Last life gone for high street games stores?

The high street games store could soon be a thing of the past. The threatened closure of the Game chain of shops signals an acceleration of the drift away from direct retail outlets towards online or downloadable games and game apps.

After the company went into administration, 277 of the 600 UK and Ireland Game shops closed immediately, creating more gaping holes on high streets already blighted by old Woolworths gap sites.

The fall has been alarmingly sudden for a chain that seemed to have a presence in every town in the UK. The administrator Mike Jervis blamed a variety of causes, including "high fixed costs and an ambitious international roll-out" for the company’s failure, but it might be more realistic to make comparisons with the music industry.

Recent years have seen the failure of several major music retail chains, with HMV clinging on desperately. The notion of popping into town to buy the latest game release may have become as anachronistic as shopping for CD albums.

"Games retailers can't rely on the console cycle in the way they could 10 years ago," the retail analyst Patrick O'Brien told The Guardian. "And looking into the future, we're talking about hardware coming out that doesn't require physical media at all."

In effect the future of gaming will be software that can be plucked out of the ether, or, with the advent of higher-speed broadband, requires no data storage system whatsoever. It’s a model that will take some time to find a workable commercial format, but in 2012, many traditional retailers could be staring glumly at the game over screen.

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