Hundreds of virtual characters stand frozen on the racks. There’s the fuzzy creature from EyePet waiting to be cuddled. And, there is the trainer from Wii Fit, along with the demonic creatures from Dante’s Inferno, thirsty for blood. This is not Tokyo, but the Mega Mall in Mumbai, where Game4u, India’s first dedicated retail gaming store, set up its first shop in February.
A virtual haven: Game4u offers a selection of 600 video-game titles.
Last September, Jayont R. Sharma, the CEO and chairman of game distributors Milestone Interactive, set up Game4u.com—a website where you can order the latest games legally available in India.
Piracy is a big concern for game distributors in the country, partly because illegal copies are easily available. Sharma decided, therefore, that it was time shopping for legal games got some dedicated shelf space. The Game4u store has been launched as a pilot for the retail stores Sharma hopes to set up in other metros.
The setting is neat. As you enter, there’s a comprehensive display of the latest releases, with the first vertical panel displaying games that are currently on top of the charts. The games are arranged as per the week’s international ratings. This, says Sharma, facilitates the buying experience for parents who simply want to pick up the most popular game for their child.
Next to the “top-chart” display is the “pre-order” panel, showcasing dummy covers of forthcoming games. It is aimed at die-hard gaming fans who want their games to be reserved and delivered to them the day they release. There is already considerable buzz about next month’s release—God of War III.
A shelf devoted to games for girls follows. There is an overdose of pink here, with the rack chock-a-block with Barbie titles, though titles such as The Simpsons and Toy Story, stacked in the other panels, make up for it. Then there is the shelf devoted to BluRay films. The collection is small but includes a good mix of titles such as Too Fast, Too Furious and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
The general collection of games is housed besides the BluRay films, with individual shelves devoted to PS3, PS2, PSP, NDS, PC games, Xbox 360 and Wii.
The Game4u store is unique in that it has space for visitors to try out games. At the centre of the store are four sleek LCD screens which allow you to play the newer games. One screen is devoted to the Wii games that require you to stand and move around.
But the ultimate spectacle is provided by the small platform devoted to the ensemble of Rock Band—complete with the drum controller, guitar controller, microphone, and headset. Rock Band is the popular series of music video games that allows up to three players to play plastic controllers modelled after musical instruments in sync with licensed music.
Visitors can spend as much time as they want playing Rock Band provided there is not a queue, assures Sharma. To simulate the live performance feel, a video camera records your gameplay and telecasts it live on an LCD screen.
Karaoke Revolution, which is like Rock Band but is limited to vocals, also has a screen dedicated to it. You can croon to English and Hindi songs; the game software automatically rates your singing abilities, which can be anything ranging from awesome to awful.
In all there are 600 titles—all legally available for sale in India—to choose from at Game4u, with prices ranging between Rs400 and Rs9,000. The variety cannot match what is available at an online store, but it definitely offers you, as gamers would say, a compelling single-player experience.