Return of the Geeks
There are two things about me that I’d like to share.
1. I love predicting things, and I’m actually not half bad at it.
2. I was once known as the King of the Nerds (literally). It’s a long story that has to do with science fiction conventions, that I’ll share another time.
Considering those two points, the recent acquisition of ThinkGeek by GameStop is a really fascinating thing to me. In fact, it’s some of the most exciting cultural news I’ve read in years. Why? Here goes…
I think most people (myself included) consider GameStop to be a “dead man walking”, and it’s been that way for years. Digital distribution of video games–not just on PC anymore–has really put the kibosh on brick-and-mortar video game stores, and GameStop never really took advantage of the used, classic gaming market that many smaller chains, or “Mom & Pop”, video game shops have done (think of that local place that sells actual Sega Saturn discs or NES cartridges, along with refurbished GBA SP’s). Also, GameStop has been unable to succeed at their own digital distribution and online sales services (even after buying and rebranding Stardock’s Impulse store/client in 2011). GameStop’s sales figures in the past couple of years proves the point. To put it simply, GameStop is likely to never again be the “Babbage’s” that its history is taken from.
Enter ThinkGeek. ThinkGeek is a (largely) wonderful store that represents the best and worst of everything “nerd” related today. Best being: Starfleet uniforms and Batman bathrobes. Worst being: U.S.S. Enterprise-shaped pizza cutters (if that’s not exploitation, I don’t know what is). And all of that is possible because ThinkGeek has–for whatever reason–some tremendous franchises and licenses it gets to make and sell products for. It’s a winner in that regard, and those licenses are the obvious reason for GameStop to buy them out (it certainly wasn’t because ThinkGeek isn’t successful).
But I stake my name on finding the not-so-obvious, and that’s what I want to present here, because it’s a doozy. I think that since GameStop has largely missed out on the classic gaming sales model, they’re going to go after everything else that means anything to “nerds” (I use that term in a positive fashion, understand). Books, comics, merchandise, clothing, unique props and replicas that you normally can’t actually touch in a store…it’s going to be huge. There are already some smaller chains and local shops that do this sort of thing (and they sell those items at a heavy markup), but nothing with as many locations as GameStop. Model kits, deluxe editions of games…and then if you add in the Maker community that ThinkGeek has recently been appealing too…we (nerds) are looking at a veritable renaissance of local commerce (even though it would come from a big chain). Have midnight releases for all kinds of things beyond games, and the kids/adults will be lined up to meet their need for connection with other impassioned fans about…whatever. If they throw in some Warhammer game tables in their stores, and they’ll have something that is even more valuable than a “cult company”…you end up with a place for people to hang out. And where you hang out, you’re likely to spend a whole lot of money. And besides, it’ll be cool.
To be clear, I generally don’t like “national/international chain stores” as I think they fail at addressing geographic and community needs as well as a local “Mom & Pop shop” can that has been there for a hundred years and has a natural feel for local ecological and economical needs (and in a real Freed Market, local stores would wipe the floor with the “Big Boys”), but I really need something to take the place of Radio Shack for me. A place that understands who I am and what I’m looking for. I’m a nerd, and I want my nerd things, and I want to connect IN PERSON with other nerds and gamers, even in West Bumfuck, New Hampshire (really, there’s a GameStop everywhere).
I think the potential is huge for GameStop, and I would actually go and become a “PowerUp” member again if they do what I’ve described. Websites really do only go so far, and having a local meetup and one-stop shop for all things fantastical is the cure.
Let’s hope GameStop doesn’t fuck this up.