The Great ‘let’s buy a new game at an actual shop’ Challenge

Today is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Yes there’s Daft Punk’s new single that I’m not 100% sold on. What I am sold on though is Fire Emblem Awakening for the Nintendo 3DS. Pat had been raving about how great it is and how much he reckoned I would enjoy it. Once the demo was available in the UK Nintendo eShop I grabbed it. He was right, I did really like it.

From then on my sights were set on April 19th; the European release date. I’m a bit funny in that when something comes out, I want to go to a shop and have it in my hands rather than ordering online and waiting on the post. I pre-ordered Paper Mario Sticker Star for the 3DS through Game’s website and didn’t have a fun time. The game came several days after the release date and the pre-order bonus of a Paper Mario poster took several emails and a couple of months to arrive.

Now here’s the tricky bit. If you know anything about the retail world of the UK you’ll know it’s in a bit of a slump. The two main shops for games in central London are both in rough shape with many stores shut. That would be HMV and Game. In around the west end, there is one HMV left on Oxford Street and a Game taking up a corner of the lower level of Hamley’s toy shop.

At lunch time today I was on my merry way thinking that surely at one of these two big stores I would find my sought after game. How very wrong I was.

HMV was up first. Had a look around, no Fire Emblem. Asked an employee – nope, sorry. We didn’t get any in.

Ok, let’s try Game at Hamleys. Looked around, nothing. I didn’t recall seeing many recent releases but they did have ‘coming soon!’ boxes out for Pokemon, Animal Crossing and the new Donkey Kong 3DS games. That doesn’t help me. There was nobody to ask and just two staff members at the rather busy tills. I took another look around just to be sure that Fire Emblem wasn’t there.

Walking back to work I tried to think of any other place around Oxford Street / Regent Street for games. There’s HMV in Selfridges, but they are always lack on stock. If the flagship HMV didn’t have it, that one would be a waste of time. Got back to my desk and checked the websites for John Lewis, nope. Pat suggested Harrods as a stab in the dark. A search for ‘Nintendo’ on their site comes back with a perfume called Intenso. Oh man.

What about Tesco or Argos. I could pick it up in store couldn’t I? Argos was a big nope. Tesco has it, but you can only buy it online and have it shipped to you. There was no option to collect in store.

The next closest Game location was in Camden Town. I tried ringing them several times throughout the day with no answer. I started to wonder if they had shut down as well, but thankfully their Twitter account was still active. I headed north after work to have a look. I walked in and oh my heart skipped a beat – there was a big display of Fire Emblem: Awakening cases!

OMG LOOK THERE IT IS

I grabbed one and took it up to the till. The guy at the counter looked at it, looked up and said ‘sorry, we’re all sold out’. I would have loved to have seen the look on my face at that point. “Really?! Buying this game is proving really difficult today” I said. Turns out they only got 8 copies and they all sold. EIGHT COPIES.

In the off chance someone bought a copy and hawked it at the two trade in shops up the street I checked both of them as well. No dice.

At this point there was nothing for it. I decided to try another Game location that I know is still in operation; at Westfield Stratford. I want that game bad enough that I’ll go to Westfield for it. That’s pretty telling. I did actually try calling them during the day, but like Camden there was no answer. Maybe Games’s phones have been cut off.

I make it to Stratford and survive the long dark walk from the station to the shopping centre. Step into Game with a faint glimmer of hope. Dashed. It is nowhere to be seen. The same ‘coming soon’ boxes that the one at Hamley’s had, but no Fire Emblem. And again, no staff to ask. Guess that’s what happens when your company has to be saved from going down the tubes. Another sweep of the store to be certain. Take a closer look at that ‘New Release’ section at the front of the store. What’s this, lots of copies of new X-Box games and beneath it… sodding voucher cards for the latest 3DS games.

This is how we buy games now :(

UGH. I’m at a shop, I don’t want to buy a voucher to download a game over the internet. This is the biggest shopping centre in Europe, and that’s how you buy 3DS games at it.

There is another Game location in Hammersmith I didn’t make it to, but let’s be realistic. If they had any, they probably sold both copies already. For the day that 8 confirmed copies in existence  That’s 1 physical copy for every 1 million Londoners. That’s kind of crazy and kind of sad.

I’m not sure if this is something like what happened with the U.S. release of Fire Emblem where stocks were hard to come by. Even if it isn’t, it’s still a sad thought that buying a physical format of something in a city this big is this difficult. I had a realisation at Westfield that in all these clothes and phone and cosmetic shops, there is nowhere at all to buy music.  Maybe video games are going to get to that point as well. Can’t say I much look forward to it. Now, let’s open up a new tab and buy this thing on Amazon like everybody else and wait.

One Day, Two Completed Collections

I went out this afternoon for a shopping trip, Andrea style. This meant book shops, stationary shops and game shops. I stayed away from all Uniqlos after picking up four new t-shirts on Threadless yesterday.

The first place I popped in to was the London Transport Museum Shop. I wanted to pick up the last handful of coasters I needed to complete the set. For ages now they’ve had these lovely lil’ round coasters, a colour coded landmark for each Underground line. I have all the ones in the shop now. I don’t recall there ever being one for the Waterloo & City line so I think I have the whole lot now.

LT Museum Coaster Set

Moving along to Game Focus in Goodge Street to see what Gameboy games they have. They have a case of interesting stuff in the window and right there I spotted just what I wanted; a mint copy of Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance. This one had been proving tricky to find. Not a lot of them come up on eBay and when they do they are stupidly expensive. There’s one on there now that is a buy it now item for £10.99… shame it’s a fake.

Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance

While the chap running the shop made sure that everything in the box was in tact we had a chat about how shops carrying retro gaming stuff are a rare breed despite the current popularity of old games. He was saying they were worried when old games started to become downloadable on new consoles that it would severely hurt business. However, a lot of people started thinking the same I do that the original thing is still the nicest to have and started to hunt down the original games. For anyone interested, they currently have an Amiga CD32, a NeoGeo and a NeoGeo Pocket Color looking for a home. Good thing I wasn’t in one of those ‘maybe I’ll get a NeoGeo Pocket’ moods today.

So now I have all three Castlevania Gameboy Advance games. I’m not a huge fan of Circle of the Moon. I found the card system was a bit goofy. However I’m loving HoD, much the same as Aria of Sorrow. Another collection, albiet small, completed!

Castlevania GBA Trio

Protecting One’s Books

I woke up with an idea this morning. I’m rather particular about keeping things in good nick, and books are certainly no exception. It’s always tricky to pack a paperback just right into a bag so that its risk of damage is as low as possible. Then it hit me; why aren’t there any small portable paperback cases readily available?

A quick hunt on Google yielded big portable cases, but nothing small enough to fit in a bag. If humanity can manage this for a banana, surely we can do the same for books.

Will Take Photos for T-Shirts

A little while ago I came across a photo competition on ilovemypostcode.com. They do hoodies, t-shirts and the like with London post codes on ’em. Neat! Anyhoo, the competition was to submit a photo of a London street sign. Well! I just happen to rather enjoy taking angular photos of signage. I submitted this one…

I got word back tonight that it’s won me second place, huzah! For me that means a free t-shirt of my choice (colour and post code) and they’ll use my photo on their website. I pondered for a moment what post code to pick, but I think I’ll use EC1 as that is the one that got me the shirt in the first place. London is the city that just keeps giving.