Recent developments have thrown up speculations that Walmart may soon join Best Buy in halting the sale of physical media. It was reported last week that Best Buy intends to discontinue selling physical media by 2024. This move by Best Buy encompasses TV shows and movies only, leaving video games untouched. Now, rumors about Walmart making a similar decision are beginning to circulate.
Only a few days ago, news emerged from an unexpected source, the CEO of Limited Run, suggesting that Walmart could be planning to halt the sale of "physical Xbox games" sooner rather than later. The CEO, whose company specializes in releasing physical versions of digital games, took to Twitter to share his information, stating, "I've heard rumblings that Wal-Mart is dropping physical Xbox games soon, and I have to imagine further cuts to physical gaming sections will be made as we get deeper into next year."
The CEO seemed to direct his speculations specifically towards Xbox games, rather than painting a broad stroke across all gaming platforms. When queried about this, he replied, "That's my understanding as far as Wal-Mart is concerned, but I'd expect deeper changes in their gaming department as time goes on." These comments reveal the belief that Walmart may significantly downsize its gaming department as retail becomes increasingly challenging and in-store game sales continue to decline.
The supposition that Walmart may abandon physical Xbox games does not come without a certain level of credibility. The Xbox Series S, after all, does not even include a disc drive. Furthermore, third-party games are reported to yield lower sales on the Xbox Series X as compared to the PlayStation 5.
However, it would not be ideal for Microsoft to witness games for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5 displayed on Walmart's shelves against an Xbox section that only holds digital tokens for download. It would fundamentally change the look of the gaming aisle and the perception of console competitions at Walmart's stores.
It should be stressed, however, that these notions are still at the conjecture stage. No official statement or confirmation has been released by Walmart to substantiate the claim at this point. As such, the gaming world is still waiting to see whether there is any substance to these "rumblings."
There is also a different side of the coin to consider. The removal of Xbox games from the Walmart shelves could potentially be beneficial for Microsoft if the focus would then shift towards a digital section. But, should Walmart eliminate Xbox's presence completely, Microsoft might face the issue of losing visibility, especially during peak gift-buying seasons. It seems unlikely that Xbox consoles would continue to be sold if there are no Xbox games on offer, raising questions about how Walmart would tackle such an eventuality.
As we wait for confirmation or denial from Walmart, numerous gamers and industry experts are voicing their opinions and speculations about the possible effects of such a significant shift in retail strategy. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the retail landscape for video games, particularly in large retailers like Walmart and Best Buy, is undergoing significant changes in line with broader shifts in how we consume media. The transition towards a digital marketplace continues to evolve in the gaming world, with repercussions for everyone, from the game developers to the retailers and, ultimately, to the consumers.
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