The Real Cost of an All Digital Future

At work the other day (believe it or not, I do have a day job), a customer came in looking to pay their bill. She used a credit card and knew the exact amount she owed. My coworkers smiled, thanked her for the business, and on her way she went. After they left, my coworker said to me, “Who pays their a bill in a store anymore? Get with the program.”

I didn’t respond more than a nod of acknowledgment to what he had said. But it got me thinking: Why would we want to keep people out of our store?

A sentiment I hear often in the games industry is that people cannot wait for an all-digital future. Games will be cheaper, and I won’t have to leave my house. While I can see the benefits of an all-digital future, and I myself have used online shopping (shocking I know), there is a cost beyond the money that people either willfully ignore or don’t realize.

Let me tell you a little tale first to set the scene. Years ago deodorant companies used to display and sell there product in cardboard boxes. Think of a six-pack of deodorant. One day a company realized they could pay less money to switch to a plastic wrap, and they would have to rent less shelf space than with cardboard boxes. Once this was done, most companies followed suit and switched to plastic. They saved money, and by doing so, increased profit. For themselves anyway.

Many cardboard factories whose main source of income was producing cardboard deodorant boxes now had to find a way to replace a vast source of their income. This led to lowering prices trying to bring in new business in a suddenly very competitive new field, and eventually the closure of many cardboard manufacturing companies.

Was it inherently wrong for the deodorant companies to switch to plastic? No. Does a factory worker now out of work care that the company didn’t do anything morally wrong. Also no.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with games. To you, I would say think about the cost of an all-digital future in games. The plastic used to make game cases? No longer required. Remember game manuals? They have already gone the way of the dinosaur along with the paper manufacturers who provided them.

What about the stores that sell games? GameStop, the biggest gaming retailer in the US, has already moved to dedicating most of its shelving to niche gaming collectibles and merchandise. They have also started there own game publishing studio trying to keep themselves relevant.

Toys R Us recently shuttered its locations and is liquidating all of their assets. 36,000 people will be out of work as a result of this closure. That means 36,000 people will now be hunting for a new job, making the job market that much more competitive.

So let’s imagine a future when other stores follow Toys R Us to closure. More and more people will be job hunting, and, all of a sudden, those entry-level jobs become more and more competitive. People don’t go to retail stores anymore, and then the need for retail workers is zero. 300 retailers filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Millions of Americans rely on retail as their main source of income. Where do they go if they can’t find a job?

This may sound bleak but there’s still some good. The retail e-commerce sector has grown a lot of new job opportunities. I am not an economist or a business expert. I am confident that there will be new job opportunities that arise that I am unaware of at the present. But all that said, we really need to look at where and how we spend and the cause and effect of such spending.

It can be really convenient to do all your shopping online. It also is awesome to do your research online before going to the store so you know what you want and can get in and get out. But is it worth it if puts hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work?

In 2010 Amazon made 16 billion dollars in profit. In 2017 they made  $80 billion. This is the future. The point of this article isn’t to say online shopping is the devil. I already feel like as a society we have removed our social life from the real world to the digital one. Perhaps it’s only natural to move all of our retail online as well. Just remember the cost may be more than money.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on twitter @bypartisangamer. Till next time this is Chuck The Bypartisan Gamer signing off.

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