OPINION: Online won’t cancel retail out

There’s a world of contrasts in some of our big stories this week.

GameStop, the retail giant with over 6,500 stores around the world, wants to grow its global empire – but using web services to go way beyond bricks and mortar.

Meanwhile Blizzard, the epitome of a publisher that has milked the web for ALL its worth, says it couldn’t have done it without its retail friends.

Reports from topsy-turvy land?

In this day and age, hardly. But still a revealing insight into the careful retail-digital interplay that’s always going to exist in some form, regardless of the purported ‘demise of the disc’.

Last week, when we reported on the closure of CHIPSWORLD, a row broke out on MCVuk.com over which market force was the killer.

The unpopular suggestion was that it was Facebook, having sucked all the UK gamers away from the High Street to the rolling hills of FarmVille.

An unpopular (and wrong) suggestion because, even if FarmVille is a webgame behemoth, consumers haven’t just upped and left ‘traditional’ boxed goods like vultures finished with a corpse. Hundreds of GAMEs and HMVs across the country remain standing, last time I checked.

Fact is, retail and online gaming are still finding their place in relation to each other. And while ‘taking online seriously’ has been a long time coming for many games companies, online shifts don’t come like tectonic plates.

The end game isn’t just to own a Flash games portal like GameStop, or manage an iPhone app as GAME discussed in MCV last week.

The aim is to be ready for what might come when games solely come as Flash apps or are downloaded direct to devices – or reach those currently being ignored by traditional means.

Ultimately, online is not cancelling retail out. It’s shifting perceptions, and raising important questions over the value of content. But the two need to work together. In fact they are working together – just look at the range of points and online content cards available in every Sainsbury’s these days, for one.

And what of traditional boxed goods? Well, when hairdressing salons in the US start selling video games, you know there’s still life on the High Street yet.

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