Will Buying Video Games at a Store Be Obsolete?Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman writes:

Nearly twenty years ago I was the proud owner of an old-school cartridge gaming system (which was state-of-the-art at the time and seems hopelessly clunky now), and I spent hours killing off boredom by endlessly playing games. Just a block or so from my house was an extremely popular video game store where I could both buy and rent games, allowing me what felt like easy access to new games to try. But that was nothing compared to now.

Today I have massive amounts of technology with Internet access, and I can’t imagine going to a store to buy games anymore; after all, I just need to search online for cloud-based games, or use my gaming console to download games and play them right away — all without needing to put on pants. And that doesn’t even take into account the games that I download and play on my cell phone.

Video game stores are beginning to disappear — starting with the popular GameStop store, which announced recently that it will be closing between 200 and 250 stores in the United States in the coming year. GameStop is finally knuckling under after two years of watching players switch to the far more popular digital and mobile gaming options rather than traditional console-based games, including cloud-based gaming. Gaming in the cloud seems like the hottest “new thing.”

But are the big game manufacturers and creators paying attention to this trend? It appears at least Sony is paying attention. Sony recently acquired GaiKai, a video game service provider, for $380 million. GaiKai makes it possible for anyone with a reasonable Internet connection to play popular games online regardless of hardware. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that online gaming is ideal for most people; after all, only 40% of Americans with access to high-speed Internet take advantage of it — and even fewer use the higher cable or fiber optic systems. DSL is not ideal for online gaming, and dial-up Internet (which about 6% of Americans still use) is out of the question.

Gaming in the cloud isn’t all that ready for prime time, however, and consumers have yet to catch up on the cloud gaming option. OnLive offers cloud-based play using a $99 streaming box (much less expensive than traditional consoles), but hasn’t hit its stride quite yet, and was forced to lay off nearly its entire staff. It seems likely that this has caused the big gaming companies to breathe a sigh of relief and might make them more likely to continue to focus on expensive consoles — and being able to continue selling expensive consoles might, indeed, save your neighborhood game store.

So don’t throw away your gaming console just yet. The game industry is still a ways from moving fully into the cloud. However, you still might want to consider a visit and purchase at your local gaming store if you want to see it hang around.

Cecily Kellogg is best known for her popular blog Uppercase Woman, her raw tone and humor on Twitter as @CecilyK, and her posts about social media and moms on MomCrunch for Babble. Cecily lives in the Philadelphia area, is happily married, is mom to a fierce and amazing daughter, and has occasionally been called a bad ass. Cecily also currently works with AboutOne doing social media strategy.

Image: Video Games shared by Rad Jose via Flickr