Last Friday afternoon when Tropical Storm Arlene was promising a wet weekend for my part of Florida, I decided to stop after work and pick up a new video game for the weekend. Seeing as how the "torrential rains" (as the local weathercasters are fond of saying) were going to drown out my weekend, I knew I'd be indoors for most of the time and since tropical storms and hurricanes have a knack for knocking out the electricity, I decided to get a Game Boy Advance game.
I missed out on the first half of the GBA era, but after getting hooked on the Nintendo DS I began picking up some classics from recent years such as Wario Land 4 and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Friday afternoon I had a yearning for Metroid: Zero Mission. I visited three different stores in my search for Metroid and game up empty each time; not because the stores were sold out, but because the stores did not stock first-party Nintendo games. How can this be?
My first stop was Best Buy. I worked my way to the Game Boy Advance section and discovered mostly empty shelves. GBA games are popular among the kiddies, so my first thought was that the store was just out of stock on most things. I started browsing what was available and saw that the games that were on the shelf are the types of games that tend to sell well to a young demographic: Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Spongebob Squarepants, Olsen Twins, Nicktoons video game paks, and so on. I saw no Metroid, no Super Mario, no Legend of Zelda. Best Buy wasn't just out of stock on these games, there was no spot on the shelf for them as indicated by the shelf labeling. The only first-party products available were a few Pokemon titles and a handful of Ice Climber Classic NES game paks.
Leaving Best Buy behind I took a walk next door to GameStop under the assumption that a store that specializes in video games would have a wide selection of titles available. Once again the Game Boy Advance rack was loaded up with Nicktoons and gotta-catch-em'-all titles ending in -mon. Even the used games offered for sale reflected this selection. The local Target down the road was no better, offering up a scant selection of the same kiddie fare. In both cases there were no spots on the shelf for anything else.
The more I thought about it over the weekend, the more confused I've become. Why are three different types of stores - a big box electronic entertainment warehouse, a game-oriented outlet, and a retail discount store - not carrying mainstream products from Nintendo? I'm aware that kid-friendly games sell very well on the Game Boy Advance, but is there not space on the shelf for games that appeal to all ages? I'd appreciate it if those of you out there who work in game-related retail could offer some perspective on this issue. I am at a loss on this one. Quality games should not be so hard to find.