Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Requiem for an independent games shop

When I visited my parents in their new home of San Diego a year ago, I was pleasantly surprised by this little independent videogame store, Games On. It had a great selection of games, a friendly laid-back staff, and a huge collection of playable demos and pinball machines. Its Yelp page reveals fantastic 5-star reviews. It's everything you would want in a videogame shop, and it was right on the main street of San Diego's hip Pacific Beach neighborhood.

Today I finally got back to San Diego, and one of the first things I did was head back to Games On. And... it's gone:

It's easy to understand why. Today the game retail industry in the United States is completely monopolized by big corporations like GameStop and Best Buy. When I visited Games On a year ago I thought it was too good to be true, and unfortunately, I was right.

Of course with modern digital distribution, independent game developers have more power and visibility than ever. Even GameStop is probably on the way out the door unless they can successfully transition to a fully-digital model. It's inevitable that physical game shops will no longer exist a few years from now, and I'm not trying to deny progress. But it's nevertheless heartbreaking to see warm places like Games On bite the dust.

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