In an IGN-sponsored survey dubbed “Are You Game?” involving some 2,000 gamers aged 12 to 54, eMarketer.com found that Wal-Mart was the most visited retailer by US gamers with a next-best margin of nearly 10 points. Best Buy and GameStop tied for second, while Target came in third.
Funny story. When I was trying to get my paws on an Xbox 360 back in late 2005, after fooling around in lines at Best Buy and Target, I ended up sneaking over to Wal-Mart. The poor folks in the Best Buy line — several wearing double-mittens and scarves and ear muffs, shivering in front of portable warmers because this was Iowa and Iowa is sub-glacial in late November — weren’t even sure where the cutoff for “get one at midnight” and “wait all the way through until morning” was. Cold and far, far wimpier than these brave souls, I wandered across the interstate to a Super Wal-Mart, where tucked away at the store’s rear beside a discount shoe rack I discovered a nondescript line of three people.
Waiting for? Mm-hmm.
Needless to say, I scored an easy Xbox 360 that evening, guiltily waiting in a chair the store kindly provided, warm as can be, occasionally standing up to let shoppers sample marked-down Hush Puppies and Reeboks, slightly beaming as others eventually trickled over and word spread that yes, Wal-Mart had Xbox 360s to sell at midnight, too.
I couldn’t tell you how many games Wal-Mart was selling back in 2005, but I remember its video game section looking like the book rack in a grocery store, bestseller thronged and always picked over. You had a couple first-party gadgets, a few cheap third-party imitations, and bins full of discount PS2 games, of course.
But altogether it was a fraction of what the company’s games section morphed into as someone up the org chart got a whiff of video gaming’s video-rivaling revenues. Walk into any Wal-Mart now, and the games wall sprawls across two full aisles.
And you guessed it: The world’s largest retailer even manages nowadays to carry games that have been out for more than a month.