Wednesday 29 February 2012

The game's gotten old, the deck's gone cold

There’s a spot of kerfuffle going on, with news that GAME won’t be stocking Mass Effect 3 (or other future EA titles). GAME Group plc, operators of the majority of game-specific high street shops in the UK, haven’t had a happy time of late, but I hadn’t been paying close attention when the stories involved financial restructuring or Ubisoft titles for the PS Vita. The ME3 news is a bit more pertinent, as I had a pre-order for it with them.

I’d been thinking about bricks and mortar anyway after I bought a PC game in an actual physical GAME shop a couple of weeks back. Alongside discount classics (like the original Mass Effect, ironically), driving test theory tutorials and Woodcutter Simulator (no, really) on the “3 for £10” racks they had a few boxes of Rift, which I figured was worth a speculative fiver in case the first 20 levels hooked me in. I spotted a box of World of Tanks as well that includes gold, credits, premium time and a PzKpfw 38H735(f) for less than they’d cost normally, so I picked that up too. Not a bad idea if you’re thinking of starting the game from scratch, you’ll be an instant powerhouse in the lower tiers with the 38H735, though I’d ignore the advice in the manual to spend all your gold and credits upgrading it, better to save them for later.

Thinking back, though, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d bought anything in there, apart from Guitar Hero World Tour with peripherals as the box wouldn’t fit through the letterbox and I didn’t want to faff around with courier deliveries on release day. I’m not even sure why I’d habitually drop in if walking past the shop, though “habitually” is probably the clue. There was always the fun of “see if the PC section has shrunk again”, the ever popular “spot the box for the MMOG that’s closed down” and “guess the number of Sims or Warcraft games in the PC Top 20” (double figures was usually a safe bet), but mail order was always cheaper for new releases, and Steam’s sales with crazy discounts undermined the hunt for a bargain.

Eurogamer have a weighty piece up on what the demise of GAME could mean for the industry, pros and cons. The PC is fairly insulated, with Steam, Origin and other digital distribution services well established already; World of Tanks has been online for almost a year, I imagine the physical boxes have given them a bit of a boost in revenue and users, but as a nice bonus rather than a core part of the business. You might remember I was quite fond of RUSE, and I’d seen a couple of articles about a Cold War game from the same developers, Wargame: European Escalation (I hope there’s a tie-in novel, Book: Techno-Thriller); hunting around the usual online retailers (GAME, Amazon, etc.) drew a blank, seems that download is the way to go. I doubt too many PC gamers would be greatly inconvenienced if GAME does go under, but it would be a shame. For all they might have thrown their weight around in the past, I (just about) remember a time when a shop selling nothing but games was a strange and wonderful idea.

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