Wal-Mart Top Retailer for US Gamers

— -- In an IGN-sponsored survey dubbed "Are You Game?" involving some 2,000 gamers aged 12 to 54, eMarketer.com found that Wal-Mart was the most visited retailer by US gamers with a next-best margin of nearly 10 points. Best Buy and GameStop tied for second, while Target came in third.

The breakdown.

Funny story. When I was trying to get my paws on an Xbox 360 back in late 2005, after fooling around in lines at Best Buy and Target, I ended up sneaking over to Wal-Mart. The poor folks in the Best Buy line -- several wearing double-mittens and scarves and ear muffs, shivering in front of portable warmers because this was Iowa and Iowa is sub-glacial in late November -- weren't even sure where the cutoff for "get one at midnight" and "wait all the way through until morning" was. Cold and far, far wimpier than these brave souls, I wandered across the interstate to a Super Wal-Mart, where tucked away at the store's rear beside a discount shoe rack I discovered a nondescript line of three people.

Waiting for? Mm-hmm.

Needless to say, I scored an easy Xbox 360 that evening, guiltily waiting in a chair the store kindly provided, warm as can be, occasionally standing up to let shoppers sample marked-down Hush Puppies and Reeboks, slightly beaming as others eventually trickled over and word spread that yes, Wal-Mart had Xbox 360s to sell at midnight, too.

I couldn't tell you how many games Wal-Mart was selling back in 2005, but I remember its video game section looking like the book rack in a grocery store, bestseller thronged and always picked over. You had a couple first-party gadgets, a few cheap third-party imitations, and bins full of discount PS2 games, of course.

But altogether it was a fraction of what the company's games section morphed into as someone up the org chart got a whiff of video gaming's video-rivaling revenues. Walk into any Wal-Mart now, and the games wall sprawls across two full aisles.

And yes, you guessed it, the world's largest retailer even manages nowadays to carry games that have been out for more than a month.