In the past, purchasing video games often involved a trip to a physical store, browsing through shelves of game cases, and finally selecting a title which caught your fancy. However, with the rise of the internet and the increasing digitization of media, the gaming industry has witnessed a significant shift towards online retailers. Today, almost all gamers use online platforms to conveniently explore a vast selection of games, make purchases with a few clicks, and have their games delivered digitally or physically. So let’s look at the best places you can get your games, today.
The Origins of Games Retailers
The history of games retailers dates back to the early days of video gaming. Initially, games were primarily distributed through arcade machines, which required players to visit physical locations to enjoy gaming experiences. As technology advanced, home consoles such as Atari, Nintendo, and Sega gained popularity, leading to the emergence of brick-and-mortar stores dedicated to selling video games, which users would then play at home.
In the 1980s and 1990s, retail chains in the US like Electronics Boutique (later known as EB Games) and GameStop became prominent game retailers, offering a wide range of titles for various platforms. These stores became a go-to destination for gamers, providing access to the latest releases, consoles, and accessories.
The Migration to Online Retailers
The transition from physical stores to online retailers began in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the advent of e-commerce and the internet boom. The rise of online marketplaces, digital distribution platforms, and dedicated game stores on the web reshaped the way gamers purchased their games.
Several factors sped up the migration to online retailers:
Firstly, the convenience and accessibility of online shopping revolutionized the gaming industry. Gamers no longer needed to visit physical stores but could instead browse and purchase games from the comfort of their homes.
Secondly, online retailers offered a wider selection of games, including indie titles and older releases that might be challenging to find in physical stores.
And thirdly was the increasing popularity of digital distribution by businesses. Platforms like Steam, launched in 2003, allowed users to download games directly to their computers, eliminating the need for physical copies. This digital shift offered publisher benefits such as instant access to wider markets, automatic updates, and the ability to publish games without needing to print or create physical media.
Top 5 Online Retailers
This one needs no introduction. Steam, developed by Valve Corporation, is one of the leading digital distribution platforms for PC gaming. It offers an absolutely massive library of games from major publishers and independent developers. Steam provides frequent sales, community features, and an extensive modding community, making it the go-to destination for PC gamers worldwide.
GOG (Good Old Games) specializes in offering a wide selection of DRM-free games. It focuses on retro and classic titles, ensuring compatibility with modern operating systems. GOG.com also provides a platform for indie developers to sell their games while maintaining fair practices and user-friendly policies. GOG is owned by CD Projekt, whose production house created games like The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077.
- Humble Bundle:
Humble Bundle is unique in its approach to selling games. It offers bundles of games at a pay-what-you-want pricing model, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Interestingly, you can also choose how much goes to each of the parties—the developers, the charity and Humble themselves. Humble Bundle provides an excellent way for gamers to discover new titles while supporting charitable causes, and is thus home to many commercial and indie projects.
- Epic Games Store:
Epic Games Store gained significant attention thanks to two huge releases: the landmark game Fortnite and game development platform Unreal Engine. And only gained more attention with its exclusive releases and free game offerings. It features a curated selection of games, often showcasing independent titles and exclusives from well-known developers. The platform also hosts regular sales, providing opportunities for gamers to acquire games at discounted prices.
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itch.io is an online marketplace for indie games, providing a platform for independent developers to showcase and sell their creations directly to players. By buying from itch.io, you directly support the developers and their creativity, as a significant portion of the revenue goes to them. The platform offers a diverse collection of games, spanning various genres and styles. Itch.io also encourages flexible pricing options, including pay-what-you-want models, promoting accessibility and inclusivity. Additionally, itch.io fosters a vibrant community, where players can leave reviews, provide feedback, and engage with developers, enhancing the overall gaming experience.
The gaming industry has undergone a significant transformation with the migration from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online retailers. The convenience, accessibility, and wide selection of games offered by online platforms have revolutionized the way gamers purchase their favorite titles. Steam, GOG.com, Humble Bundle, Epic Games Store, and Itch.io are among the top online retailers that have made a mark in the gaming community.
Ultimately, the choice of which online retailer is best depends on the your needs and preferences. But whether you’re seeking the latest AAA releases, indie gems, or classic titles, exploring the offerings of these top online retailers will undoubtedly provide you with a diverse and exciting gaming experience which are only ever a few clicks away.