Is this the end of the PC retail market?

There has been a lot of speculation this year about how F2P is the future of MMOs, and maybe of all PC Gaming.

But where exactly do bricks and mortar retailers fit into this model? The answer is that they don’t really. Cataclysm – likely to be the biggest PC release of the year – being downloadable directly from Blizzard on pre-order, is just the icing on the cake.

Sure, there will be many people who:

  • like boxes
  • trust the post office
  • have amazon/etc vouchers to spend
  • like saving money
  • don’t mind if their copy is a few days late
  • are being bought the game as a present so have to wait for the present-giver to turn up with it
  • aren’t able to take time off to play at launch anyway due to that pesky college/ work thing
  • want a collector’s edition
  • like standing around at midnight in a queue for hours dressed as a night elf because it’s social or something

But for everyone else, the ability to just download the new expansion in advance and be ready to go on the stroke of midnight is going to be hugely appealing. Especially in a genre like MMOs where getting to max level quickly is important for hardcore players. Those extra hours count (if you believe that the servers will be stable).

Clearly Activision-Blizzard will make out like bandits from being able to sell their game directly to players without having to pay a cut to retailers and distributors. Yes, the retail market is important for advertising but increasingly, that trend is diminishing.

Game Shop Nostalgia

And yet, I remember a time  …. a time when we would eagerly trek out to the specialist computer gaming shop to find out what was new on the shelves.

I remember one shop in particular, because it was near where my boyfriend (now husband) lived, somewhere in the great expanse of South-West London (“south west london nice part” as he likes to describe it, or “south west london miles from civilisation” as I would put it). The shop was down a narrow alley and consisted of one small room with white-painted walls which was full of shelves.

The shelves carried boxed PC programs. They weren’t stacked tightly so that all you could see were the titles, many were placed proudly so that the front of the box was on display. And boxes back then were quite large. Many of boxes contained games – some were years old, others new imports from the US – but there were also operating systems and various utilities or bits of business software. PC software at the time was very all-encompassing. When we went to the shop, it was a little, limited piece of geek heaven.

It closed many years ago. And the world has moved on.

Anyone else have memories to share about buying games in gaming shops?