and with no other experience and no university qualification that's not something I'm hoping for. I really do love my job so its not in my interest for digital distribution to go the same way with games retail as it has with music retail.
Despite this however the difference between my dad and myself is that. I don't blame the games companies for digital distribution. If its what customers want, its what customers want. The first law of retail is of course The Customer is Always Right
No in my view rather than bemoaning our fate and crying like Amish babies stuck in the past, its up to retail chains and engaged enthusiastic employees to keep themselves relevant to customers if we are to avoid a similar fate. We need to know what our unique selling point is. What can we give the customers that digital cant and capitalise on it.
Creating an in-store atmosphere and customer experience that keeps customers interested. Securing exclusive collectors editions of games. Having staff that know their shit inside and out when it comes to games, staff that can on one hand communicate with hardcore gamers in their language recommending titles without coming across like arrogant tossers and also communicate with ''soccer moms'' buying Pokemon for the ankle biting kids too. Making every visit ''an event'' that customers don't forget and having in-store events like after hours ''game nights'' and ''tournaments'' inviting loyal customers to show off their skills. All good ways of giving stores a competitive edge over websites and things I have done successfully in the past. We have people, websites don't. it may be pissing into the wind long term but I'll have a blast trying.
The digital distribution model used by steam and xbox live is a slippery slope into cloud gaming. If you are not owning a physical copy of the game then why even have it on your local system. With music again this is how the industry is starting to move with spotify and the like. There could come a point when the PS3 and XBOX 360 are used merely as video renderers to play games saved on servers miles away. It would certainly save on having to develop a new generation of consoles but I for one will not be letting high street games stores go down without a fight. read