In one of his classic moments of vitriol against monopolistic capitalism, Schumpeter painted a nightmarish picture of standing in a grocery store, looking at all the different tubes and toothpaste. Slowly, the conscientious consumer starts to realize that they’re all exactly the same thing.
One of the things that Schumpeter was realizing is that retail is not at its most effect on the vast, hegemonic scale of a supermarket. Videogames in particular cater to niche audiences. And as much as gamers would like a modicum of enhanced respectability, these niches are partly what enables the insane creativity we see today in the industry. In light of the recent grim financial news for the legendary British game retailer GAME, Eurogamer asks what the future might look like for the sale of physical games:
GAME relies on video games to have a business. Supermarkets do not. If the high-street video game business plummeted, supermarkets could simply strike them from their inventory and replace them with something else. “We’ve got loads of people that walk through our stores; if there’s something to sell, we’ll sell it,” says Hayes.
Leave game sales up to supermarkets and you’re faced with “lack of choice, lack of variety, lack of risk”, explains Andy Payne, chairman of UK video games trade body UKIE, publisher Mastertronic and digital developer/publisher Just Flight. He’s also founder of PC digital distributor Get Games, and CEO of developer consortium AppyNation. His business cards are big.
“From a gamer’s perspective, you may be faced with a much more androgynous, bland offering, which is much more dumbed down to the lowest common denominator rather than the highest common factor. That’s absolutely going to happen, because it usually does.”
The alternative, of course, is to divert all of these sales and consumer involvement to digital sale, either through propriety platforms such as Steam, Origin, the Apple store, or internet retailers such as Amazon. But the question remains of how exactly material is monetized in an increasingly cost-prohibitive AAA and AA game production cycle. It is hard to remain optimistic in this case—as one retailer quoted in the article puts it: “if there are only 20-30 games coming out each year, what’s going to happen to all the programmers out there? What’s going to happen to all the graphic artists, and the developers, the musicians? Where are they going to get jobs in the future?”