GameStop, one of the biggest video game retailers in the world, are apparently contracting their European operation. Only the other day I was shocked by their withdrawal from Northern Ireland, and I awoke to news this morning that they may also be pulling out of Portugal. It got me pondering.
While the NI operation represents only a small fraction of GameStop's Irish portfolio (around 10%), the closures and redundancies are still hard to swallow. I believe they never really progressed into the UK due to fierce competition, instead focusing that part of the operation on on-line and digital retail. However, during the golden age of the current gen when the Wii, PS3 and 360 were all released relatively close together in a crashing salvo, GameStop Ireland reaped the rewards by being on of the best.
Now though, either the economy or the digital revolution appears to be taking its toll. Ireland's economy is in a much worse state than the UK's, yet there is no news yet about them closing Irish stores. Porugal is also struggling as a country, but so are most of the European countries where GameStop have a presence. I really hope, and find it hard to believe otherwise, that the company is not struggling, and that these closures simply form a part of the newest stategy. But if this is true then it raises another prospect that makes me slightly uncomfortable: are bricks-and-mortar stores on the way out?
Granted, I don't select games in the same way I select books or music. When I walk in to a game store I know more often than not what I'm in there for. But maybe it's a sign of my age when I say that I find it hard to imagine a high street with no games retailers. And, of course, those used games can be bargains! However, this looks to be the way things are going. HMV have had to adapt as MP3 players have grown in popularity, but they are almost at the stage where they are unrecognisable to the brand they were a few short years ago.
Despite news that the 'XBox 720' will use blu-ray, I cant help but feel that digital downloads are going to play a massive part of the next gen, so I may as well get used to the prospect. I'd rather that than see a company that's close to my heart fold, so the optimist in me hopes it is not the economy that blows ill.