A carefree anecdote about a British video game retail chain, the end of imagination and the end of video game retail.
I was enjoying a typical cheeky afternoon off work with my lady last week; we decided to venture to the fairly new retail development in Wakefield called Trinity Walk.
No more than ten minutes later, we were finished seeing which shops it had to offer us and were just about to head home (via a delicious burger from one of those trendy gourmet burger places) when I decided to pop my head around the door at Game, that troubled chainstore*, to see what was on special offer.
(*I should point out for overseas gamers that this is the self-same video game retailer which shut down nearly half its branches last year and laid off more than 2,000 retail staff, which I’m sure had nothing to do with its heavy investment in selling on second-hand games over promoting brand new titles.)
What was on offer, you ask? Damn near everything, including about 50 copies of Age of Empires: Online for just 10p each. (No, I still wasn’t tempted; I have it on Good Authority that those are 10p for a reason…a non-functioning reason…okay, it doesn’t bloody work properly, alright?) But more alarming than that was when I lifted my head up to scan the different dedicated sections of the shop. XBox, Playstation, PC, Nintendo DS, Wii…and Call of Duty. Call of Duty? Now I know the game is popular, but has it suddenly been released in console form?
No. No it hasn’t. So why does it infuriate me so that the top brass of a struggling video game retail company feels that one single game is deserving of its very own collected shelf space?
Think about it: if you’re going to play the newest CoD release, you’ve already bought it, completed it, and traded it back to them for a fiver off your next purchase, right? We’re talking about a series of games which consistently shatters worldwide sales records; we’re talking Day One sales, Week One sales here.
It doesn’t achieve these records by being, in Trinity Walk’s case, conveniently grouped in the part of the shop which all good retailers will tell you is where most customers lay their eyes first – three steps into the shop and on the right. If you’re buying it, you’re buying it; an extra ten feet away in its rightful console section isn’t going to hurt, is it?
So again, why does this dedicated section of the shop contain so many copies of the same game on every console? To quote the Scooby Gang in the musical episode of Buffy: I’ve got a theory.
The reason Game sees the need to place these games so prominently is that Game shops are currently in possession of every second-hand copy of the CoD games in the county, and are desperately trying every retail merchandising trick in the book to get us to buy them. Only problem is, there are two types of gamer, or rather two types of customer in Game: those who like Call of Duty, and those who don’t; those who’ll buy it for their kids, and those who won’t.
If you like CoD, you’ve got it already, have already traded it back, or been refused the purchase because you’re 12.
If you don’t like it; if you’re one of those more discerning gamers who doesn’t like their violence to be so grounded in reality, so baseless and gratuitous without even a bit of fantasy or fiction about it to qualify as entertainment or ‘art’; these games which only reflect the damning reality we live in rather than offering an escape from it as all great games do?
Well, if you don’t like it then you’re hardly likely to buy a copy, are you; no matter how prominently displayed it is, which is why there are so many unsold (un-re-sold?) copies of it clogging up perfectly good shelf space that could be used to take a punt on something a little more imaginative, but isn’t – because it isn’t good for business when there are so many of these units to try and shift a second time around.
All I’m trying to say in my own eloquent way is: fuck Game, and fuck Call of Duty.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been inside a branch of Game? Comment below!