While reading an article at Next Generation about the GameStop/Electronics Boutique merger that explains how the massive GameStop will be able to charge publishers more money for shelf space, I started wondering why the publishers don't sell direct and cut out the GameStops of the world. Twenty years ago such an idea would have been a nightmare to finance and operate, but with the rise of e-commerce it might be worthwhile for larger publishers to consider such an option.
If GameStop charges $49.99 for the next Super Mario game while Nintendo sells direct through their online store for $44.99 (assuming a $5 markup so GameStop can turn a small profit), I'd much rather buy from Nintendo. I save $5 on the game price, skip paying state sales taxes, and (hopefully) get free shipping. Nintendo can bypass purchasing increased shelf space at GameStop to sell me the game plus any in-store promotional materials that would need to be produced and shipped. By eliminating GameStop from the chain, both publisher and customer walk away happier and with a little extra money in their pockets.
Some people will never buy games online, of course, so brick and mortar stores still have a place in the mall for now. I'd still like to see some of the major publishers handle sales and distribution themselves rather than rely on a retailer to move their products. GameStop and friends wouldn't like it, but if publishers can sell direct and if customers prefer to buy that way, then nuts to them. The stereotype of overpriced used games and arrogant fanboy clerks would not be missed.