The Game's the Thing: Working with a Video Game Collection

Last year, I volunteered to take over ordering the young adult video games for my library. Unlike the rest of my collection development duties, which are focused on materials at the central library (we also have nine branches), the games are a citywide collection. Although they are all located at one branch for security reasons--they kept wandering off when they were stored here--they can be requested by patrons anywhere in the region.1

I've done a couple of orders over the past year or so since I became responsible for this area, but hadn't really taken a close look at the numbers until recently. I ran a report (of course) and tried to break down what I was seeing in ways that would be useful for my collection decisions going forward. This is also the only non-print collection that I am responsible for, and boy are the numbers different from what I'm used to seeing, especially in comparison with the nonfiction collection!

The most prominent statistic was probably the number of missing and billed games. Out of the 219 games acquired since fall 2008 when the collection was started, 85 (39%) are missing, billed, or otherwise out of commission. This is similar to the attrition rates for my paperback collection, but more depressing because the cost of a new item is so much higher (anywhere up to $60.99--and finding discounts can be difficult2). However, to balance the loss, these relatively few items have circulated over 3300 times in the past four years (an average of over 15 circulations per item). By contrast, the average circulation for a paperback at my library, over a much greater span of years, is 6.5 times per item. Obviously we are filling some sort of need with this collection, the question is how best to spend the budget for the future.

Looking at the breakdown between formats, we have a pretty even split between PS2 (62), Wii (64), and Xbox (54), with PS3 (39) trailing behind, which is understandable since we didn't start ordering PS3 games until 2010. Playstation 2 is the best-selling console of all time, and circulation/theft stats indicate that it's still the most popular format among my patrons, despite the fact that it's ancient in terms of gaming systems. PS2 games circulated an average of 20 times an item, and the few patrons I've managed to corner and ask about their format preferences have indicated that this is what they want. However, it's not clear just how long PS2 games will continue to be released, or support for the product will extend. From what I've seen, very few new games are being released; a search for new releases at the vendor I use came up with one result (Major League Baseball 2K12). I can purchase some PS2 games used, but it's probably safe to say that it's is a waning format.

I do my best to split my budget between formats, purchasing as large a variety as possible--puzzle, sports, adventure, shooter, dance, and so on--given my limitations. I am not supposed to purchase any titles above a "T for Teen" rating, which cuts out a ton of the most popular (M-rated) games. In some ways this makes my job easier, because it blocks out a huge number of options. I also try to order the most popular games (racing, superhero, and wrestling) across all platforms. I don't really have enough information to see how the platforms perform against each other in terms of circulations for the same game, especially since it's incredibly likely that one or more copies will go missing.

In terms of reviews, I use Metacritic and The A.V. Club to get a sense of what's popular, and then see what's available from my vendor. I do buy older titles to fill out my order, because they're relatively cheap (in the $20 range) and everything that I order seems to go out. I occasionally get requests from patrons, which I try to honor.

Highest circulating games:

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (PS2; added 12/08) -- 60 circulations
De Blob (Wii; added 12/08) -- 57 circulations
MarioKart (Wii; added 6/09) -- 53 circulations
Metroid Prime 3 (Wii; added 12/08) -- 52 circulations

The highest circulating PS3 game is Lego Indiana Jones 2 with 34 (added 2/10) and the highest circulating Xbox game still in circulation is also Lego Indiana Jones 2, with 33 circulations (2/10). A billed Xbox copy of Tony Hawk's Proving Ground went out 35 times before someone decided not to return it.

When I posted some of these statistics on Twitter, I got a few questions about the Nintendo DS format and whether we had any in our collection. We currently don't, but I'm going to add a bunch to my new order and see how they do with my patrons. I have had a few kids asking me about DS games, so I'm optimistic that this venture in to handheld games rather than console games will be successful.

Any questions? Suggestions? Speak up in the comments.

1 This presents a problem in terms of publicity, because those who tend to want video games are not always keen on placing holds, even though they're usually younger and more tech-savvy. I know that I need to do more in terms of getting the word out about how to find out what we have in our collection and how to order it. Browsing isn't really a concern, because they're almost never on the shelf.

2 Several people, including me, have asked why we couldn't buy used games from a local store to supplement the collection and perhaps replace some of the high-interest titles that have gone missing. At first I was told that the city's purchase-order labyrinth would make such a thing impossible, and that I shouldn't purchase anything with my own money. However, I recently asked again, and it turns out that the Friends organization is willing to spot me $100 to go to a local store and acquire some bargains! This is great news for my patrons--and for me, since I love shopping.


Anne said…
We circulate Nintendo DS (and now 3DS) games! They're very popular - we've had a lot of parents tell us that they like to use us as a "try before you buy" service, so they end up purchasing games for their kids that the kids will actually really play.

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