Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
18 January 2007
Death of the Rhino
What bothers me most about the death of Rhino Games is a kind of cultural loss. Not that Rhino was any proponent of videogame culture, necessarily, but the very existence of NES games on the shelves at least acknowledged that videogames go back further than six years. With Rhino gone, the oldest console games for sale in my city will be from the October 2000 launch of the PlayStation 2. Everything before that might as well not exist.

When I moved to my current city I knew of three independent game shops, each of which had many games for older systems for sale somewhere. In a one hour trip around town I could find games for:
  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 5200
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari Lynx
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Sega Master System
  • Sega Genesis
  • Sega CD
  • Sega 32X
  • Sega Saturn
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Sega Game Gear
  • Sony PlayStation
  • NES
  • SNES
  • N64
  • TurboGrafx 16
Like visiting a good used book shop, I could be surprised by something old -- but new to me -- on the shelves. I might see a game I never knew existed before (like Tyrants for the Genesis, which I later found out had a clone of Sinistar hidden in it) or a game I'd wanted to buy for a long time (like Sim City for the SNES). The prices were sometimes too rich for my tastes, but at least I had the option of buying there if I wanted to.

Sadly, all of those shops have closed in the last two years. Only empty strip mall husks remain, empty wire shelves and a few stray game promotion posters still attached to the walls.

In the meantime I could deal with the missing Atari stuff as long as I had a Rhino games to visit. From the NES forward, they seemed to stock most everything that interested me. I tried to find what I wanted there before going to the bigger stores, and I know for sure that I bought several new PSP games there at full price.

With Rhino gone, the time horizon for console games has been moved up to the year 2000. It will be as if nothing before the PlayStation 2 ever existed*. A kid walking into a GameStop today wouldn't know about the original Earthworm Jim or happen to see Goldeneye 007 on the shelves and be curious enough to try it out. The store's focus on only the most profitable games, the newest ones, will necessarily limit the consumer's focus on those same games.

To me that's a loss, not just personally but for the whole culture that's grown up around videogames.

* It is worth noting that GameStop/EB Games stores still seem to stock classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. So something from before October 2000 is in the stores, but it's limited to a very small corner of the Game Boy/DS used game case.

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--Matt Matthews at 09:50
Comment [ 6 ]

Comments on this post:

No Game Crazy stores?
They stock nes, genesis, dreamcast, ps1 around here

By Blogger Zachary, at 18 January, 2007 11:49  

No. I saw one of those on a car trip in Fall 2006, but there are none here. I believe that's where I picked up Crazy Taxi 2 for the Dreamcast for under $5.

By Blogger jvm, at 18 January, 2007 11:57  

The nearest game crazy shop to me is 22 miles away, and I've never been to it.

But I live in New England, where local businesses continue to thrive, and national chains are frequently rebuffed completely, so I have an assortment of local game retailers to visit that are within 20 minutes or so.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 18 January, 2007 13:10  

Clearly, the problem is jvm. Or at least, he is typical of his type: the subset of people who look at pre-PS2 games in his geographical area is nearly subsumed by tightwads who aren't willing to spend double-digit dollars on their "culture". The economic result is inevitable. :)

Slightly more seriously, and tying this to rufbo's post about the WoW "virtual ghetto", high-tech entertainment is sold like movies and other "content" -- there's always new stuff out there, and you're expected to want (and pay for) the new.

It's only "culture" as it accumulates -- and not unlike the beginnings of other cultural artifacts, it accumulates as people are willing to spend money to preserve/hoard it.

A decade from now, we'll see whether enough usable videogame stuff is still around from the days of our youth to sustain the necessary retrospection. The outlook isn't good: videogames (especially console games) are closely tied to forced-obsolete hardware.

By Blogger Bob, at 24 January, 2007 01:43  

No Play N Trade? They stock everything that Rhino did, plus they do repairs.

By Blogger Aunt Debbie, at 09 May, 2008 21:24  

But what toy has made it in unaltered form from one generation (here I'll pretend a generation wrt toys is about 10-15 years) to the next that was created over the last 30 years? Your feeling of cultural shock wrt video games might evidence a bit of myopia -- unless you feel the same loss with every other toy as well, and then you've only yourself to blame for the sensitization.

Well, unless you're as down on capitalism's weakness as I am (and here I'd try to tie to Bob's comment on ghettos but can't quite do it gracefully), you'd only have yourself to blame. They'll all just trying to make a buck, bless their hearts.

By Blogger ruffin, at 09 May, 2008 23:07  

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