I very rarely venture into brick and mortar stores anymore. Especially not when it comes to buying video games. They’re a digital product. We live in a digital age and so, buying all my games digitally is my preference. With a fast internet connection and “ready to start” features, I almost never need to buy a disc.
So it was with chagrin that I found myself in EB Games, to purchase Batman: Return to Arkham. Not yet released on the PlayStation Store (and wanting to provide some coverage for PowerUp!) I decided to “EB Rent” it. I knew I would get it digitally eventually and the best time to cover a game is when it’s released, so I decided the best way to save time would be to walk in, plonk down some cash and head home. Easy right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. It was a weeknight and not a particularly busy one when I entered the store. Grabbing the case from the shelf I went to walk up to the counter when I realised there was a bit of a queue. It didn’t seem like too much of a hassle, there were always two staff serving and the line would move quickly. Or so I thought. The one staff member who was serving seemed to be dealing with a particularly finicky, pedantic and overly needy customer. I’m not sure exactly what transaction took place, but I’d swear they’d either changed their name or collected a copy of their birth certificate.
The line stood immobile for some time. Now, we’re all used to waiting in line for things. Queuing patiently, waiting our turn, but this was clearly outside the realm of normal. Not one, but two other customers asked me how long I’d been waiting and commented, “Bit of a fucken’ joke hey?” At least three customers walked out in a huff and another one saw the line and the one and only staff member serving and thought better of even lining up at all.
Eventually, a second staff member appeared from behind the secret back door and resumed assisting a customer. It was obvious that they’d requested a copy of the Holy Grail and that the stock room for this particular EB was actually the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The second staff member began to ring up the customer’s purchase and then remembered that they were entitled to a DualShock 4 with their purchase. So, back into the secret room they went. For another 10 full minutes.
By this time, I’d been in line for around 20 minutes and was contemplating whether to leave or not, but figured that I’d wasted so much time already that the only way to come out on top was to stay. So I did. Eventually, it was my turn to be served and the staff member was polite and courteous, if a little flustered. They had kept glancing at the door, every couple of minutes or so and as I was finishing my purchase, the reason became clear.
A third staff member appeared from the stock room, apparently oblivious to the room full of frustrated customers. They stuck their head out briefly, acknowledged the line and ducked back into the back room. Not deciding to help the other staff or assist any customers. It was a bit of a slap in the face to everyone who’d been waiting. One of the customers who’d talked to me earlier muttered, “Oh you gotta be fucken’ jokin mate.”
As I left the store, 25-minutes after I’d joined the queue I vowed that unless under threat of death, I would do all my video game shopping digitally. The 25-minutes I’d spent in line would have been the time it took to download and install the game. In fact, if I’d bought it online and queued it up, by the time I got home it would be ready to go. Physical retail still has a place, but there’s no wonder online retailers are eating its profits.
Problem still is that often new release games are cheaper at bricks and mortar than online. Granted this is rarely the case at an EB, but until AAA titles are always $69-$79 on ps store or xbox live at release, i often find it hard to justify the extra 20 to 30 bucks when i could go down the road to get it when i need to get bread, or some other mundane daily choore