The Monday 'Joe: GameStop

The Gaming Bus Monday Joe

Mondays are usually slow for news, as people start to stir for the coming week. Therefore, every Monday, we will address one topic to start the week and get discussion flowing. It stimulates the week, like a cup of coffee. Hence the title.

This week’s question relates to GameStop. A recent interview with GI.biz indicates that they’re getting more into the mobile/tablet market because of such heavy turnover on the hardware (i.e. they can buy more older units for $20 and sell them to suckers for $60 if the unit costs $70 new). This is a shift from GameStop’s model, as is their recent focus on digital. They’re shifting with the market, which means that their traditional business model is being deemphasized.

This week’s question:

What is your opinion on GameStop as an entity? Do you shop there regularly, or do you try to go elsewhere if possible? Do you rate their attempts at shifting their market focus?

Joshua Moore: GameStop relied pretty heavily on the used games market previously, and it’s readily apparent that the industry is trying to kill that with fire. Due to this, they have to focus elsewhere or they’ll be snuffed out. Their attempts to shift their focus may or may not be successful, and I think it will be hard for people to view them as anything other than what they are now. The move to digital distribution will likely hold greater chances of success, but this current consideration seems like they’re trying to generalize their reach a little too much.

I used to shop at GameStop a lot. The reasons for this vary, but it was mostly because it was the cheapest source of used games. Internet sites such as Amazon or eBay had cheaper prices, but the shipping generally drove them to being more expensive. In addition to this, being a kid at the time meant it was easier for me to tell my mom to buy something at a brick and mortar store rather than teach her how to order things online.

Now, I just shop wherever has the cheapest prices. It’s rarely GameStop anymore, especially if it’s a newer game. I have Amazon Prime, which makes it cheaper to buy online oftentimes due to awesome free 2-day shipping. Additionally, there’s a new video game store around my local area called R U Game? which carries old games and systems in addition to new ones and even has imports. I picked up a copy of the original Shin Megami Tensei there for the Super Famicom recently. It turned out that the average price online was actually higher than what I paid, so I was pretty pleased. The only reason I frequent GameStop anymore are the cheap PS2 and GameCube game bins.

Crystal Steltenpohl: I’m kinda meh on GameStop to be honest. Many of the people I’ve run into that work there don’t know shit about games, or what they do know about games comes from a place like Game Informer and that’s it. I’ve had a hit-or-miss relationship with the staff that works there. A lot of them seem to think they’re awesome because they work there; but from what I can tell, it’s like working anywhere else, so I don’t see what the big deal is… especially if you don’t really know anything about what you’re selling. That said, I have met some really nice people who have tried to help me get the best deal possible. One guy really helped my boyfriend get a good deal on trade-ins so he could preorder a bunch of games he really wanted. So it’s really a lot like any other retail store: you’re going to meet some assholes, but there are going to be nice people as well. I also have some friends who have worked there or do work there, and they like(d) it, so I guess it can’t be too bad of a place.

I don’t shop there regularly for a few reasons. One, I don’t have money to buy on video games; if I’m lucky enough to get $60 at this point, that’s going to gas, rent, or groceries. Two, again, hit-or-miss service, and it’s easier and cheaper to just buy games online or ask for them as gifts and not have to deal with people. Even a lot of their used games are overpriced, I feel. I recognize that they have to make money as they’re a business, but there are some games thy sell that are a few years old and still kind of expensive, and a site like Half.com or Amazon is going to have it for much cheaper nowadays. I do like the discount bins they have, as it’s a great place to get old classics. It’s also a good place to get really shitty games for like $2 that you can make fun of with your friends and try to get Chris to play on LiveStream nights.

Kudos to them for trying something new and finding new ways to make money. I’m not sure how much mobile gaming can grow at this point; we’re seeing some evidence that it may not grow much more at this point and might even shrink, but the hardware thing is a good idea. Though, if their model for selling me an iPad is similar to their model for selling me games, I don’t know if I’ll be buying from them if I ever actually want an iPad.

Mohamed Al-Saadoon: Due to my geographic location, I’ve never been to a GameStop store before (unless you count a pirate game store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that called itself “Gamestop” to be indicative of the real GameStop). However, I have been to several outlets of its subsidiary, EBGames, and I haven’t been subjected to the typical drooling non-gamer wage slave that most GameStop employees seem to be. In fact, they were downright helpful and knowledgeable about the games they sold me.

Now, if they actually sold games cheaper than other outlets, I might actually shop there. As it stands, I can get newer and more niche games at a nearby independent game retailer for less money (and they price match), and until they hit the bargain bin, most used copies of games sit at something like 90% retail price for over a year after release. Fuck that noise.

As for their shift to online distribution and second-hand trading of phones and tablets, I find the former to be a stupid idea. As a consumer, they’re probably going to make me wish I was using Steam instead. If Microsoft couldn’t get a piece of Steam’s pie with Games for Windows Live, how are GameStop going to fare?

The second-hand trading of phones and tablets is a good move, though. I probably won’t ever buy a junky old iPhone considering their used game prices, but anyone denying that iPhones and iPads aren’t gaming devices just needs to look at app store numbers. GameStop as a company always needs to find sources of revenue, and the emergence of mobile gaming means this is a good as any.

Aileen Coe: I’m sort of ambivalent about GameStop, what with their abysmal trade-in values, charging just $5 less than new for used games, and stunts like pulling out OnLive coupons from copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, I don’t outright hate it and do still shop there occasionally if I’m looking for a game I can’t find elsewhere and/or to unload games no one else would take (a.k.a trade-in bait). For the latter, I try to wait until they’re having one of their “(whatever percentage) more trade-in credit” deals. I do rather dislike how they charge more for some games than other places do. For example, Professor Layton and the Last Specter goes for $34.99 there while it goes for $29.99 everywhere else. I’ve also given up on preordering for any preorder bonuses because I’ve never been able to actually get them. The staff in stores I’ve met have generally been friendly, though aside from getting into a conversation with one about Zelda and another about Monster Hunter, I haven’t met any who’re interested in the same kinds of games I am; so I mostly go in, browse, get what I want, and leave.

Given how much more common digital distribution and mobile gaming is becoming, the move towards phones, tablets, and Apple devices is understandable and does make good business sense. With companies trying to cut down on used sales and digital distribution seeing more use, GameStop won’t be able to rely on used games alone for their bread and butter. I can see them doing what they do for games and giving little trade-in credit for devices and selling them for not much less than they would cost to buy new.

Christopher Bowen: What’s important to remember when discussing GameStop is that they’re a public company. Their sole job is to make money for their investors, and the way to do that changes with the market. When it was prudent to expand, they did so ruthlessly, sucking up Funcoland, Babbages, and Electronics Boutique. When it was prudent to turn their stores into glorified pawn shops and to use their help to upsell subscriptions and preorders like auction barkers, they did so. Now that it’s prudent to emphasize digital and mobile gaming, they’ll do so in whatever fashion they deem fit. This is striking to people who are used to doing things a certain way, but GameStop’s one and only requirement is to make money for their shareholders. Hell, if they have to rebrand themselves completely, they’ll do it. If prostitution was legal and wasn’t a social PR disaster, then GameStop would be offering trade-ins on large breasted women towards a pre-order on a Korean.

I’ve grown weary of GameStop as a corporate entity. I long ago tired of being assaulted by overly aggressive salespeople who knew nothing about video games but knew that if they didn’t sell x amount of AAA preorders, they would lose their job with write-ups to chill unemployment claims. I grew tired of of this because good people were given a blight on their resumes in favour of clueless, vapid company people and the one token bimbo whose job it was to draw in the zit-faced teenagers. Yet, like a good, well-trained consumer, I still find myself within their rubber-stamped brick-and-mortar stores, almost on autopilot, looking to find that one decent deal that I’ve been waiting for. Sometimes, I succeed: two Shin Megami Tensei games, Fatal Frame 3, and one other game on a two-for-two PS2 sale for $50 combined saved me another $50. I’d be stupid not to take it. Occasionally, I’ll even go in to buy a new game I know WalMart won’t have. Even if I despise the company, GameStop is just corporate, whereas WalMart is borderline evil. Right, female workers?

GameStop is useful for one thing for me at this point: I still talk to people who are employed as managers to get a gauge on the retail portion of the industry. There is value to be had with maintaining relationships.

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Christopher Bowen

About Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.