Lunchtime Discussion: Online Or High Street

I fear the sun. This may be because I’m a very large geek and I work as a coder, a job that doesn’t get you out into the sunlight. I’m serious though it hurts my eyes normally, I can’t see anything unless I squint and I look awful in sunglasses. Oh and it makes the world hot, this is something I can never forgive the sun for. Yet normally I will brave the horrific outside world to buy some stuff. I’ve never really got into buying my food online – unless it’s from Pizza Hut – I like browsing for books and CDs, and I find it next to impossible to buy comics online. Online stores just aren’t very good at providing an abstraction for browsing yet. Games are a stand out from this though, I will frequently buy games online.

So why are games different? With most of the products I’ve mentioned above browsing is integral to the purchasing experience. Buying a comic without being able to flick through it and take a glance at the artwork style is very, very difficult. The same goes for CDs, I like being able to go into a store, play it at one of the demo stations and then take it home with me if I like it. So why not games? Well for a start I don’t buy games that often, and if I do it’ll be something I want. When I know I want something there’s no need to browse, I can go online, find it for the cheapest price and pick it up. If it’s an older game then I’ll check out the Amazon Marketplace and eBay to see if I can grab a cheap second hand copy, far cheaper than I could get it in GAME or GameStation.

So am I ‘killing’ the high street. Well I don’t know. Maybe if there was a reason for me to go into these shops I would. Like I said above I go into my comic shop to browse. I also go in because the atmosphere is nice, I feel welcomed and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable. For example I can give you a general overview of a few big comic characters careers, they can give me in depth discussion, comparison and opinion on individual storylines, artists and writers. This is a useful wealth of knowledge to have backing up my purchasing decisions. Oh and if I ask when a title’s coming out they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, will look up the series, ponder if it’s been delayed and talk to me about the comic.

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I don’t get that kind of service in a game shop. There is an independent shop where I could go and perhaps get this service, but I’ve been in there once and atmosphere was stark, cold and I didn’t feel at all welcome. I will also concede that GameStation is better than GAME for this and I do tend to shop in there on the rare occassion that I feel like picking up a random second hand title, just because I felt like it.

So where do you go? Online or high street? Do the specialist shops really feel worth it to you? Do they give you a reason to shop there? Or would you rather just sit back, order it from the cheapest place online and have it with you in a day or two.

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