Many moons ago, I started an online video game rental service. It was one of the first in the industry and for a brief time flirted as the #1 company in the market. It rose, it fell, but that's another story.
During the very early days of my start-up, we used to make GameStop runs to buy our inventory because it was much cheaper than buying new games at wholesale prices. The fact that we got 10% off used games by using the GameStop Rewards card made it a no brainer. Even after I exited the video game business, I still bought most of my games from GameStop out of some weird sense of nostalgia and loyalty. Price-wise they are never the cheapest and you do get shafted when you sell back games but I get a certain sense of joy when walking into the store to peruse the game titles and chat with the employees.
I'm not so sure the sordid news regarding GameStop employees removing items from game packs changes my perception that much of the company. No one ever said GameStop was the bastion of retail purity plus this is more a corporate directive than a "theft/stealing" issue. Still, it's not a positive and given that places like Amazon gets you the same exact game at a slightly cheaper price, no tax and free shipping, it may make me think twice about where I buy from moving forward.
I've just started playing the latest Professor Layton game for the Nintendo DS - Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. It's a puzzle adventure game where you go through the story exploring your surroundings and solving short brain teasers along the way. Extremely engaging and well written story line mixed with very simple and easy to understand game play (some of the puzzles are hard but there's a good hint system to help you along). The game uses the DS's touch screen well which leads me to wonder, why aren't more games like this popping up on the iPhone? As with all things, I'm sure it's a money thing since most DS games are priced between $20 - $35 versus the iPhones $0.99 to $9.99 range. Still, if Apple wants to seriously market the iPhone, iPod Touch, and possibly the iPad as great gaming devices, they need to move beyond the casual games like Doodle Jump and Angry Birds and cultivate more professionally designed games from real game development houses.For those of you with Nintendo DS's, here's the entire Professor Layton series as released in North America: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
The song is Liberi Fatali by Nobuo Uematsu.
So what did we do when we were in Chicago. Without any planning on this whatsoever, we happened to be in town when the Bulls were playing the Warriors. Of course, I couldn't miss the opportunity to watch the W's play and watch my first Bulls game at the United Center. We were able to grab a couple of decent seats off Craigslist and then drove over to the venue. Took the obligatory shots underneath the Jordan Statue and here are some shots from our seats. The arena itself is somewhat par for the course but the surprise was how cheap the food was. We had a couple of dogs, nachos, and drinks. Total price was about $20. At a Warrior's game, that would probably be closer to $30. We had a great time - aside from the outcome, of course.
The main reason we made the trip was to attend the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concert and see Nobuo Uematsu. His music has graced our home for years, albeit coming from my PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and now Nintendo DS. For a few years now, Nobuo has been touring the world performing before packed venues of video game enthusiasts who grew up playing the games which he has composed the scores for. My first encounter with his music was in Final Fantasy 8 which has led me to play every installment since then (minus Final Fantasy 11 which is a MMORPG and not my cup of tea) and nearly every installment before (3 thru 7). Though each major installment is its own story with new characters, Nobuo's music is an amazing constant. I thrice missed the opportunity to see him perform and wasn't going to let this one slip by. Suffice it to say, the entire trip was worth it. Not only were we treated to an amazing show but we also were able to meet the man and conductor Arnie Roth after the show for pictures and autographs. For those in the SF Bay Area, the tour will be returning in July of 2010 for two shows at the Davies Symphony Hall. You can bet, I'll be at those performances. For the hard core fans, I have a very nicely shot video of the encore performance of One-Winged Angel performed by Nobuo and the Chicago Mages. Contact me directly for a copy as I won't be posting it up anywhere.