I got into a long conversation with the manager of a Blockbuster Video store I've frequented since before the DVD era began today, regarding the company's increased focus on gaming. You see, Blockbuster Video isn't doing so well in this age of Netflix and video downloads, so they are trying to modify the business to stay competitive...it's just the competitor's have changed. Said manager claimed that Blockbuster Video would soon begin getting preorder exclusives...games that cannot be preordered anywhere but Blockbuster. You'll still be able to buy them at other stores on release day, mind you...you just won't be able to reserve a copy anywhere but BB. The news was delivered via an alleged ex-GameStop executive at a managers' meeting, where it was explained to them that GS was actually having to cancel some preorders as they could no longer guarantee copies on release. The horror!
Now keep in mind that this could all be corporate rhetoric meant to make the managers feel better about working for a company that is for all intents and purposes circling the toilet. I've called some of my GameStop contacts who hadn't heard anything about preorders being canceled, though for all I know the alleged exclusives could be for games that no one is really preordering anyway. Remember one of BB's more famous exclusive games, Acclaim's Freestyle Street Soccer, one of the only titles that a used game store will actually pay you money to take off their shelves.
What I cannot dispute is Blockbuster's increased focus on gaming. My local store, which isn't one of the ones with the game store built into it, is now stocking stacks of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, selling PlayStation 3 systems, and aggressively pursuing preorders for titles like Grand Theft Auto 4 and Mario Kart Wii.
Not to mention the fact that exclusive deals have long been the company's bread and butter, from exclusive sales contracts allowing them to buy massive amounts of movies for prices the mum and pop stores could only dream about, to the more recent securing exclusive rental rights to hit films. Securing presale rights to video game titles isn't so far-fetched.
Well just have to see how things develop - if they develop - and what effect, if any, it has on video game retail. I don't see this doing much more than putting a few more pennies in Blockbuster's coffers and, depending on the titles, signaling the occasional return of launch day lines outside of GameStop stores.