Sympathy for the Dealer

I first worked for the company now known as GameStop in 1995. At the time, of course, that name wasn’t even a glimmer in some marketing go-getter’s eye, and most consumers thought of the store, if they thought of it at all, as Software Etc. or Babbage’s. These were the days before digital distribution, before warranties against disc scratches, before money down for reservations, before PC titles were at best relegated to a back corner kiosk, before multiple-SKU transactions were a priority, before return policies were lobotomized, and before hiring priorities rejected the idea of gaming enthusiasts as salespeople.

These were also the days before the company was particularly profitable.

For an early twenty-something with a penchant for video games, Software Etc. was a pretty good place to work. There were, of course, sales initiatives and metrics to be tracked, but by and large the mandate was simple: Sell video games to make customers happy. There was a culture of customer service and product knowledge that was encouraged from the top down, because the leadership of the company believed supremely in two things. First, that video games were the entertainment media of the future. Second, that the best way to succeed was to aggressively pursue customer satisfaction and convenience for gamers.

By 1996 the parent company of Software Etc., NeoStar Retail Group, was filing for Chapter 11 and seeking to liquidate assets and sell off more than 600 stores. It became painfully evident in the days following and over the long, slow restructuring to become the monolithic retail force known today as GameStop that the company’s leadership had been right in exactly one of its core beliefs.

If there is one fact I want to stress about GameStop and understanding its modern motivations, it is this. Many if not most of the key executives and board members that drive the direction of the company today are the same ones that watched the Babbage’s of old get burned and stepped in at the eleventh hour. It’s not that these individuals have no concept of a conscience for customer issues; it’s just that they have empirical data that ties noble idealism in the gaming retail space to insolvency and collapse.

Like a lot of people, I don’t really shop at GameStop anymore. I don’t really like how they do business. That’s not a grand gesture, so much as an individual choice about how and where I make my purchases. That also doesn’t mean I automatically uninstalled Impulse upon learning of their acquisition, or that I won’t haunt the doorway of some strip-mall Gamestop sometime in the future. It just means I’ve found generally better buying options for me.

However, in the modern gaming retail environment, GameStop’s actions and decisions deeply impact the course and policies of the industry and market at large. They are virtually unchallenged in North America as a gaming boutique shop, and even much larger companies are impacted by and in some cases driven to try to match their policies. Where goes GameStop, so goes video gaming retail.

It is then at least useful to understand what motivates the company, and I think a lot of that answer can be charted back to the rocky waters of the late ‘90s. The company some of us remember fondly as a cool place to buy our games is remembered in GameStop’s board room as a catastrophically failed model — the dark days to which they shall never be returned.

When you remember being able to bring back incompatible PC games for a refund, they remember a distribution warehouse with mountains of inventory rejected by vendors as a physical reminder of lost revenue. When you remember being able to simply walk into the store and buy the latest game without having to go through the silly process of a reservation, they remember backrooms stacked high with dozens of copies of games that would never sell because they’d stocked far too much. When you remember hanging out chatting with the local Software Etc. assistant manager, they remember overpaying a directionless and undisciplined staff with limited sales experience and misplaced priorities.

When I take a moment and think about GameStop’s choices in the days since thousands were laid off and the business almost collapsed, it is no wonder to me that the company charts the course it does. Put simply, were I a board member on this company and responding to the complaints of gaming’s elite, I might say, “We tried it your way, and you guys ran us out of business.” This modern incarnation of the retailer may be a lot of things, but you can’t say that they aren’t disciplined or didn’t learn from their mistakes.

For example, I fundamentally agree that they made the wrong choice in telling employees to break into a new product to remove offending promotions from competitors, as was done with PC versions of Deus Ex Human Revolution. But I also understand why it happened. If somehow a competitor snuck a small piece of promotional material into something I was selling, I would end that as quickly and thoroughly as I could. The old Software Etc. wouldn’t have done that, and it was that kind of tepid response to clear threats that lead them straight into bankruptcy.

There were, of course, a lot of things that led to Neostar’s Chapter 11 filing in 1996, and I don’t mean to imply that a customer-friendly approach to retail directly caused the company’s collapse. On the contrary, a reckless phase of over-expansion, squandering of financial reserves, and the expansion of market forces aligned against Neostar in 1996 all played a role. This was an age where Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and other major retailers had finally decided to take a big bite out of the gaming revenue apple, leaving the specialty retailer struggling to keep up in a market that they had, until recently, nearly owned.

I remember being the manager of my store in the Christmas season of ‘96, when we couldn’t put stock on the shelves. A new game would come out, and it would be days and weeks before the company could scrap together the money to put games like Master of Orion II, Diablo, Shadows of the Empire and Red Alert on the shelves. Customers walked in my front door and were greeted with depressingly bare walls and empty promises. Some of those practices you may dislike so much these days — specifically putting down money for reservations and refusing returns on opened games — were a result of the cash-strapped company scrambling to infuse capital into the business so it could make payroll and have enough left over to pay vendors.

It was a devastatingly depressing time, and I was there at the Annual Manager’s Meeting in Dallas when then head of Barnes & Noble, Leonard Riggio, showed up like a white knight to restructure, realign and rebuild the company from the ground up as a smarter, leaner, meaner competitor in the market. We greeted his vision of the future of the company with a standing ovation.

The GameStop you know now was, for all intents and purposes, conceived if not born that day. There was one mandate: Make sure we do whatever is necessary to never get back into this position of near-collapse. The result is 15 years of growth, profitability and laser-focused discipline that has earned both the ire of gamers and several billion dollars.

Admittedly, by the time I returned to working for the games retailer a few years later, all of those practices and policies that are so commonly complained about now were solidified as standard industry practice. It was an entirely different culture, and though I only worked at the retailer for a couple more years in both a sales and management capacity, I found not unexpectedly that I was no longer a part of a specialty organization that catered to enthusiasts, but was instead a cog in the prototypical soulless, corporate construction. It is fair to say that to make its money, GameStop had to lose its soul.

Which brings us to the modern day, and a business that really has very little to do with or interest in the kind of people likely to read this. Despite what may or may not be the truth, GameStop’s executives and board members see catering exclusively to gamers as a good way to go out of business. The company isn’t looking for forgiveness, and that’s not meant to be an excuse. It’s just meant to be a sketch of the truth from someone who lived in the dark times that turned an idealistically naive company into a cynical profit machine.

Comments

This is shocking and outrageous news. You were manager of something?!?

(good article)

Thanks for a fresh dose of reality.

When you remember being able to simply walk into the store and buy the latest game without having to go through the silly process of a reservation, they remember backrooms stacked high with dozens of copies of games that would never sell because they’d stocked far too much.

Sure, but there's other ways this could have gone other than "pre-orders only on anything other than super-known-quantity-bankable AAA titles." They could have gone back to the publishers of the more niche titles and said "cut us a break on remaindered stock or we're going to have to sell Call of Duty 9 to customers that otherwise would have bought your game." You probably can't bully an EA or an Activision like that but most of their titles would be in the known-quantity-bankable category anyways and with the smaller publishers you have to imagine that there's some deal they can cut where everybody benefits.

This is a coldly pragmatic view of reality, and one that I feel many gamers need to see from time to time. It's far too easy to take this hobby that we all love and ascribe Machiavellian or malicious intent to actions by game companies and retailers, when in reality, most things can be explained by the simple realization that these are businesses. If they fail to make pragmatic decisions, driven more by their bottom line than some nebulous ideal of what is right for their fans, they will not survive, particularly in such a competitive environment.

Fantastic piece.

What gets me is why do people buy at Game Stop?

Their soul-less approach to retail would fail even worse if people just stopped going there!

What is WRONG with you people!??

Seriously - WTF, y'all!?? It's just that SIMPLE!!!

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

What gets me is why do people buy at Game Stop?

Their soul-less approach to retail would fail even worse if people just stopped going there!

What is WRONG with you people!??

Seriously - WTF, y'all!?? It's just that SIMPLE!!!

Because we are a small minority of their business if we even shop there at all (like Elysium said, if you are even reading this website, you probably aren't their target market anymore). They're selling to moms, they're selling to snot-nosed kids making impulse purchases at the mall, they're selling to brahs who only come in twice a year. And none of those people really care if GameStop has "soul." Go to your local stripmall and ask the people walking in what is wrong with them; don't ask us.

And in a lot of places, now, there is no competition other than Wal-Mart. So even if they were to buy "ethically" it's just a question of the lesser evil.

I would have some sympathy for them if they made the very reasonable choice to use pre-orders as a metric for inventory levels. But they don't. Instead, they often stock only exactly enough product to cover their preorders. That's absurd. What kind of business does that?

I had trouble getting my hands on Disgaea 4 this last week. I went in a couple days after release, and got the standard answer-question: Did you preorder? No. Sorry, we've only got enough for the remaining preorders.

I thought to ask how many preorders they had. "10 or 11, I'm not sure." And how many did you get in stock? "Dunno. Like 12?"

So, 10 people came in weeks or months in advance and PAID IN ADVANCE to make sure there was a copy waiting for them. And you don't think you can move another 4-5 copies to walk-ins? They haven't been able to keep a pre-owned Disgaea 3 on the shelves for more than a couple days.

I have no sympathy for a company that is so paranoid about risking loss that they actively drive away my business. Sure, I had to put my instant gratification on hold, but at least Amazon was willing to sell me some product.

shandrakor wrote:

I would have some sympathy for them if they made the very reasonable choice to use pre-orders as a metric for inventory levels. But they don't. Instead, they often stock only exactly enough product to cover their preorders. That's absurd. What kind of business does that?

It's a business where you've got roughly a $5 markup on a $55 product (which also depreciates in value while sitting on the shelf very quickly). You are literally better off losing ten sales than overstocking a single unit. I'm sure that a business with the size and success level of GameStop is using pre-orders as a metric, but it is a more complex and conservative metric than we might like.

This is also why they push used games so hard: because the markup is much higher.

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

What gets me is why do people buy at Game Stop?

Their soul-less approach to retail would fail even worse if people just stopped going there!

What is WRONG with you people!??

Seriously - WTF, y'all!?? It's just that SIMPLE!!!

Because they sell video games, and I like video games. Nine days ago I went to Target for some stuff, and wanted a copy of Dead Island for the 360. They didn't have it. I went to Gamestop. They had it. So I bought it. I also specifically buy used games there because of their return policy; the first game my son ever bought for himself with his own money was (over my warnings) Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii. It sucked, he returned it within seven days, and got something else. In other words, because we shopped there, I had a happy child instead of a crying child.

I do not sell games at Gamestop, because they offer ridiculously low amounts of money for used games. I have no problems with their used game purchase policy, I just choose as a consumer to not use it. I will buy their used games if I'm there.

The people who work at the Gamestop up the road from me are helpful and friendly without being pushy, and the guy who works weekday afternoons now pretty much recognizes me as the guy who always says, "No, I don't want to pre-order anything" the moment when I walk up to the counter before he even has a chance to say anything.

Here's the thing--I *like* Gamestop. It's close, it's convenient, it's quick, and . . . THEY SELL GAMES. No, they don't offer me neat little boutique items or unusual imported items or go out of their way for me, but you know what? I don't give a crap about any of that. I'm an unwashed-console-masses-loving, big-budget-title-playing gamer, and Gamestop works great for me.

Sure, but there's other ways this could have gone other than "pre-orders only on anything other than super-known-quantity-bankable AAA titles." They could have gone back to the publishers of the more niche titles and said "cut us a break on remaindered stock or we're going to have to sell Call of Duty 9 to customers that otherwise would have bought your game." You probably can't bully an EA or an Activision like that but most of their titles would be in the known-quantity-bankable category anyways and with the smaller publishers you have to imagine that there's some deal they can cut where everybody benefits.

Not at the time, they couldn't. They were deeply in debt to these publishers and had no authority for negotiation. If NeoStar had been a healthier company at the time, you're probably right, but at that point everyone expected the specialty retail business was in dire straits, and Software Etc. was all but dead. There was no reason for the companies to cut them a break on inventory.

I would have some sympathy for them if they made the very reasonable choice to use pre-orders as a metric for inventory levels. But they don't. Instead, they often stock only exactly enough product to cover their preorders. That's absurd. What kind of business does that?

This is a very different business. If you stock 500 flannel jackets, you realistically can expect to sell that product over the span of months. The reality is that with only a small percentage of exceptions 90% of inventory sells in a one week span. If you buy 40 of Game X, and you only sell 20 in the first week you are stuck forever with at least 15 copies.

It is much easier and smarter business to order more to cover customer demand than load up on inventory you can't move.

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

What gets me is why do people buy at Game Stop?

Their soul-less approach to retail would fail even worse if people just stopped going there!

What is WRONG with you people!??

Seriously - WTF, y'all!?? It's just that SIMPLE!!!

Because GameStop/EB Games is the only specialty games store in town (and by "town" I mean "major city") that stocks new games (we had a Play N Trade for a while, you can guess what happened to it). I like being in a little store that's exclusively about my hobby, and browsing the shelves just to see what's there, the same way you'd kill time in a bookstore maybe hoping for some serendipity. Best Buy or Future Shop don't have nearly as much inventory to browse. The staff at all the mall EBs are useless but innocuous; but our one standalone GameStop has been very friendly and helpful in the past.

I also try to go in the middle of a weekday, when the shop is usually empty of the kinds of people that make me embarrassed to be a gamer. But that can happen anywhere. I'm more loathe to browse at a Wal-Mart.

I was in a standalone EB Games in Edmonton this summer where one of the clerks was talking to some customers, obviously all friends, about their cosplay costumes for an upcoming con. That's not going to happen at a Best Buy, and would be impossible on Amazon.

So that's GameStop the store. As for how I contribute to the problem of GameStop the business: I buy used when it's cheaper than renting; and I pre-order maybe two or three times a year cos we don't have Amazon Prime in Canada.

So that's my rationale: I like that it's a specialty store, if by default; I like browsing; and they sell me games I want to buy.

Elysium wrote:

This is a very different business. If you stock 500 flannel jackets, you realistically can expect to sell that product over the span of months. The reality is that with only a small percentage of exceptions 90% of inventory sells in a one week span. If you buy 40 of Game X, and you only sell 20 in the first week you are stuck forever with at least 15 copies.

Then I guess I'm confused about the target market. If 90% of their sales are on The New Hotness, then they're obviously catering to the people who pay attention to release dates and day 1 reviews. But those aren't the folks that actually need an in-person salesman to make recommendations.

With such a narrow margin and such a tight sales window, I don't see the value in being a retail outlet in the first place. Why not be an exclusively mail-order company like Amazon?

If the target instead is moms and whatnot who actually need to ask "So, what's little Jimmy going to like?" then I can't see why the sellthrough window would be so tight, when those customers have no idea what The New Hotness is this week. It's hard enough to get my birthday presents to come for the right CONSOLE. I'm certainly not going to bring release dates into the mix.

Elysium wrote:
I would have some sympathy for them if they made the very reasonable choice to use pre-orders as a metric for inventory levels. But they don't. Instead, they often stock only exactly enough product to cover their preorders. That's absurd. What kind of business does that?

This is a very different business. If you stock 500 flannel jackets, you realistically can expect to sell that product over the span of months. The reality is that with only a small percentage of exceptions 90% of inventory sells in a one week span. If you buy 40 of Game X, and you only sell 20 in the first week you are stuck forever with at least 15 copies.

It is much easier and smarter business to order more to cover customer demand than load up on inventory you can't move.

Not to mention there's no reason to stock 15 new copies when a big part of your business is based around stocking as many *used* copies in the second week out of those 20 sold in the first week as possible. A new game sitting on a shelf at GameStop is actually competing with the old games sitting there. It seems like GameStop has taken the 'loss-leader' approach towards new game sales.

Not bashing GameStop for used sales here; in fact, I've often wondered if used sales are actually responsible for the size of the gaming industry to a large extent.

Great article, Elysium. This one seems very thematically similar to last week's "Getting Over It" article. Is this going to be a series?

I don't personally shop at GameStop, though for me, it is less an ethical decision than a pragmatic one. A combination of Amazon, GameFly and Goozex offers me a better deal on games than GameStop does. Milkman brings up a good point about buying used games for his son, which never even occurred to me. It's been said before, we are the minority. A young child is very visual. The box art is probably all they look at, even if they are old enough to read the back, so that's how they make the decision, even if dad knows better.

What I am curious about, is why this is even a thing people care about. What is it about the video game industry that garners such strong emotions about the hobby? GameStop's biggest sin is being a money driven corporation, like countless other corporations, and they get called out for things even other video game retailers do (e.g. used games being inherently evil, crappy buy back prices, mediocre customer support)

Maybe I just haven't been exposed to it, but I've never heard of people boycotting e.g. Best Buy, Target, Lowes, AMC Theaters, Barnes & Noble, or Sears, despite them all being huge soulless corporations. We know that about them and don't expect anything different. What makes the video game industry, and GameStop in particular, so special?

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

What gets me is why do people buy at Game Stop?

Their soul-less approach to retail would fail even worse if people just stopped going there!

What is WRONG with you people!??

Seriously - WTF, y'all!?? It's just that SIMPLE!!!

Because Game Stop is the closest game seller to my apartment, about half a mile, an easy walk. And when something extraordinary comes that I want to play at midnight, it's remarkably refreshing--I walk over and pick up my number, then saunter over to one of the many bars in my neighborhood, kick back with a notebook and beer for a while, then saunter on back.

Admittedly, they do often piss me off--last time I went by, they tried to get me to preorder just about everything that had even a vague release date between then and March 2012. Annoying.

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

...

Huh? You had me for a bit, then... lost me.

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

"What makes the video game industry, and GameStop in particular, so special?"

Ahh - well for me - it is the fact that they DID replace all those great EB Games stores and all the local mom and pop videogame stores in the ENTIRE Denver metro area.

Those were stores where I would pay more because of their excellent service and expertise and gamer friendly staff and environment...

That is why I will browse in a GameStop if I come by one - but I will almost never ever BUY something from them - they don't deserve my money for what they have done to the local gaming scene here in CO.

Also the same damn reason I don't shop at Walmart - that store represents the Death of America - I'll pay a few more bucks any day at a less traitorous venue.

And if everyone didn't shop at GameStop for a year or two - they would either have to become more gamer friendly - or go bankrupt and sell their assets to a more gamer friendly company.

Sadly - these days - The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Go vote for Perry or Palin or Obama or Hillary and have another four more years of bloodshed and depravity - you Homo's are all the same. A pity really.

Point one, as Elysium pointed out, Gamestop didn't just "replace" other stores, the other stores went under because of untenable business practices.

Point two, either we done been trolled or this little rant has possibly the singly oddest ending I've ever seen. Lack of context for the win.

_DarkEmperor_ wrote:

I all assume you understand that it is a species slur and not an Xbox live one

I would also assume that you'd understand that the code of conduct for the site doesn't make such a distinction.

Clever, but "_DarkEmperor_" is actually Derek_Roma_PR. I believe "Roma PR" is a shadow organization run by Mr. Smart.

In regards to stocking games, when I worked at my school's campus store I was in charge of stocking games. I had brokered a deal between the store and the school's gaming club that members would get 10%, and we advertised it quite a bit at first. As such, when looking at new game releases, I'd stock up on what I imagined would be popular, and had a few niche titles I figured would go great at the school (it was a nerd school, after all).

Unfortunately, we often had a ton of games that no one wanted to buy. We had to chop prices in half, and I always needed permission from my boss to see if we could afford it. After about a year, it became clear that the only reliable stock was the big names like Gears of War, Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. Otherwise, we'd rely on ordering games.

It was hugely disappointing, but it was a big how-do-you-do in terms of what a company risks and loses whenever prices go down. Granted a chain like GameStop I think has deals where, if the price officially drops via the Publisher, they can get some money back for current stock. So let's say a store has about 4 copies of Dead Island, and in January that price goes down to $40. GameStop can thus get $15 per copy back (considering GameStop pays $55 for that game and sells it at $60).

This sort of practice also explains their cut-throat used game prices and costs. Sure, it seems a rip that they give you $25 and then sell it for $55, but they could be holding onto that copy until it's down to $30 used, at which point it is just $5 profit again.

That said, while I understand the business practices better, I still hate a lot of the company's decisions. I started working at a nearby FuncoLand in...2001 I believe? When I first started working there Silent Hill 2 was in the PS2 demo unit, so that's likely it. I started working there just as Software Etc. and FuncoLand were all being changed to GameStop. We started out with a shrink-wrap machine, and every time we gutted a new game it got shrink wrapped and put on the wall. Used games? Shrink-wrapped ONLY if they were going on the wall. Over time, we became one of the last locations with a shrink-wrap machine. Eventually, that was gone. Why? So it could stop "taking up space".

As a consumer AND as a salesman I hated this. I didn't want to put a sticker on someone's "New" copy of a game. It was bad enough you'd get the one-in-a-million customer that wouldn't buy a game off the wall because it had been gutted. Once you put stickers on there and the box collects the nasty dirt from disgusting unwashed customer hands, you get people that will pass up a game they just searched five other stores looking for. We saw a drop in sales, but corporate didn't care because the drop was insignificant.

I remember another time the district manager was hanging around. Some kid came up to me with two N64 games, one of them being Daikatana 64. "Um, are you buying this because it's a joke and you or your friends want to laugh at it? Or because you think it's going to be a fun game?" "It looks cool, and it's only $1.99!" I explained to the customer that the game was a complete joke amongst the industry and his money would be better spent on another title. I helped him find another game that wasn't too expensive and was pretty good. He asked my name and thanked me. After the sale and the customer was out of the store, the district manager walked over to me and said "You NEVER tell a game not to buy a game unless they ask you if it's any good, and even then avoid having a solid opinion".

Yet a week later that customer came back in, thanking me, and asking me for more recommendations. I didn't get a lot of pre-orders or sell a lot of Game Informer subscriptions, but I kept the walls neat and orderly and customers knew me. They would go to the mall, completely avoid the GameStop and EB in there and then come across the street to ask me (and some of my co-workers) about what had come out.

This is the sort of attitude I applied because it's what draws me to a store. I don't want someone to see me as an anonymous transaction, and so I didn't. The only time I would ask if anyone would want to reserve a game is if they came off as the type of person that would. In the end, most of my reservations came from returning customers that trusted my opinion.

I could continue, but this post is too long as it is. Be that as it may, I've gone to several game stores in my area, both GameStop and small-town locals, and the only store I like shopping at anymore for games is the GameStop near my job. I can go in there and buy nothing but still feel welcome because the people there actually talk to me. They have a genuine passion for games, and they don't try and sell me reservations or subscriptions as if they were begging for sex. They recognize my face and actually talk to me.

The store is a 60 mile round-trip to get to, but honestly, I'm totally willing to drive the distance for it if I ever lose my job in the area (plus, there's a Wegman's right around the corner that's pretty boss).

EDIT: Also, the teenage self only buys New games. I don't like GameStop corporate enough to give them $5, but I like them enough to pay the wage of the person behind the counter (sort of, considering $5 is below minimum).

What I mostly believe in is supporting the developer. In that case, it doesn't matter where I shop, any store is only getting $5 from me. It's getting to the Publisher and Developer after that, and that's all that matters to me.

As another former GameStop manager, my perspective on this is a bit different. I started as an assistant manager in 1999 and what struck me at the time was that managers were allowed to do what they needed to do to make their store work. We adjusted the price on Pokemon cards because they were a hot item. My manager decided who worked when and what games to push based on customer feedback. Knowing about the company's earlier close brush with disaster, it seemed they'd put all their eggs in the basket of relying on the local managers to save them. And it worked. Eventually I got my own store (a former Funco location) and tried to copy what the two very good managers I had worked under had practiced.

The changes came after the acquisition of the Funcoland chain, though, and the rapid expansion that followed as the used game market was fully embraced. All those new stores needed managers and there weren't enough good candidates to fill the positions. So they hired from outside, bringing in people who didn't know the business. The bigger company also needed higher level managers as well and suddenly people from competitors we had been beating were telling us what to do, having us adopt practices that had failed to save their former employers. Since when does an executive from a failed mall toy store chain know more about how to succeed? And this new company didn't trust their store managers anymore. By the time I left in early 2006 I no longer was writing my schedules, saw all the in-store marketing decided at the corporate level, and found out what games we were supposed to be pushing from upper management.

But I agree that GameStop continues to succeed because they left the hard core gamer behind. Today's company is about the "soccer mom" and her kids. And those are the less informed consumers that a clever retailer can really profit from.

When you remember being able to bring back incompatible PC games for a refund, they remember a distribution warehouse with mountains of inventory rejected by vendors as a physical reminder of lost revenue.

I could introduce you to the jerks who ruined this one for everyone. I went to high school with them, and they'd buy a PC game, install it, download the no-CD patch, return it for full credit, and then tell you with a straight face that any store dumb enough to have such an easily-abused return policy deserves to be ripped off.

Sarkus wrote:

But I agree that GameStop continues to succeed because they left the hard core gamer behind. Today's company is about the "soccer mom" and her kids. And those are the less informed consumers that a clever retailer can really profit from.

I don't know about that. Gamestop is the only place in town that stocks niche titles that the harder core gamers would like to play. Every store in town stocks Call of Duty, and other similarly popular titles, but Gamestop was the only place here that stocked Demon Souls, Disgaea 4, etc.

hbi2k wrote:
When you remember being able to bring back incompatible PC games for a refund, they remember a distribution warehouse with mountains of inventory rejected by vendors as a physical reminder of lost revenue.

I could introduce you to the jerks who ruined this one for everyone. I went to high school with them, and they'd buy a PC game, install it, download the no-CD patch, return it for full credit, and then tell you with a straight face that any store dumb enough to have such an easily-abused return policy deserves to be ripped off.

I remember these days pretty well. It was so easy to buy one game and have a never ending supply of new games if you just stayed in the return policy time frame, which of course reset every time you returned a game. I remember being in line behind 3 people with mile long receipts from all their past transaction, all in line to return a "defective" game for a new one.

That's why the modern Gamestop has such a crappy return policy.

Elysium wrote:

It is fair to say that to make its money, GameStop had to lose its soul.

Isn't that fair to say about most businesses?

Thanks to anyone that actually puts up with my poor writing.

The first game I remember reserving or even buying from Gamestop was Lunar for the PS1 in 1999. The game was delayed many times, and when it was it was always in terms of months rather than weeks. It even got to the point that I thought the game was never going to release and I had wasted my money. As a very young consumer this deterred me from pre ordering games. As time has passed and release dates have become more reliable I am confident that my reserve will be met, but I still remember that first bad experience each and every time.

I used to live about a half a mile from a Gamestop in San Francisco. I bought my PS3 from there, and a number of games for said system from there. In 2007 I even got a couple of Game Boy games from there, Serpent from 1990, and Metroid II: Return of Samus from 91. Original Game Boy software was the last thing that I expected to find in a store that tends to not carry stock that is more than one generation behind.

I had some good purchasing experiences there, but I never had any good social experiences in any Gamestop. There hasn't been a single Gamestop where I actually wanted to talk to the employees. Honestly, all of the conversations that I can remember with Gamestops revolved around arrogant employees that believed they were the highest authority in the gaming community, and anything that did not meet their expectations was incorrect. One was so arrogant that he actively tried to stop people from buying for the system(s) that he didn't play.

At this point however I don't really care about Gamestops corporate identity, I care about their employees. Around the time that the Wii was released I was going into the store every time they got shipments in the hopes that this shipment was their restock of Wii systems. As I kept returning I started to notice how bad it was for the employees in the store. They had to put up with all the bad things that people have been saying about Gamestop's corporate structure and nearly all of their customers were tourists that were passing by on their way to where the trolly gets turned around. Being a tourist doesn't automatically make you a bad customer, but it's been my experience that tourists have little concern for how they treat others and merchandise because they know that they will likely never see that person again.

I fear that I have lost sight of what it is that I wish to convey, and I could say quite a bit more on the subject of Gamestop. So I will try to summarize my last thoughts as economically as possible.

Gamestop makes a lot of money, and that is great for them, but they tend to treat their employees poorly. Their practices push away some customers because of their policies.

In the end, I am very happy that Gamestop is not the place where I look to buy new games. I tend to purchase games via Gamefly, Steam, or through Amazon, (Amazon is primarily for games that I don't want to wait the extra day or two to get the game in my hands.)

Seriously, who cares about the soul or the business practices of a mass market retailer?

Game stores are simply outlets to buy games.

Just find the cheapest place.

BlackSabre wrote:
Elysium wrote:

It is fair to say that to make its money, GameStop had to lose its soul.

Isn't that fair to say about most businesses?

That's probably the biggest problem with business as a whole today.

Great artical and very true. It's all about money, not gamers. That's how the whole world is ran now. It'a ALL about money, not people. Good job Elysium