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May 2015 Retro Gaming Article


May 14, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Is RadioShack on the verge of becoming the new Atari... Here but irrelevant?

Radio Shack seems to be turning into Atari I loved RadioShack in the 80's. I could go in there and find parts for projects, everything I needed to hook up anything electronic, and a DIY vibe that no other store offered. I loved visiting RadioShack - even if I din't really need anything. I window-shopped there frequently.

Then it began to change. Some of it's iconic brands faded away. Their audio selection diminished and some of the video products I loved faded away. Cell phones appeared as well as a slew of kid's toys. My beloved electronics store had morphed into a toy store with a wide selection of batteries.

What I loved about "the Shack" was gone. My visits were relegated to picking up that odd battery for my garage door opener and the occasional cable adapter. It was a sad realization that the store I loved was something very different, yet held the same name. Atari has done the same thing. Their initial innovation created an industry that fascinates me as much as it envelopes me. I love my Atari 2600 as much as my PS3. OK, I love my Atari consoles way more than any sony product :)

But they too have changed. Atari has been bought, sold, split, regrouped, and become a shell of it's former glory. It's past decade has been spent leveraging their iconic arcade brands for a variety of fast-money promotions that has tarnished the brand and made them nearly invisible to the gaming community. I adore Atari. But the Atari I adore hasn't existed for 20 years... maybe more!

RadioShack was up for purchase by the highest bidder. Standard General LP, a hedge fund, bought RadioShack's brand for $26.2 million. Their plan is to restructure the brand by selling a "streamlined array of necessities" along with Sprint cellular items. Hasn't that been tried already? They seem to have already shifted focus and product lines in an attempt to stay relevant. I don't understand how this attempt will be different.

Radio Shack store The Shack I loved existed in a different era. The store tried to change, but the population is also an ever changing element as well. I feel the hobbyist and DIY folks are a dwindling segment. We live in a disposable society where we dump anything that's 6 months old and have a new one delivered to our doorsteps by a myriad of online models. I feel the need and desire to build things isn't what it used to be and that's reflected in the staffing of RadioShack stores.

I mean no disrespect to those tech minded folks who work at the Shack, but 20 years ago, the staff I interacted with at numerous stores were a different breed. They were building things. They were curious. They had solutions. They wanted to help you find a great way to achieve a goal. These days, I predominantly find "kids" who barely know the products or where to find them inside their own store.

I'm nostalgic for the RadioShack brand and what it meant to me. Selfishly, I'd like to see it continue, even though I know it will never be the amazing destination it used to be. This is similar to the placation I get knowing Atari still exists. They are no longer the gaming company that lit up my childhood. They've made games here and there, but their glory days are in the past. They may be able to leverage the brand to some success, but they won't be the gaming innovators that pioneered an industry. And RadioShack won't be a destination for consumers who love electronics.

I'll always have fond memories of prowling the aisles at RadioShack and playing my favorite arcade games at home on my Atari 2600. I'm lucky to have had both.

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