The Demise of Brick and Mortar Video Game Retailers

05/12/2015 04:01 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2016

Digital media across all mediums is more easily accessible now than ever before. Music has all but completely shifted to digital downloads and streams thanks to iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and numerous other avenues to purchase and listen to music instantly. High Definition Movies are being downloaded and streamed through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, almost completely eliminating the desire for Blu-Rays and the now nearly obsolete DVD. Books are downloaded and even borrowed from services like Amazon's Kindle application and Apple's iBooks. The first two mediums listed have almost exclusively been converted to digital due to no real difference in the experience between their digital and physical forms and digital is vastly more convenient and less expensive than visiting a store for purchase. Books, however, lose something in digital translation because of the tangible feeling of holding a book while reading. Physical books still own roughly half of the market share and will continue to have a future for the foreseeable future. Another form of entertainment that is becoming increasingly threatened by digital takeover is similar to music and movies, as it does not lose any value by shifting towards digital purchase and consumption: Video Games.

Unlike the other forms of video games listed, video games have evolved at more of trickle in terms of the digital landscape in large part due to the sheer size of files of modern games. However, with internet speed increasing, and large capacity hard drives dropping tremendously in price, console gamers, the ones most dependent on physical games are being given another option now. PC Gamers have been consuming digital games for many years now, and physical PC games barely exist today. Console games are another story though. Specialized retailers like GameStop, and large department stores have still been able to sell physical games consistently over the years. That climate is changing with modern gaming consoles.

Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One now allow nearly every full priced major release to be purchased digitally through their respective internal stores. What about file sizes? Previously, the downside to downloading games on home consoles was the space that they took up on the hard drive, making physical games more popular and practical. Now, modern games are so graphically intensive and powerful that even physical games on these two consoles require massive installs in order to play. Physical games take up almost exactly as much space on the hard drive as digital games.

To increase digital sales and popularity, often times games are allowed to preloaded days before their release, meaning that it will be completely downloaded so when it hits midnight on release night, the game is instantly available to play. In fact, gamers can play digital games before their physical counterparts due to this excellent feature, making digital games more convenient than physical games.

What does this mean for stores like GameStop and other video game retailers? These stores offer digital download codes for purchase in store and online, but that still requires an additional step to start playing. In today's busy world, people want things fast and purchasing through the console's marketplace directly allows this speed. If you are not comfortable linking your credit card with the marketplace, currency can be purchased and entered in the form of a code at almost every gas station, grocery store, and department store around, meaning that when you pick up your groceries or fill up your gas tank, you can grab a card and purchase games from the marketplace when you get home.

The gaming industry is constantly evolving and changing, and this is a transformation of the way we purchase games. Just like the demise of brick and mortar music stores, video stores, and even book stores due to Amazon, video game retailers have seen a decrease in physical game sales that will almost undoubtedly continue at a faster pace as technology makes it easier to acquire games digitally.

Digital games are the future of gaming, and while brick and mortar stores will be around for a little while longer at least, the trend of purchasing games digitally will likely become the normal in just a few short years.