You may have seen some of the recent news pieces on how Blockbuster is attempting to get more aggressive with its game offerings, starting with putting GTAIV on their coveted front wall of new releases – the first for a game. An interesting step to be sure, but I had to take a trip down to my waterfront store to see what else was changing.
I have written in the past about this Blockbuster and its lack of quality. Few new games and an absence of organization drove me away from it as a rental avenue. About two months ago this started changing for the better. The games section was reorganized and expanded, and for once it looked like it was supposed to. The store also started selling PS3s, and for a little while actually had two 80GB models (which I would have jumped on if my taxes were done earlier). Then Guitar Hero games and controllers trickled in. There were preorders and midnight releases for Halo 3, Smash Bros. and GTAIV. The lesson here is that Blockbuster had already been making this change slowly and quietly during the year, but after my last visit, there were even more surprises. The games section is even cleaner and bigger, wrapping around to the other side of the aisle so that they could include a monstrous amount of DS games. The front wall not only has games for rent, but games for sale; there is a small section of the newest releases for you to pursue. There are even more PS3s, and in some bizarre, Twilight Zone sight, were three Wii boxes.
Imagine that. You are in the middle of suburbia, and all of your Gamestops and big box stores have not had a Wii in months. Or maybe you are like me, in the city, with no game retailers in sight without a 30 minute walk downtown. Wii Fit is making it even harder for you to find that most coveted of all consoles. But you find a Wii for you and the kids as you grab the latest romantic comedy to torture your husband with. Or maybe you’re cruising around the store with your teenage friends dressed in black or hipster plaid, fresh off of buying a new pack of Camels and hoping to rent Juno from this stupid fucking store that you hate but visit anyway. You see Rock Band there, or maybe some other game your barely tolerable nerd acquaintance recommended to you. You buy it, and maybe now you have a reason to come back.
This is how Blockbuster can succeed. They must become the one place that you would never expect to find a gaming treasure, but lo and behold, actually has it. They must become the place where you can preorder – just in case – and know your copy will be there, because everyone else put a deposit with Gamestop, and no one will hassle you because the clerks don’t care enough about games to sell you more shit. It has to strategically place junky Wii games in the spot where the kids will see it and the soccer mom picks it up to shut their traps for the entirety of a weekend. By doing this Blockbuster will succeed. Lord knows they need to, as their finances aren’t getting any better. In short, you don’t need to go there to get your gaming fix. But if you are in the area, or stopped in to grab a flick, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, Blockbuster has one other trick up its sleeve. They brought back their Gamer’s Pass, which for $20 (per month, I assume) is “all you can eat”, one game at a time. Astute readers will note that this is slightly more than a two game rental from Gamefly. The answer for this is corporate greed of course, and yet I don’t really care. You see, snail mail is slow, even when it is first class priority. There are chances of the mail getting lost. A trip to Blockbuster meanwhile is the length of a cigarette and a half. If I get bored with a game, I get a new one. And another, as quickly as I need. Instant gratification is worth the extra few bucks. Hell, with a string of eight hour action games I may get more than my money’s worth in a month than with two titles from Gamefly. Expect possible repercussions of this new offering in the future.