Friday, November 30, 2012

Shopping for Games: Online vs. Brick and Mortar

Just in time for the holiday rush, this timeless debate needs to be dug up, dusted off and re-examined:

In the 'old days', speaking candidly of the 80's and 90's game store markets across the country, your gaming selection was pretty straight forward. If it’s on the shelf, that's what you can buy; if it isn't, and we can't order it, you can't buy it, or you have to buy it elsewhere. At the heart of the issue is basic economics: supply and demand. People demand products, and the game stores supply them, exchanging cash for the customer's desired goods. Simple, right?

Now, in the modern day, the same principles of economics apply; however, with the advent of online shopping, the once simple economic transaction becomes embroiled in moral conflict, ethical dilemma, and the potential of direct, and subtle financial disaster for our fair game store proprietors. Let's look closely: Idealistically, you go into a game store, look for, and hopefully find a game that you want. Excellent, however the price is a little more than you'd like to spend at the moment...(it happens.) You are faced with a decision, buy it now, or look elsewhere...Now, more than likely, you aren't going to go to another game store. Most distributors will have some sort of price control on their products, or retailers aren't going to go below a certain price point and jeopardize their profit margin...(again, economic principle applies.) So going 'across town' won't really help, because if a price difference exists, it will be less than 10% in all likelihood, which will only cover sales tax, but the added time and gas usage going 'across town' will cut away into your gaming plans.

Aha! An alternative could always, (bum bum BUM!) check online! Surely, with an entire planet of games and gaming companies at your fingertips, you can find a better deal. Amazon, eBay and Craigslist call out to you like the Siren's Song of old antiquities summoning you to the rocky shores of gaming doom.

And here's why: Is the internet cheaper? Yes and no. While the price point is less than regular retail, sometimes by 20, 30 or even 40%, you have to take into consideration the shipping costs, and within the last few months, a few major internet retailers have even added sales tax...which further cuts into your forecasted expenditures.

Is the internet more convenient? Sure. Again, shoppers have a plethora of game stores, and retailers available to them on their computer screen. With a little bit of digging and comparative shopping, they are sure to find a bargain, given the caveat of our previous statement.

One drawback to the internet is that you have to wait for them to deliver it to your door. Most shipping timetables range anywhere from 5-10 business days; or less if you pay for express delivery (which again cuts into the overall cost.) But the ultimate shortfall of ordering games is simply this: When you shop at a local game store, which ever location you prefer, you are in essence becoming an investor. You are purchasing 'stock' or 'controlling interest' (to borrow a financial term) in that location. The advantages being that you can hold the product, look over its contents, and with a bit of research, find out from the store staff how the game is selling, how it plays, and what benefits and features that game contains. We've all had games that have a great deal of hype, but have fallen flat. Your local game store is where you can separate the fact from fiction, whereas the online alternative is more interested in a quick grab of your well earned money, not your overall satisfaction with your gaming experience. Many game stores have a gaming library, or distributor demos at your local store to try out and even rent. Trying something before you buy it is definitely a rare and beautiful thing with any product you may find in the real world, and with the cost of some games, you want the biggest bang for your buck.

Here's how: If you buy online, you may get it cheaper, sure. But the drawback to gaming is this: you very rarely are able to play by yourself. You need other players, a community, somewhere to play. These needs, simple though they maybe, are all met by going to your game store. If and when you buy from them, you are supporting your local community, and keeping their doors open. You are reinforcing your desire to game, play on, and involve yourself in the community. Better still, by purchasing more, you are increasing the profit margins of said locations, and give them more leniency on discounts down the can buy it today, and play it today.

So before logging online, give a second thought to your local gaming establishment...your conscience and your game store will thank you for it!

Make it a gaming day!

Geoff Barton


Miskatonic University

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