Retail locations are a dying breed. The cost of doing business with a brick and mortar location versus the return on sales is a hard-balancing act. I am sure most of the people reading this have thought at least once about starting their own old school game store but have failed to follow through for assorted reasons. Cost being one, I am sure. It is a shame because gamers today will never know the thrill of walking into a new game store and seeing a ton of games on the shelves and posters, boxes, artwork, etc covering the walls from corner to corner.
Back in my day, late 80’s to late 90’s, when I was focusing quite a bit on the old school game store locations near me it was as described in the opening paragraph. When you walked in there was games everywhere, there was artwork on the walls, there were wall scrolls and related toys (both domestic and Japan imports) everywhere. It was almost sensory overload. There was a huge magazine rack near the checkout counter too – not what Gamestop calls a magazine rack with guides and just Game Informer available.
I spent a lot of time checking out the various magazines available. One store I frequented a lot in the 90’s till they closed in 1998, or so, was Player’s in Little Rock. Them, Electronics Boutique and Software Etc (though I don’t consider the last two as “old school game store” quality). Player’s knew how to cater to gamers. They had EVERYTHING in stock, often in multiple copies. They hardly ever had a game box on the shelf but not have the game in stock. What was cool about them was, new games were still shrink wrapped – they opened one to get the box for display and if you bought the last copy (closeout or just last copy in stock) you got a nice discount (I want to say it was like 15% off) for buying what they called “used new stock”. Ask for that discount at Gamestop and watch how long it takes them to stop laughing at you.
Player’s also carried Japan imports for many consoles such as the 3DO, especially if domestic releases were weak in quality or volume. This was great for gamers like me that spent most of their time before the Internet becoming standard, reading gaming magazines and checking out imports that we would probably never get to play.
Remember that shelf copy I mentioned earlier? Player’s had probably 12 televisions with various consoles plugged in throughout the store. If you wanted to check out a new, or used, game you just had to ask the clerk and they would get the “new used stock” copy out and plug it in – imports included. How many stores will do that today? Not many, and certainly not Gamestop – at least the ones near me.
Player’s also rented games out if they had used copies available. I remember renting Super Nintendo games from Players all the time. It helped that they were on my way to work or home so it was easy to drop off a Super Nintendo classic title or some NES games or other classic games.
Player’s went out of business due to raising costs such as rent for their location. While it was a suitable location (lots of nearby apartments and housing available) it was also an up and coming area of town. The property management went up on their space rent every chance they could. Now that area is even fuller of apartment complexes and apartments for rent but businesses are not doing all that well there. Traffic is so bad in that area that it is stifling business growth as customers use the road out front to travel to big box stores for purchases.
What was once a nice little corner of the city, off a financially crushing subdivision (it is even more costly to live/work there now) is now a shell of its former self that is slowly dying. The city doesn’t do much upkeep on the infrastructure in this area for whatever reason. I travel out that way a few times a month now and occasionally, I pull into that shopping center and pass the place where Player’s was. I made some lifelong friends with the employees there (we keep in touch thanks to social media and such – even though they have moved away off to better jobs).