Acquiring video games is one of the most adventurous aspects about being a gamer. It’s the one task we all can relate to. Even if we’re from different ethnic, political, racial or religious backgrounds, we’ve all enjoyed the task of getting a highly anticipated new game. Going to the game store, picking out the game you’ve been reading about for months/years and going to your dwelling to play it is a simple formula that has lasted from the 80’s to this day. Even with the advent of digital distribution services like Steam, Origin, Humble Bundle, there is still a market for selling physical copies to the willing.
Many of us have childhood memories of the game stores back yonder. The Funcolands, Babbages, Game Krazys, EB Games, and KB Toys were staples for any gamer back in the day. Sadly, they’re all gone. Replacing those stores is the big behemoth of gaming “GameStop”. GameStop absorbed almost all of the remaining game store business by buying other chains or waiting for them to go broke.
The first few years of GameStop (2002-2008ish) being around was decent. They weren’t Funcoland with all the retro games but if you needed something modern they had it. The employees were just as knowledgeable as the workers at other game stores. The pre-order bonuses actually meant something both to the publisher and store. The had some cool bonuses back in the day—they weren’t the rinky dink color skins they proudly advertise. You would get posters, plushies and even music soundtracks on some games. When you plopped that $5 dollars down it meant something.
The workers were allowed to be employees without the sleaziness of a car dealership, always trying to preposition you for that (warranty / trade-in promotion / rewards cards / gamestop credit card) spiel every time you bought a game. The employees were allowed to talk to the customers without some B.S. metric assigned by suits who barely understand the business. This turned the process of buying the game; seem similar to a fat neckbeard with hygiene issues and a lisp wearing a my little pony t-shirt asking a hot chick out. Even though we as game consumers are the hot chicks and our refusal means that the employee is one step away from being fired. The era of game store employee’s selling games and games accessories are over.
GameStop started to change when they realized they could extract as much profit off of gamers as possible. Profit isn’t an evil task, but using bad business profits for short-term gain and long-time loss is. GameStop’s focus has shifted from selling new games to selling used games. As used games have a much higher profit margin, this wouldn’t be an issue, but GameStop treats the consumer as a dog when buying a new game.
Every time I’ve bought a new game at GameStop, a clerk spends two minutes trying to convince me to buy the used version and save $5, even when the games come with an one-time online code. I know that the employee’s aren’t cult members and they have to do this to keep the lights on, yet doesn’t the management see the business practices they’re trying to enact?
GameStop is a game store. They can’t compete with the BestBuy’s/Walmart’s/Target’s when it comes to selling the cheapest product. They can’t loss leader the video-game section to profit off of the pokemon cards/amiboo’s/knick-knack accessories, and they also don’t have a full monopoly on being the only game store in a proximity. You can now order games from Amazon and they can guarantee that it comes on it’s release date. The only advantage that GameStop has over any of these retailers is a physical place for gamers to be gamers. Gamers want to buy games for their escapist tendencies. We want to do it in a place that respects us as consumers. Yes, there was always stores cheaper than GameStop, but we as game hobbyists want to support our local hobby stores.
We understand that the game industry has cheapened out with the pre-order. You can’t offer a Portrait of Ruin style pre-order for all games, but a small poster would suffice. GameStop also has to start treating its employee’s better. I never worked with or had friends that were GameStop employees, but I could tell that trying to turn gaming enthusiasts in to used car salesman is cringe worthy. The guy/gal who is willing to work at a GameStop aren’t the salesmen type. If they were, they would find another job that pays better and has better management.
Giants in mythology or figurative ones rarely just spontaneously bust. The collapse is a drawn out process. GameStop, which was once a video game giant, is a gaunt figure of what he used to be, trying to cling on mobile devices while alienating the customers who made their rise possible. If you want to sell games, don’t drop the controller like GameStop did.