Today, Microsoft opened the first in a chain of retail stores designed to mimic the success of the Apple Stores.
Mac and PC users alike arched their eyebrows when this was announced. PC users just don't have the same fanboyish love of Microsoft that Mac users have for Apple. Microsoft is status quo, not something to shout about. The only people who take pride in their PC usage nowadays are gamers, since Macs still don't accomodate PC gaming the way that they should.
The good news is, Microsoft appears to know its audience. PC gamers and 360 owners will be specially accomodated in these new stores.
For one thing, you can bring your X-Box 360 into a Microsoft store for repairs, just like you can bring an ipod or other Mac product into the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Presumably the Microsoft stores will fix any Microsoft product on-site, but this service will be particularly helpful for gamers. Our hobby is addictive, so we really need to have that broken console fixed as soon as possible. Getting the notorious Red Ring of Death on a 360 used to mean days without gaming while it was mailed in for repairs. If Microsoft's knock-off Genius Bars succeed, the 360 could make a real pull forward in sales, since the PS3 and Wii don't offer any type of on-site repair service.
The second benefit for gamers is a print-on-demand service for video-games. It's the same concept as the Espresso Book Machine that select bookstores have begun using to print paperbacks. Microsoft will be burning games onto discs and printing out the box art and manual for you, so you'll get the full package -- essentially, they'll be a gaming store that's never out of stock. This will be particularly helpful to those seeking rare or obscure titles, which will also mean more money going to the deserving developers behind lesser-known games. The only people who don't benefit are the eBay sellers that deal rare games.
Co-Optimus points out that the move towards a print-on-demand service may be too little too late, since most games are going digital anyway. It still counts as another check on a list of things Sony and Nintendo will wish they'd thought of first.
Time for some unfounded predictions: Sony and Nintendo stores*? Apple releasing more video-games on Macs, or even their own console? Sounds like fun to me. Since gamers are steadfastly ignoring the recession and continuing to dump funds into their favorite pastime, it all could even happen. I'll never be opposed to anything that will force competition and therefore better service out of Gamestop and Best Buy.
* Edited 10/27: There is the Nintendo World Store in NY, as one commenter points out. A long drive for Boston residents, and not something that this Boston-based gamer was even aware of. Does the store suck, or do I just fail at keeping track of anything happening outside my own city? Probably the latter -- so that's my next field trip planned out.
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