GameStop expanding into mobile, closing stores

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Photo by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

GameStop 3.0 is headed our way. Quite literally. That’s what GameStop CEO Paul Raines called it at a presentation he gave at GameStop’s 2014 Investor day.

Under Gamestop 3.0, the company will focus on mobile. They’ll be opening somewhere between 200 to 250 Spring Mobile stores. In exchange they’ll close about 120 of their brick and mortar locations. They’re already the third largest and fastest growing AT&T retailer in the country. They’ll also be adding 100 to 150 Cricket locations. Whew that was a lot of information! But in summation: they’ll be expanding into mobile and closing stores in the process.

It isn’t really surprising that Gamestop is pushing into mobile. According to a report by Distimo, mobile games were the top apps for nearly all app providers at the beginning of the year. A study by Pew Research also shows that over 56 percent of all adults in the U.S. use smartphones.

GameStop saw an increase in 2013′s fourth-quarter sales thanks to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launches. This is a growing digital age, so gamers are increasingly downloading straight to their systems instead of buying physical copies of games. The console launches were a saving grace for GameStop, but if you compare their 2013 fourth-quarter stats with their first-quarter stats, it’s a rather bleak picture. They certainly can’t stay where they currently are if they want to survive in a growing digital only world. They must change now, while they can, before it’s too late.

Current policies that could use some change

There are a couple of policies that I wish GameStop would change, and I think could help bring customers, like myself, back:

The first involves how they handle new games.

As a game collector, I almost always buy physical copies rather than digital ones, but I don’t buy them from GameStop. To prevent theft, GameStop usually takes the game out of it’s box and puts it in a sleeve in a drawer. They’ll then stick a bunch of white stickers that say “NEW” all over the case (that can’t be removed without leaving horrible residue). When they do that, the game instantly loses any future collector’s value it could have had. But they’ll still sell it to you for $60.00.

If I were to buy that same game from Target, open it, and stick “New” stickers all over the case, Target would not let me return the game, even if I never played it. Why? Because it is no longer in new condition. If GameStop were to end this policy, they would have me back as a customer for new game purchases in an instant.

The second policy that I wish GameStop would change is their used game pricing policy. I think they could win back so many customers as well if they changed it, as many have wised up to how ridiculously over priced used games are at GameStop.

GameStop typically charges $54.99 for a used game that’s $59.99 brand new and has been out for awhile. You can usually buy that same used game on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon for around $30 or less. Those three companies have probably won a lot of customers from GameStop on that pricing alone. But I suppose there will always be those people that foolishly overpay for anything, and maybe it’s enough to support GameStop, but I doubt it.

Oh, and again, GameStop loves their stickers. They stick big yellow “USED” stickers all over the case, again rendering any collector’s value on the game zilch. I’m better off paying less for a game on Craigslist, and maintaining it’s collector’s value without the stickers.

But for now, GameStop’s plan is to focus on expanding into mobile. Perhaps mobile will save them from becoming the next Blockbuster.

Review of Razer’s Lefty Gaming Mice

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I made a video review on the two left-handed gaming mice on the market right now: the Razer DeathAdder and Razer Naga left-hand editions. Most lefties game with right-handed mice, but I’m one of those rare ones that prefer to use the mouse in my left hand. When I started gaming, the lefty DeathAdder was on the market, so I thought, why not? Since then, Razer has come out with another lefty mouse, the Naga left-hand edition. These are the only two lefty gaming mice on the market right now. I now own both so I thought it might be helpful to do a review for other lefties out there that are considering gaming with one of these mice. Check out the review below!

Facebook buys Oculus VR; the gaming community’s response

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Photo by Bago Games (CC BY)

If you’re a gamer, you may have already heard the news surrounding the Oculus Rift. On Tuesday, Facebook announced that they purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion dollars.

According to Game Informer, the acquisition happened practically over night. For a few months prior, the team met up with Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg, and he tried out the Oculus equipment. He was apparently very impressed by it.

Oculus CEO Brandon Iribe told Game Informer, “When Mark got in and tried some of the latest demos, he asked, ‘What can I do to help? What can Facebook do to help?’”

In the aforementioned announcement, Zuckerberg claims that he won’t make any initial changes to Oculus and let them develop independently.

“Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate,” Zuckerberg said, “The Rift is highly anticipated by the gaming community, and there’s a lot of interest from developers in building for this platform. We’re going to focus on helping Oculus build out their product and develop partnerships to support more games.”

Zuckerburg goes on to say that he has big dreams beyond gaming for the Oculus.

“After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences,” Zuckerburg said. “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

There’s been a lot of backlash from the gaming community over the acquisition, however.

Game development company Mojang had been considering developing Minecraft for the Rift, but after the announcement they tweeted that they were pulling out.

Founder of Mojang, Markus Persson, wrote in his personal blog, “Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.”

Indeed, it’s a bit strange to think of Facebook being in direct competition with Sony and the Playstation 4. For those that may not have heard, Sony is developing their own VR headset for the PS4 called Project Morpheus. Even Microsoft has hinted that they’ve been looking at VR for awhile, and well, let’s face it, if Sony’s building a headset, Microsoft is probably doing it too. I wouldn’t be surpised if within the next year we hear something about a VR headset from Microsoft.

I think Zuckerburg is well intentioned in the acquisition. He sounds like he has big aims for the company, even farther beyond Oculus VR’s own initial aims. He’s got the money to get them there, that they may not have had before. This could be a good thing.

As with most gamers, I am apprehensive about saying it is a good thing. I think only time will tell. Hopefully Facebook doesn’t mess this up, and maybe, just maybe, we may end up with some really fantastic tech.

It’s almost here! Elder Scrolls Online server times announced

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The Elder Scrolls Online is almost here! Zennimax Online Studios held an AMA on Reddit a few days ago. During the AMA they released the exact times that the servers will open.

Here’s the breakdown that was posted up:

Zennimax

Photo by Andy W. (CC BY-SA)

The five day early access begins March 30 and goes to those that pre-order direct from the Elder Scrolls Online store. Retail pre-orders get the three day early access starting April 1. Everyone else has to wait until April 4.

I was a long term play tester for the Elder Scrolls Online. For the most part, it was a pretty fun game. There was some glitchiness and slight problems early on when I played, but that’s only to be expected in a beta. While it felt a little different than the main Elder Scrolls series, it did have the basic Elder Scrolls feel to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play it much in the last couple of months, as I became very distracted by other games that had been released. It will be very interesting to see what changes were made.

I’ve posted below a video from Youtuber, Force Strategy Gaming. The video shows off Nightblade gameplay. If you didn’t get to play the beta or want a preview of what the Elder Scrolls Online looks like, check out the video below!

A History of Video Games: 1st & 2nd Generation – Slideshow

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Ever wonder what the very first console looked like? I made a slideshow below that showcases the first two generations of video games. Right now we’re on the eighth console generation. The first consoles were very different, and yet, so important. Without their success, we wouldn’t be playing the PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U. This post is the start in a series of four posts over the next couple of weeks that traces the history of video game console generations up until our present times. For now, dive back in time and get a look at generation one and two!

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All photos by Evan Amos via Wikimedia Commons

The Oculus Rift is the future of gaming

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Thalmic Labs released the video above on their official Youtube on Friday. The video showcases these really cool armbands they are creating that can be used with the Oculus Rift, called Myo armbands. With the armbands on, the player can control a virtual set of arms and hands in game, in first person view. From the video it looks like it makes a fantastic addition to the Oculus technology.

Photo by Nan Palmero (CC BY)

For those who don’t know, the Oculus Rift is an upcoming Virtual Reality head mounted display. I had a chance to try it out at SXSW this year. VR has come a long way since the days of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. For my Oculus experience, I got to ride an elevator to the top of the ice wall from Game of Thrones. From the top, I felt like I was thousands of feet up. And then arrows started shooting over my head. My experience ended with me being shot in the chest by one of the arrows and falling down the wall.

The graphics were amazing. The experience was fantastic! It felt like I was actually there. It was a very surreal experience. I honestly believe that the Oculus and VR gaming will definitely be a staple in the future. The tech industry has definitely taken notice. Marc Andreessen, a major tech mogul and venture capitalist, joined the board last December during Series B of venture funding.

If you want to get your hands on the Rift, there is a consumer version being made. It’s expected to be released later this year or next year, though nothing has been officially set.

I found a cool video of gamer, Jack Septiceye, testing out the Oculus with Slender the Arrival. If you want a look at what gaming on the Oculus looks like, check out the video below.

Storify: The History of Final Fantasy XV

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Screenshot from official Final Fantasy XV announcement trailer.

Final Fantasy XV was announced eight years ago. This game has been in development for at least a decade. It was originally announced alongside Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Type-0 (originally Agito XIII). Both of those games have already been released (Type-0 only in Japan). Final Fantasy XIII has had two sequels: Final Fantasy XIII-2 released in 2012 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII released this last January.

I made a post on Storify detailing the history behind Final Fantasy XV and where Square Enix hopes to take the series. Click the link below to check out my Storify post:
http://storify.com/Pyrosmania/the-history-behind-final-fantasy-xv

The awesome trailer below was released at E3 last year. It showcased new gameplay and the new battle style. It also announced the re-branding of the game from Final Fantasy Versus XIII to Final Fantasy XV. Hopefully we’ll get a release date at this year’s E3.