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

nightfilla wrote:

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.

I went to fill up my car the other day, and the gas pump just didn't speak to me spiritually.

I was going to go to Best Buy, but their blue logo clashed with my shirt, so I couldn't go in.

You know, I'd eat at Applebee's if they would just redo every menu item as a separate haiku.

Wait, am I doing something wrong? Is there a reason I shouldn't be expecting to have a spiritually fulfilling experience buying crap?

All I can say is I'd be happier with Gamestop if they would do more spontaneous Bollywood numbers.

Wait, am I doing something wrong? Is there a reason I shouldn't be expecting to have a spiritually fulfilling experience buying crap?

That's hardly what I or anyone else is talking about.

Elysium wrote:
Wait, am I doing something wrong? Is there a reason I shouldn't be expecting to have a spiritually fulfilling experience buying crap?

That's hardly what I or anyone else is talking about.

It was a response to nightfilla's short but well-stated post questioning why people care about the "soul" of a reasonably major retailer; it's a business, it doesn't have a soul. It provides a service that I either choose to take advantage of, or I choose not to, and all these posts about a gaming chain "losing its soul" just don't make sense to me. It's a place to buy stuff, and I think speculating about the soul of a retailer is pretty much equivalent to wanting to hear poetry recited while filling up my gas tank.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

it's a business, it doesn't have a soul.

I'm always a little amazed that people believe otherwise. But then, I guess I've spent more time steeping in anarchism than most.

Soul may just be a misplaced word. I think there are clearly successful businesses that position themselves very differently toward customers. Whether real or artificial, there's no doubt that some businesses and retailers seem much more customer focused than others. Of course, that usually comes at the sacrifice of something else, such as Wal-Mart which seems to trade off customer service with employee relations. Apple is very much about customer experience, but has high prices.

The changes to Gamestop do represent a shift of positioning to customers.

Additionally, ethics in business (could that be the soul of corporations?) is a relevant topic as well.

-- Side note: my previous post came off as snippy and snotty. Not intended.

I have to admit I took the borg like take over of EB by Gamestop rather hard. Reading your article however put things into a different light for me. I can see why they did what they did.

Having said that I think what happend to the big box music stores will happen to gamestop. Folks will purchase all their games online and Gamestop will go under.

Elysium wrote:

-- Side note: my previous post came off as snippy and snotty. Not intended.

You know, I bet NPR wouldn't snap at their readers during a donation drive. Keepin' in real!

Well, I can understand being disappointed that a once gamer-friendly boutique store is now appealing to the masses, but I honestly cannot for the life of me even begin to understand the level of vitriol thrown at Gamestop.

Case in point--I'm a beer geek. I've spent the last 13 years or so hunting up different beers. I used to keep track of them over at Ratebeer and got to just shy of 2000 beers a few years ago when I got sick of the process and stopped rating/tracking and just got around to enjoying. I'm a huge geek about beer, and I like being able to go into the various good beer stores in the area and have "beer geek" talk with the knowledgeable people there. Beer geeks invariably bash the heck out of Bud, Miller, and Coors (BMC) and say how they want those companies to go down in flames, but that idea is more or less terrifying to me; if the macrobrewers go down and craft beer becomes the dominant market segment, you're going to see chains of "craft beer" stores where certain brands are pushed nationwide, streamlined distribution profiles where some brewers get big advantages and others fail, and a whole mess of new people in the industry who don't have the knowledge or inclination to actually care about beer. I'd hate it if that happened. Part of being a geek is enjoying being a bit on the periphery of things and having an inherent connection to other people in that circle; my beer geek friends and I get together and have the kinds of beer conversations that other people just can't understand. That's what gives geeks the kind of inherent bond within their little area.

Gaming used to be a purely "geek" thing; I remember playing the first Warcraft and not knowing anyone else who played it. I had a few friends who'd played Wing Commander and X-Com, but they were rare. Now? Gaming is one of the biggest industries, and there's all these people playing Black Ops who JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND GAMING LIKE I DO. I mean, seriously, kids, you have no idea what it was like to play Doom the first time. Also, get off of my lawn.

So . . . to theoretically wrap up the rambling, I do remember when places like EB and Software, Etc. were havens for gaming geeks and it felt like "home". It was cool. I loved those places. And now they're gone, and I actually realize I don't miss them at all. Why? There are other places I can get together with other hardcore, like-minded gaming geeks like, oh, say, this website. I don't need to talk to clerks anymore to find somebody who can talk "real gaming" with me; I can just say, "Hey, X-Com is the best game ever", and a bunch of correctly-minded people instantly agree with me, and then there's everyone else here who are just wrong.

Gamestop has switched to a very successful business model. There are loads of other places to buy games these days. I guess simply put, I just don't understand why people HATE Gamestop. Their trade-in policy sucks and the pre-order pushing is annoying, but they're a business. They figured out what they needed to do to become successful, and it worked. They simply mirrored the industry itself; as gaming became more popular, they became more popular, and, because they know longer cater towards "us", they're slammed. They haven't tied old ladies to train tracks or killed puppies, they simply had a business model that was more efficient than other gaming stores.

Catering to a specialized group of enthusiasts is simply not as effective as catering to a great number of people.

mcdonis wrote:

Having said that I think what happend to the big box music stores will happen to gamestop. Folks will purchase all their games online and Gamestop will go under.

Thinking along those lines, I have to wonder what the doomsday scenario for games retail would be.

Right now, retail is throwing every tool they can to mitigate or delay digital, lots of rumours about large retail names twisting the arms of publishers, and if they were to do something against their wishes then they won't carry their game. That's in addition to the used game shenanigans.

An idea that keeps cropping up is the digital-only console, with nothing for the retailer and all the game revenue going to the platform holder or publisher, but the classic reason that wouldn't happen is that no store would carry the base hardware needed to essentially kill retail. What I'm wondering is going back to what was said in 2004 by Bill Gates, "hardware will be free". What if one branch of console gaming future was a giveaway console, and all the revenue comes from online.

It's a delicate balance all participants in the industry need to keep if they want things to stay the way they want them.

wordsmythe wrote:
MilkmanDanimal wrote:

it's a business, it doesn't have a soul.

I'm always a little amazed that people believe otherwise. But then, I guess I've spent more time steeping in anarchism than most.

Elysium wrote:

Soul may just be a misplaced word. I think there are clearly successful businesses that position themselves very differently toward customers. Whether real or artificial, there's no doubt that some businesses and retailers seem much more customer focused than others. Of course, that usually comes at the sacrifice of something else, such as Wal-Mart which seems to trade off customer service with employee relations. Apple is very much about customer experience, but has high prices.

The changes to Gamestop do represent a shift of positioning to customers.

Additionally, ethics in business (could that be the soul of corporations?) is a relevant topic as well.

The trick is that a corporation, especially a public corporation, inherently dehumanizes. It's an abstraction, more a machine than a person. I'm not going to start flying the black flag and overthrow my middle manager, but the nature of these abstract entities is something that's not worth ignoring.

Some folks push against that in their corporations, and some try to make that fight part of their business model, but as you say, there are costs involved there. For my part, I try and support folks who fight against that dehumanizing tendency (with my money, time and attention), but I realize that I also have the luxury of being able to spend a little extra money and time by going to the nonprofit coffee shop instead of Dunkin' Donuts.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

Well, I can understand being disappointed that a once gamer-friendly boutique store is now appealing to the masses, but I honestly cannot for the life of me even begin to understand the level of vitriol thrown at Gamestop.

Case in point--I'm a beer geek. I've spent the last 13 years or so hunting up different beers. I used to keep track of them over at Ratebeer and got to just shy of 2000 beers a few years ago when I got sick of the process and stopped rating/tracking and just got around to enjoying. I'm a huge geek about beer, and I like being able to go into the various good beer stores in the area and have "beer geek" talk with the knowledgeable people there. Beer geeks invariably bash the heck out of Bud, Miller, and Coors (BMC) and say how they want those companies to go down in flames, but that idea is more or less terrifying to me; if the macrobrewers go down and craft beer becomes the dominant market segment, you're going to see chains of "craft beer" stores where certain brands are pushed nationwide, streamlined distribution profiles where some brewers get big advantages and others fail, and a whole mess of new people in the industry who don't have the knowledge or inclination to actually care about beer. I'd hate it if that happened.

I won't say that it's a crime that Miller bought Goose Island, but I will say that I worry more about the future of Goose Island's beer and employees. At the same time, Goose Island's distribution should now allow a lot more people to enjoy some decent mid-range micros.

Scratched wrote:

Right now, retail is throwing every tool they can to mitigate or delay digital, lots of rumours about large retail names twisting the arms of publishers, and if they were to do something against their wishes then they won't carry their game. That's in addition to the used game shenanigans.

That's why GameStop bought Impulse.

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

So . . . to theoretically wrap up the rambling, I do remember when places like EB and Software, Etc. were havens for gaming geeks and it felt like "home". It was cool. I loved those places. And now they're gone, and I actually realize I don't miss them at all. Why? There are other places I can get together with other hardcore, like-minded gaming geeks like, oh, say, this website. I don't need to talk to clerks anymore to find somebody who can talk "real gaming" with me; I can just say, "Hey, X-Com is the best game ever", and a bunch of correctly-minded people instantly agree with me, and then there's everyone else here who are just wrong.

Gamestop has switched to a very successful business model. There are loads of other places to buy games these days. I guess simply put, I just don't understand why people HATE Gamestop.

I liked your rant! And I don't fall into the "I hate GameStop" camp. However, I think I know the issue here now, at least for me: a feeling of 'home' isn't about talking to other people, for me at least. It's about having a physical location I could wander around, pick up the stuff, and even buy it.

I'll admit it--I'm a consumerist whore to some extent.

And GameStop's spread means there's now nowhere I can get that same 'fix'. Don't get me wrong--I love the sight of a box from Amazon in my mailbox, but just like in the day when I loved having both great record shops to waste time in AND putting in an order with the indie labels, or wandering a hobby store AND loving the feeling of filling out those weird Avalon Hill mail order forms, I miss there being a brick-and-mortar place that doesn't feel like a weird hybrid of a customer pick-up location and a flea market.

Oh, and I miss bookstores too.

Scratched wrote:

Right now, retail is throwing every tool they can to mitigate or delay digital, lots of rumours about large retail names twisting the arms of publishers, and if they were to do something against their wishes then they won't carry their game. That's in addition to the used game shenanigans.
.

One of the best recent examples (according to rumor) is that Game in the UK is the reason Space Marine is not appearing on Steam for folks in that region, right?

I keep wondering when we'll see our first examples of Impulse activation only cd-keys / retail boxes appearing on Gamestop shelves. (from a third party publisher.. not stardock titles). I think there were a handful of examples of GFW vs Steamworks editions of a the same games, and maybe in the near future Gamestop would only want to sell activation codes for editions of games that tight back to their own server.

We might have to read the fine print in the future when we set foot in a bricknmortar to make sure we get the right key. If I were Gamestop, I suppose this is how I'd try to leverage my newfound digital storefront muscles.

"So . . . I do remember when places like EB and Software, Etc. were havens for gaming geeks and it felt like "home". It was cool. I loved those places. And now they're gone, and I actually realize I don't miss them at all. Why? There are other places I can get together with other hardcore, like-minded gaming geeks like, oh, say, this website. I don't need to talk to clerks anymore to find somebody who can talk "real gaming" with me; I can just say, "Hey, X-Com is the best game ever", and a bunch of correctly-minded people instantly agree with me, and then there's everyone else here who are just wrong."

Totally agreed! - it is sites such as this one - which have become the new - and frankly - even better - hangout.

I do miss those stores - but it's true what they say about never being able to go home again.

I must admit that Steam - which I initially hated the idea of - has also really stepped up and become even better for gamers on a budget (like me) than even EB could ever have been.

I will continue to boycott GameStop for all but the rarest occasions, however, since they do represent - to me - a wrongheaded direction for the industry.

I can't do anything about their acquisition of Impulse though - and my existing games there - unfortunately.

Like Elysium said - while corporations may not have a soul - they can still try to adhere to the highest ethical standards - and treat their workers with the highest level of respect - something I find lacking in far too many corporations these days - and I continue to vote with my wallet against this scourge.

Re: ticking off the boxes (or not) of things we hate about GameStop: I have been in dozens in EBs and GameStops across Western Canada, and never once have I ever been asked if I want to pre-order anything, get a GI subscription, or if I want the strategy guide. The Internet makes it sound like those things happen constantly, but they've never been experience.

CheezePavilion wrote:

It's about having a physical location I could wander around, pick up the stuff, and even buy it.

I'll admit it--I'm a consumerist whore to some extent.

And GameStop's spread means there's now nowhere I can get that same 'fix'.

There's nothing whoreish about browsing. GameStop still fulfills that function for me.

CheezePavilion also wrote:

Oh, and I miss bookstores too. :old:

Dude, where do you live? There are two used bookstores down the street from me, three more a short busride away, and two specialty stores (mystery and sci-fi/fantasy) along the same busride. It's actually more out of the way for me to get to a big box bookstore (Chapters). You might need to move!

Of course, I'd love if that was the case for video games stores, but I understand they're vastly different businesses.

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a boutique store, of wealth and taste. I've been around for a long, long year. Stole many a man's wealth and games.

Tanglebones wrote:

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a boutique store, of wealth and taste. I've been around for a long, long year. Stole many a man's wealth and games.

And I was round when Funcoland had its moment of losses and pain
Made damn sure we acquired its stores and assets and sealed its fate
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you is my disregard for gaming

Hoo, hoo!

/stones

I had a flashback today to the mid-90s. My roommate and I would sit around every night and watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Comedy Central (10-12 Central, IIRC). We loved it. It was part of our daily ritual, and we pretty much never missed it. I have great memories of that time. And then, one day, Comedy Central announced they were going to stop showing MST3K. The MST3K group on Usenet exploded into angry rants and people throwing massive fits about their favorite show being canceled, and the president of Comedy Central actually got onto the newsgroup and posted there, and he basically said, "Listen, we understand there are lots of people out there who absolutely love watching this show every night, but, I'm sorry, there just aren't enough of you."

I wanted them to keep showing it, but I wasn't angry at Comedy Central. I wished there were more people who shared my interest, but they made a necessary business decision.

Gravey wrote:

Re: ticking off the boxes (or not) of things we hate about GameStop: I have been in dozens in EBs and GameStops across Western Canada, and never once have I ever been asked if I want to pre-order anything, get a GI subscription, or if I want the strategy guide. The Internet makes it sound like those things happen constantly, but they've never been experience.

You know, I don't know that I've made a purchase at GameStop where I wasn't asked to pre-order something, get a Game Informer subscription, or purchase the strategy guide. I've also never ordered popcorn at a movie theatre without being asked if I want to get the next size up for just a little bit more, or bought something in a department store without being asked if I'd like to apply for their credit card. It's called up-selling, and it's a completely normal part of many, many retail transactions.

However, I've never once had a polite "no, thank you," not do the trick. As with some of the rest of you, I just don't get the hate for GameStop.

"I had a flashback today to the mid-90s. My roommate and I would sit around every night and watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Comedy Central (10-12 Central, IIRC). We loved it. It was part of our daily ritual, and we pretty much never missed it. I have great memories of that time. And then, one day, Comedy Central announced they were going to stop showing MST3K."

I suppose I understood too - but I'd be lying if I didn't say - that a little part of me died that day.

Scratched wrote:

An idea that keeps cropping up is the digital-only console, with nothing for the retailer and all the game revenue going to the platform holder or publisher, but the classic reason that wouldn't happen is that no store would carry the base hardware needed to essentially kill retail. What I'm wondering is going back to what was said in 2004 by Bill Gates, "hardware will be free". What if one branch of console gaming future was a giveaway console, and all the revenue comes from online.

Sounds to me like you're describing OnLive.

BadKen wrote:
Scratched wrote:

An idea that keeps cropping up is the digital-only console, with nothing for the retailer and all the game revenue going to the platform holder or publisher, but the classic reason that wouldn't happen is that no store would carry the base hardware needed to essentially kill retail. What I'm wondering is going back to what was said in 2004 by Bill Gates, "hardware will be free". What if one branch of console gaming future was a giveaway console, and all the revenue comes from online.

Sounds to me like you're describing OnLive.

Close enough.

Going off topic: What I was thinking exactly was that instead of a video streaming microconsole box, a company release a small, efficient console with a decent hard drive and no optical drive, aiming at refined current-gen tech that's cheap to make. Give that away free and make the money back as they have to buy games directly, or if you want to deter people from just getting free doorstops and bankrupting you, make the initial buy in the cost of a few games, which you get credit for when you start using it. Extend the current-gen, and you could probably run it alongside a newer next-gen full-fat console.

I'm sure someone could poke some holes in my business plan.

Re: "soul"

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that when they speak of large corporations having / lacking / losing a "soul," they're using that as a shorthand way of saying "a corporate culture that focuses on the long-term benefits of offering good customer service and a pleasant shopping experience, even at the occasional expense of a bit of short-term profit" when they don't feel like going to the trouble of typing the latter out.

Obviously the motive is profit either way, and obviously large corporations don't have the human characteristics we sometimes attribute to them, but I'd like to assume that everyone involved understands that in the same way a newscaster who says "the White House issued a press statement" isn't referring to the physical building.

I really liked this article. I haven't been to Gamestop too much in the past few years, partially because I've been buying fewer physical games and partially because Amazon's usually easier, but also partially because of policies like the ones mentioned here.

The biggest real issue I've ever had at Gamestop involved preorder items. Twice I've preordered something, the employee told me they were out of preorder bonuses, I asked them to go double-check, and then it turned out there were some after all. However, one time they gave me my preorder item even though I picked up my game like two weeks late, so can't really complain.

Probably my funniest Gamestop experience was when I cancelled my preorder for The Force Unleashed II because the demo was basically identical to the first game, and that's what I told them. They then asked if I'd like to preorder something else like New Vegas or Black Ops. Oh, the irony.

Edit: Actually, it was funnier when a cashier confided in me that the employees had been referring to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed as STFU.

Before we write off customer service as dead and bemoan how passion for gaming has been replaced with soulless greed, keep in mind that the one of the companies that is eating GameStop's lunch is Steam. A company that from everything I can tell embraces the same core philosophies as Software Etc.

There's a difference between being professional and competent and ruthlessly efficient. Seems the old GameStop/Babbage's had the right strategy but not enough organization or discipline at the store level.

Scratched wrote:

Close enough.

Going off topic: What I was thinking exactly was that instead of a video streaming microconsole box, a company release a small, efficient console with a decent hard drive and no optical drive, aiming at refined current-gen tech that's cheap to make. Give that away free and make the money back as they have to buy games directly, or if you want to deter people from just getting free doorstops and bankrupting you, make the initial buy in the cost of a few games, which you get credit for when you start using it. Extend the current-gen, and you could probably run it alongside a newer next-gen full-fat console.

I'm sure someone could poke some holes in my business plan.

I'm still reminded of OnLive with this, as I keep seeing news items for them where you can buy one game and get the console for free. Usually with THQ games, now that I think about it...

It's super tempting, but I just do not have space in my room for another game system. Otherwise I would have jumped right on that just to experiment with the thing. I wonder if it operates like the PC version with a gamepad hooked in, though. That's the one thing I'm a bit uncertain about.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Gravey wrote:

Re: ticking off the boxes (or not) of things we hate about GameStop: I have been in dozens in EBs and GameStops across Western Canada, and never once have I ever been asked if I want to pre-order anything, get a GI subscription, or if I want the strategy guide. The Internet makes it sound like those things happen constantly, but they've never been experience.

You know, I don't know that I've made a purchase at GameStop where I wasn't asked to pre-order something, get a Game Informer subscription, or purchase the strategy guide. I've also never ordered popcorn at a movie theatre without being asked if I want to get the next size up for just a little bit more, or bought something in a department store without being asked if I'd like to apply for their credit card. It's called up-selling, and it's a completely normal part of many, many retail transactions.

However, I've never once had a polite "no, thank you," not do the trick. As with some of the rest of you, I just don't get the hate for GameStop.

This varies from store to store. The one that I really like doesn't bother me too much with it, especially since I'm a regular there now. However, I've been to ones where the guy asks if I want to make a reservation. I say "no thank you", and he goes "Are you sure? It's gonna have yatta yatta yatta" and I have to say "I'm not interested". THEN they try and guilt me, like "Alright, but you're missing out" or even "you'll have trouble finding it".

Some locations don't do this, but others do. The ones that do, that's when it gets annoying. You'd think someone walking in wearing a Legend of Zelda shirt might know a little something about what he wants to buy/reserve already.

Fantastic article. Very, very true!

Babbages... Software Etc... great stores in their time. Sean worked at a game store when they were cool. They didn't need to do anything to be cool, they just were being a game store.

The past few years has been rough for brick and mortar stores of any type -- more so for software-based stores. It certainly hasn't helped their cause by getting caught taking apart a product to bolster a product of theirs.

Even before that, new games were taken apart, discs kept separately... I could never get my head around that. I don't care for people to desecrate the freshness seal that protects the game from becoming stale.

Reservations.. I am stil astounded that a mechanic such as this is still prevalent what with digital distribution and big retailers right across the street from them. the mechanic I speak of is that when you show up on release day without a reservation... no way are you getting a copy. Are they crazy? I understand the stores are governed by the size of market they are in and such... that's not going to continue to work.

I'm not sure what I think about the online gaming (login, maybe with a dedicated device or PC and play online while streaming the game live) since I don't do online or multiplayer games, but I'm not sure I see Gamestop as a viable player.

Gamestop Reservations
http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/4...

David Clayton Thomas never wrote:

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a store of wealth and taste
I've been around for long long years, taken many a man's worthless trade
I was around when PC games could be traded in for cash
Made dang sure that CD roms weren't dinged up, cracked or smashed.
Pleased to meet you, won't you guess my name?
What's confusing you is just the nature of my business model.

Frankly, I still shop gamestop because I'm greatful that I have an actual building that I can go to and actually find copies of games that I want.

My aversion to the inevitable downloadable-only model of sales is well documented here. I have a lot of problems with it. I shop gamestop (and walmart, and best buy, and Amazon) because I want discs. Shiny ones. Ones that are, on consoles (for now anyway) largely inviolate. So long as I stay offline, I can play whatever version of the game is on the disc and nobody can say boo.

But that's a rant for another thread. When it comes to Gamestop I don't think I've had but one bad experience that was bad enough to remember, and it was purely localized to that store (the manager of the store was horrible and treated me like crap when I was returning a defective PSP game-- the UMD wouldn't spin up because the case had been crushed.) So I just don't go to that Gamestop anymore.

I've never had a hard time getting a game I wanted, with or without a pre-order. And without Gamestop I never would have found a dozen or so hypeless niche titles that I enjoyed hugely. (One example; Graffiti Kingdom, a mediocre platformer made exceptional by the fact that you have complete design freedom over your character, and can change that character pretty much any time without penalty)

My best Gamestop experience was when I traded in my mouldering PSP and library. The credit (due to promotions going on that week and the 10% edge card bonus that I bought during the transaction) was enough to buy me a brand new Wii with Wii Fit and an extra wiimote,l wii-motion-plus add-on, nunchuck, and two classic controllers without me having to outlay a thin dime in cash. So I guess I don't see how Gamestop is so anti-consumer, when I can basically clear out a closet, wipe the dust off of a handful of games, and walk home with a brand new system free and clear.

Then there's the whole used game library they offer, which means I can pick up a game that's old or out of print for pennies. If I want the Madden experience, for example, having never played one before I can go and buy Madden 2010 for a fraction of the cost of this years release and get pretty much the same experience, save a few tweaks. Last year I bought a used copy of The Darkness for $10, finished it, then traded it back in for $2. That's cheaper than renting it. That's anti-consumer?

Sure, sometimes I don't get a lot for a trade-in. Again, they're running a business, and the market value of my hypothetical copy of Madden 2010 isn't as high as it was when I bought it. Gamestop will probably never sell it. But they'll still take it, and give me a non-zero amount of credit, and it beats the hassle of dealing with the kinds of lunatics that shop on ebay. (That, again, is a whole 'nother thread).

Companies make money because they provide a service that people value more than their money. Sure, some companies can try to cheat, but that only works for so long. At the end of the day, you have to provide something that people want. Gamestop is doing that. I don't see how that's anti-consumer, unless you consider aggressive marketing to be anti-consumer. The fact that Gamestop operates on Pawn-shop rules and is set up more for people who pre-order new games doesn't make them anti-consumer, it just means that have a different system than, say, Best Buy. I'm okay with that, because I understand how to use that system to my benefit. It's not like Gamestop is taking options from anyone. If you don't like how Gamestop operates, buy at Amazon or Play n Trade or Best Buy or any one of a hundred other places that sell video games. That's business, that's capitalism. That's, in my opinion, just fine.

Raelic wrote:

Even before that, new games were taken apart, discs kept separately... I could never get my head around that. I don't care for people to desecrate the freshness seal that protects the game from becoming stale.

The difference between GameStop, and the other retail stores like Babbage's, Funcoland and Software Etc. at the time (and EB Games), was that you could actually look at the box. In order to prevent theft, Wal-Mart and Target and other such stores would keep them locked behind glass cases. They still do, unless the game is old and only worth $10-$20. Best Buy typically locks its games inside a plastic casing that you need to remove, but even that is vulnerable to theft. It also takes up extra space, which is valuable when you're running a smaller strip-mall or in-mall store.

Gutting the game, as we called it, was a necessary step in allowing the customer to look at the box, read the description, etc. while minimizing the risk of theft. On rare occasion (I think it only happened once while I worked there), someone would steal the box and...then they had nothing. Just a plastic case with no disc inside. It sucked because now we had a perfectly good New game that had to be sold as Used without a case, but them's the breaks (worse was when an employee within the store, right before I had to leave for College, was discovered to be stealing the Guts of new games and leaving the cases behind, so we had cases for new games that were missing).

It's not the ideal solution, but for the time it made the most logical sense. I had no problem with it until GameStop corporate took our shrink wrap machine away.

Reservations.. I am stil astounded that a mechanic such as this is still prevalent what with digital distribution and big retailers right across the street from them. the mechanic I speak of is that when you show up on release day without a reservation... no way are you getting a copy. Are they crazy? I understand the stores are governed by the size of market they are in and such... that's not going to continue to work.

I'm not sure what I think about the online gaming (login, maybe with a dedicated device or PC and play online while streaming the game live) since I don't do online or multiplayer games, but I'm not sure I see Gamestop as a viable player.

Gamestop Reservations
http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/4...

There's a few layers to this. When you give $5 to GameStop for a game reservation, that's money sitting in their bank collecting interest. An article came out about it long ago explaining the system. I can't remember its name even it was so long ago.

However, this is also why they've started pushing pre-order bonuses for games. They want to guarantee that money in the bank, and by adding in bonuses to people that reserve it at GameStop they can get it. As far as I'm aware, Steam doesn't currently offer a "Download it on Steam and get the Gabe Newell Boomer skin for FREE!" or anything.

Though I will say employees are sometimes incompetent. I remember going to GameStop the day Gears of War came out, and it turned out that the only copies they had were the $70 or $80 limited edition and they weren't getting the regular until Thursday. I wasn't certain I'd want the special edition on this game yet (it was a new IP after all), so I told them to put my reservation money elsewhere. The woman behind the counter just shook her head "Ok, but no one else will have it until Thursday. We're the only ones who have the game." I nod my head and smile. Since by now EB Games in the mall was owned by GameStop, they were in the same boat. Nonetheless, I went to Best Buy and lo and behold, a whole mountain of Gears of War. I went back to that GameStop, walked up to the woman as she was making the same explanation, and flashed it in her face. "Best Buy" was all I said. She lost another sale.

Granted, that woman was a bit of a bitch. My friend and I reserved Contact for the DS there and went to pick it up around noon. When we got there, the store was temporarily closed as she had to get herself a coffee from Starbucks. Five customers were waiting outside at noon for her to get some coffee. We went in, and she said "we might have it, but I need to pack it out of the box first". I gesture for her to go and do it, and she says "I'm not doing it until help arrives". So I got my $5 back from her, walked over to the EB Games in the same mall, and lo and behold they already had it up on the wall.

So for the rest of College, if I didn't go to the local mom and pop game store, I went to the EB Games instead.