The Best Retailers to Buy Video Games From in South Africa
In this article, I’ll be reviewing different retail chains in South Africa based on a few different criteria: how good their selection is; what their prices are like; whether they have any good deals and how often, and perhaps more, such as how helpful or knowledgeable the staff are, what their websites are like, what’s in the brochures, location of their stores, etc.
List of stores reviewed
- Dion Wired
- Look & Listen
- Chaos Computers
- BT Games
- Incredible Connection
- HiFi Corp
I will add more when I get around to visiting them. I already have some on my todo list.
Their selection of games is quite large. When I was last at Makro in Milnerton, there were several baskets full of PC games alone, and this is where most newer, or more recent at least, games were to be found. There was also a bargain bin of sorts where older games were. This wasn’t set up very well. It was nigh impossible to dig to the bottom of the basket. You basically had to dig up all the top titles and stash them somewhere to reach the bottom, only to put all of them back later on. And to add to this, there weren’t even prices displayed on the covers, which is not in compliance with the CPA (Consumer Protection Act). I had to have them scanned at the till to see the price, because I like to see how much something costs before I decide to buy it. Of course there is an impressive little feature present on their website that allows you to not only see the price of items (games are hard to find on their website though), but you can check for availability at each of their branches too.
Makro will allow you to bring back games, even PC games, as long as they are still in their original packaging, and you have a receipt.
The staff weren’t particularly friendly or helpful. In fact, they were downright rude in some cases. I actually overheard them mocking people who were browsing the games section. But I was pleased to see that the rude ones had seemingly been replaced the next time I went there – either that or they were just temps.
Makro does, at times, have good deals on games. At one stage they ran a deal where you could get several eats and drinks along with a game purchase – and this applied to two titles. They seem to appeal to the typical gamer’s tastes at times. And if you think about it, they have the means to do so, because Makro is after all, a superstore where you can not only buy games, but plenty of other things, including Red Bull and bags of chips in bulk. If you think about it, it’s the perfect combination.
The only thing is that Makro stores are often too far away from residential areas, and closer to developing, industrial areas, so it is a mission to get there, and that’s the main reason I don’t often get to do so.
You’d think that because of the store’s title it would cater to the gamer. But I sit here lamenting: “What happened to Game?”
Game used to have a much better selection of games, but not nowadays. There are only a few shelves with games at their Tygervalley branch, and the PC games selection is particularly poor, mostly catering to – dare I say it – the fairer sex and children. Come on, are you really – as a man – going to chance walking to checkout with a Sims title? Because that’s more or less the only thing they have, as well as some shovelware rubbish. And the games don’t even have prices on them, which is once again, like Makro, not in compliance with the CPA.
The staff seem to know their way around though, but I have heard rumours that sometimes they are known to “leave you hanging”, as in walk away in order to check something out for you, only to never return. This hasn’t happened to me so far though.
Dion Wired advertises stuff on their website, and in their catalogues that are bundled with the newspaper once a week or so, that they don’t actually sell. I’m aware that stock varies depending on which branch you visit, but still. I think it should be standard practice for retailers to have an availability checker on their website, like Makro. This is why you should always phone ahead and check if they have stock, to save you time, money, and petrol.
Their selection is all right, but with only one small section dedicated to PC games, with no clear indication anywhere where to find them. The rest is of this section is console-orientated. Not to mention their prices aren’t all that good, either. But at least you won’t be short-changed because Dion Wired round off their prices, typically to the nearest rand, so there will hardly be any chance of not receiving change.
You are allowed to test games by playing them on the consoles and TVs provided, which few stores actually allow nowadays. I haven’t seen many – if any – other stores do this. However, it is a shame to see some of the staff hanging out in this area and knocking off of work, playing the games, instead of actually helping customers.
CNA’s selection of games isn’t too bad. But it was better. They’ve always catered to PC gamers, and had an impressive section which was dedicated to just PC games a while back. This has now gone, and the PC games are all just stacked on one shelf in the middle of the store. And it’s not much different with the console games either. In fact, they are pretty much all lumped in one section with the movies and music, at least at the Tygervalley branch.
In fact, the selection on their website seems to be much more impressive than what is actually available in the store.
The staff are helpful when approached.
Musica used to have one of the greatest selections of games. There were old ones and new. But over time their selection has gotten a bit less impressive. They had at one stage a whole new section of the store dedicated to gaming alone, instead of lumping it with everything else, but that’s now gone. That was just a temporary setup at their Tygervalley branch while the mall was undergoing renovations. It was a good idea but they either decided not to stick with it, or their new store layout just didn’t cater to it. It’s a shame.
Some of the staff aren’t particularly helpful, and in some cases even surly, not even speaking to customers. Then again, when I have spoken to some others on the phone, they seem quite knowledgeable and generally helpful. Like BT Games, they also tend to inform buyers of PC game system requirements, like online activations, Steamworks, etc.
Musica has made it quite plain in the past that they will not let customers return PC games for any reason at all. This has become common with many retailers, as it is apparently in compliance with “copyright laws”, but not necessarily in compliance with the CPA.
Look & Listen
Their selection is very good, showing a lot of old and new games. What they don’t have on the shelves on display, they may well have in the back, so it’s worth asking. A lot of these titles are visible when Look & Listen has one of their clearance sales. And if they don’t have it in the store, they will go the extra mile and order it from their suppliers -- but don't be surprised if they try to overcharge you. They once tried to make me put down a R50 deposit on a 5 year old game that was priced at over R300. Yeah, I don't think so.
The staff are helpful in most cases although I have had some difficulty with ordering games. They have temporary staff over the holidays who aren’t really up to scratch, though. They don’t always give you change, which I think should be illegal, and probably is. Other stores have come under fire for doing this.
I also don’t particularly like the fact that Look & Listen voids your ability to return products by opening the packaging. At Makro and BT Games, if you have your product in its original packaging, you can still return it within a certain time frame. And Look & Listen won’t give cash refunds either – they state this on your receipt. You can only replace the item. This isn’t in accordance with the CPA either.
Incredible Connection is indeed incredible. They have an impressive selection of games. They have new titles on sale, as well as plenty of older ones, too, which you can grab most of for a song. Their prices however aren’t always that impressive, particularly on newer titles. I usually see the prices come down much quicker at some other stores on this list, and yet Incredible Connection insists on selling Jagged Alliance Back In Action (PC) for R349, which to their credit they dropped in their recent Easter sale by R200, to R149. But you can get the same title at BT Games for R99 – and that’s not even a sale price, and it’s been at that price more or less since the beginning of 2013. But when they do have a sale, plenty of titles, more than other stores, are dropped in price. So it’s well worth the wait.
At least Incredible Connection is one of the last remaining stores that tender correct change – a few of the stores listed here don’t. They will not however allow software to be returned to the store.
Some of their staff are rather rude, it has to be said. Either that, or they aren't particularly helpful all the time.
Chaos used to have a good selection of games when they were located at the Kenridge Shopping Complex (above the petrol station and the car showroom), but now it’s rather unimpressive, with no recent releases, and just a bunch of old games – only some worth playing. The last time I was at their Willowbridge branch (which has since closed down), there was barely anything. All the mediocre titles were gone, leaving just a few, like a gun encyclopaedia (in the PC games section) – which I all ready own. It seems it’s even worse than it was. Chaos has become, just like Computer Mania, a PC hardware store; nothing more. And quite expensive at that. They aren't anywhere near as big as they once were.
The staff are quite helpful. But if you ask them about games, they will more than likely direct you to BT Games. Enough said.
This is billed by many as the best store for games in South Africa – and it’s really the only chain catering to just games. Their selection is frankly almost unmatched apart from perhaps Look & Listen, with all the latest games, but a bit scant when it comes to older ones, perhaps. There’s nothing really older than 2010. Other stores do sometimes have gems from the early to mid 2000’s – maybe even the 90’s if you look hard enough. Not here.
BT Games has some good deals on games, often having sales around Christmas and clearance sales after the silly season. They give out brochures which are often bundled together with NAG magazine, which have vouchers in them. I must say that their advertising is a bit misleading. I’ve had to call more than once to confirm a price on an item, or the beginning and ending date of a sale. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable though, so they can pretty much help you with anything, and they are the only store I know of that goes to the trouble of making it clear that a particular game is a Steamworks title, or something similar, with stickers all over the box, like a crime scene.
There are a couple of other things that don’t impress me. One is the fact that they sell second hand games, much like GameStop, and it has been pointed out before that this practice results in money being pocketed directly by the store and not a cent goes the way of the developer or the publisher. Having said that, you can trade in games for a discount on a preorder title, but only console games, mind.
That and much like Look & Listen, they are one of the stores out there to exhibit this awful trend of not tendering the correct change, or not giving it at all. I’ve been robbed of as much as 20c, which is a record for me.
Some BT Games stores are labelled as experience stores. I'm not quite sure what that means, but I do know that you are able to experience testing out some games in-store.
A HiFi Corp store just moved in to the local mall near where I live not too long ago, so I stopped in and had a look.
The sections are somewhat easier to find than most places seeing as there are signs dangling from the ceiling telling you which section is which. Having said that I still needed help from one of the staff to find the gaming section. The selection was average, and that only applies to the console section. The PC game section was even more average (the same could be said for the prices) and I couldn't even find it initially, and neither could the staff member for that matter. Nothing too appealing here, so I would give HiFi Corp a miss if you're a serious gamer looking for a good selection.
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