Pete's Perspective: Episode 5
Pete’s Perspective Episode 5: The Return of D’Oh!
It’s been about a year and nine months, but I’m back. Yes, this marks the return of Pete’s Perspective, a regular column that sheds a bit of perspective on the video gaming industry from the eyes of, well… me. You may agree with what I say, and you may not. That’s fine. I’m just calling things as I see them.
Now that we’re straight and that we’re re-acquainted, let’s get this show on the road.
The merger between Gamestop and EBGames has some people in a real tizzy. Much like the console wars and their associated fanboys, each store has its share of supporters and critics. I must say that I was pretty surprised when I heard the announcement, but I’m not all that concerned about my game-buying future. I will admit that I have a bit of a preference towards Gamestop, but that’s due in large part to a friendly relationship that I have with the staff members of the stores that I frequent and because Gamestop stores are closer than EBGames stores are to where I live. That doesn’t figure into why I’m not freaking out over this. If anything, the combination of the two chains means more inventory—particularly pre-owned games and systems—and I like that. We’re also likely to see one set of policies now for all stores, which will make things easier than trying to decipher which chain’s return policy does what.
I’ve read one recurring concern that this merger basically means a monopoly in gaming retail. Excuse me? Last time I checked, tons of retailers sold video games besides Gamestop and EBGames. Wal-Mart sells games. So does Best Buy. How about Target? Circuit City anyone? As far as used games go, there are also other options. Hollywood Video’s Game Crazy chain is continuing to expand, and it seems likely that Blockbuster will expand their Game Rush stores to fill the void of competition left by the merger. Believe me, there’s still going to be competition.
Another concern was that Gamestop will raise their game prices. Excuse me again? Why would they do that, especially if we acknowledge the point I made above? What people fail to realize sometimes is that, unlike “big box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, Gamestop is a specialty retailer that only has game revenue to fall back on. If you consider that the list price of most new games is only $5-$10 cheaper than what we pay for them at retail, it makes more sense as to why Gamestop is less apt to sell games at the prices that other retailers do. Best Buy can sell TVs, computers, and other electronic goodies, all of which generally have better markup and deliver more profits than their video game software sales do. Sure, I worry about increasing software prices, but that’s not because of Gamestop. It’s the promise of $60 games from publishers like EA, Sega, and Activision that makes me worry.
Speaking of these proposed price hikes (note the impressive segue here), I don’t get why people are freaking out over these, either. If you consider that software prices have been pretty much level at $50 or lower for the past decade or so (since the PSX era began) and that other costs—such as development, utilities, hardware, employee wages and benefits, marketing, and many other costs—have steadily risen over the same time period, then you’d understand that maybe we’re due to finally pay a little more at the cash register. Sure, I don’t like the idea of paying more; however, when I think about just how good we as gamers have had it in terms of game prices, I completely understand why the increases may happen. There’s always the possibility that game sales may level off or decrease if the hikes occur, in which case the hikes may be short-term or more limited, but I just don’t see it. Video gaming has never been more popular than it is now, and I can certainly see people willing (but begrudgingly) paying an extra $5 or $10 for the next installment of Grand Theft Auto or Final Fantasy. So, unless you’re willing to go all pre-owned, buy exclusively through eBay, or just decide to pass on gaming altogether come next generation… you’d better get used to the idea that games will be a little more expensive.
Hey, at the very least, you’ll have our reviews under your belt to help you decide if that new game is worth the $60, right?
I do have to admit that I have a bit of cautious enthusiasm about moving to the next generation. I probably don’t have to tell you that this year’s E3 will be exciting with the unveiling of the PlayStation 3 (as well as the XBox 360 and maybe the Revolution), but I honestly don’t know if I’m really ready to wave goodbye to the PS2. Recent games like God of War, Devil May Cry 3, and Gran Turismo 4 certainly show that the aging PS2 has more than a little bit of life left in it. I won’t disagree that it’s been a solid run for the PS2 and that there’s always going to be new and more powerful hardware; however, with the unveiling of a successor comes diversion of development resources away from the current system and a steady decline of games. Late adopters of the XBox could see this happen to them sooner than they’d like, although Microsoft “promises” to support the XBox through 2006. Sure. Whatever. I don’t want to get all negative about the PS3, though. Based on what we’ve heard about the Cell processor and its potential, we could likely see some incredible visuals that get us even closer to experiencing almost true-to-life images. I can imagine playing games with no more torn textures, slowdown, or stuttery frame rates. Hopefully we’ll be able to talk less about long loading times and “jaggies”.
Before I go, it’s time to hand out some “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” recognition.Thumbs Up: Let’s hear it for the PS2 action genre, which has seen perhaps two of its best games this generation in the past couple of months. God of War was a great mix of action and puzzle-solving, with just a little bit of platforming to test your mettle. Devil May Cry 3 kicks your butt and offers no apologies, except to those who were tricked into buying Devil May Cry 2.
Thumbs Down: This isn’t Sony-related, but John Tobias needs to go back to Midway because his Studio Gigante crew can’t do anything right. As if the XBox fighting game Tao Feng wasn’t enough of an atrocity, now comes WWE Wrestlemania 21, another XBox game that is, by far, the worst wrestling game of this generation. Whatever happened to Tobias and Boon cranking out Mortal Kombat games? Oh, wait… Boon’s doing better now without Tobias. Noob-Saibot? Bah.
Thumbs Up: I turned 33 on April 22nd. That makes me older than many of you reading this and even older than a lot of my gaming journalism colleagues. For being cooler than most guys my age, I give myself a huge Thumbs Up to mark the occasion. It’s my column, so I can do that.
That’s it for this episode. Send me some reaction at GameGuyPete@gmail.com. You can agree, disagree, complain, compliment, or whatever. It’s all good. Heck, if your e-mail is good enough, maybe I’ll address it in a future Perspective column. For now, though, I’m off like a broken PS2 laser.
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4/22/2005 Peter Skerritt Jr.