BoardGame Geek has a couple more announcements of local game stores closing, and given that everyone is expecting a very weak holiday retail season I wouldn't expect these to be the last. Many will no doubt try to make it through Christmas somehow and end up closing shop after the holiday sales numbers are in.
No doubt this will be a retail industry-wide problem, but here we're just concerned with the impact on gaming.
For a generation the game hobby has largely organized itself around local game stores. People would purchase and play their games at the same place. These were often not exclusively game stores. Many were some combination of hobby (kits and trains), card (sports and magic) and/or comics retailers as well. The important thing is that they would provide space for gamers on a scheduled basis. Collectible game sanctioned play is based on the existence of these venues.
But they seem to be becoming quite rare. Here in Connecticut, for example, there are just a handful of places and just one pure game shop (The Citadel in Groton). Can this model survive?
I suspect not, but then the question becomes, how do gamers find each other and get together to play? Finding like-minded hobbyists is always a challenge for niche past times. The rise of the Internet and various meetup sites seems to have the most potential in my opinion. There are a couple of gaming related meetup groups that I know about locally.
The biggest challenge for meetup groups is securing a regular meeting place, especially one that isn't dependant on one particular host. It's a big demand on someone to expect someone to make their home available every week no matter what. The best venues are often local colleges and libraries, but I wonder if there's a big enough demand for a dedicated meetup site to operate, perhaps as a "Meetup Club" where different meetup groups could rent space. This kind of site would be especially useful for game groups, who often have a fair amount of stuff to lug around.
It's hard to say whether this is the solution, but it seems clear gamers can't count on their favorite local gaming store to be around much longer, especially outside of major urban areas.