There comes a time where you have to take what you love and let it go. By letting it go, you can finally show growth, and move forward. For gamers, or anyone who picks up a controller – that thing to let go is what we have sheltered the most. Gamestop has always been the topic of controversy within our industry. This retailer took the idea of a rotating video game library and made it mainstream, providing everyone with the ability to trade in their past merchandise in order to keep an up to date gaming catalog through the means of a fairly accessible trade in option. Some may complain and state that the values were not worth the effort, but for those who utilized the PowerUp Rewards card, along with all of the perks and bonuses that arose can certainly attest that without this store, they simply would not be able to afford getting that next game or system.
I think everyone who shops through Gamestop can agree that the atmosphere is usually what draws them back in. Sure, having every purchase turn into six or seven sales pitches can be a bit obnoxious, but when you have a store with a competent staff who seem generally eager to customize your sales experience to your own tastes, it really isn’t so bad. Gamestop is also a bit of a social experience, as it is one of the only retailers that still throw midnight release parties, which allow us all to come together and celebrate our anticipation for a big release. I have made a lot of friends through my own local location, and even obtained a part-time position, to which I kept for nearly eight years before finally moving on. Make no mistake, I love the concept of Gamestop. I like the idea of a store that is there for our convenience, allowing us to save a bit of money and socialize with people a lot like ourselves.
So why even make an article? Why tell all of you readers that it is time to sever ties with a merchant that while sometimes shady, has generally been the best place for us to go for physical media? Well, to put it simple, because Gamestop is no longer necessary, and it is their own fault for being that way. To say that over the past four years that Gamestop has lost its focus is really putting it lightly. With the acquisition of ThinkGeek, Cricket Wireless, and the general poor press that has always overshadowed the positives for the retailer, there isn’t a lot of reasons for most of us to stop in. Let’s start with the exclusives – as Gamestop kind of leads the way for being the main place to obtain physical media that actually come with bonuses.
Fifteen years ago, we could always depend on receiving an incentive of a bit of swag for pre-ordering a game. A calendar, an action figure, a keychain. These little bonuses went a long way in making us feel comfortable pre-ordering a video game. Now that the world has moved into a digital direction, the bonuses no longer feel nearly as relevant. At best, major releases will offer an exclusive multiplayer skin, a map, or a weapon, but with the stiff competition in the market, we now have to choose the retailer that best fits our interest. Gamestop usually does have the best pre-order bonuses, but once players are all online with their little perk, it becomes obvious that everyone is at the same party, wearing the same sweater – as everyone on launch ends up with that same Gamestop bonus, making that unique exclusive a lot less enjoyable to have. Now for those who enjoy Japanese companies, I can say that there are some nice physical bonuses for niche titles, but I personally only see two to three of these pop out in a year, and the physical launch price of Atlus, Aksys, and NIS games compared to what their digital counterparts go on sale for literally every week make it harder for people like myself to pull the trigger. Sorry, but a stuffed lamb is not going to make me purchase a game when I can save gas and wait a month in order to get it at half price.
It isn’t just the type of pre-order bonus, either. Purchasing from the stores set up by publishers equate in better rewards. For instance, Square Enix always offers exclusive editions that have some very nice offerings that we could never find in a Gamestop. Publishers are finding every single way they can to make money, and by simply providing a higher quality offering, they kind of make it harder to resist going online and waiting for a ship date for what is ultimately a better product. The atmosphere in Gamestop is also becoming fairly more clogged. Everytime I go in to find a game, I have to wade through walls of clearance racks, filled with leftover mugs and shirts that have lost their relevancy after mere weeks. Go in to any Gamestop. You will find more Dorbz, Pop Figures, and random shirts that prey on nostalgia than any of the games that sit on the shelves. Puzzles of a stock image from Mario, notepads that are priced high that bare only a simple Tri-Force. This merchandise is obviously made very cheap, and is literally only existing to create a talking point for those who pass through. I get it, it is nice to have stuff, and some of the little merchandise Gamestop has added is kind of neat, but it comes at the cost of the entire store feeling like a random booth at a convention. You know, those random booths that have a ton of everything, where you pick up things, smile, put stuff back, and move on because it just isn’t worth spending money on such silly stuff?
That is what Gamestop feels like now. Add in the section of phone adverts, Star Wars mugs (there are so many mugs), and you get a store that feels desperate, relying on what looks to be polling and market research in order to sell everything they can to one consumer in order to keep their doors open. There is just too much clutter and not enough focus on the core reason most of us visit. Add in the fact that this merchandise is now an added sales pitch for each transaction and the experience feels even more inconvenient.
Desperation is really the core of my entire argument here. Gamestop have become far too desperate. The whole “circle of life” program that punished employees for not pushing enough pre-orders and add-ons was rightfully pushed aside last year, but that isn’t really a piece of my argument. I see those videos of horror stories from employees, and while some have valid points, as a workplace Gamestop is still a corporation that has to have a sales structure to remain consistent. From my own experience, Gamestop should treat employees better. Employees should not have to have their incentive be their existence, especially when they get less than ten hours each week. Forget the discount or perk of having first pick of merchandise. Being a Gamestop employee is frustrating these days as the pressure of maintaining excellent customer service while trying to dance around the shortcomings of your employer is brutal. Imagine, you have a new customer walk in with ten Xbox One games. Now because the games are common and the stock of what the typical customer has is so great, this customer may have a total of thirty dollars in trade in credit, averaging out each disc to a crummy three dollars each. Few may be fine with that, but new customers usually scoff a bit. Scoff or not, utilizing the trade in program is their decision, and if they don’t like the values, they can go elsewhere. That said, the customer is right to scoff based on the current mindset of Gamestop.
Take that thirty dollars that the customer gets, and remember that number as it is simply an average example of the traffic this retailer sees within each visit. The customer may see a “BUY 3 FOR 10” bin and get really excited, as they will be able to walk out with almost as many games as they walked in with. Gamestop does not expect or want these types of purchases, though. Their employee is trained to check them out with a smile. “Do you want to pre-order [INSERT TITLE HERE]? If yes, that is at least five dollars from that transaction. “Would you like the DLC pack?” If yes, again, that is another five dollars. What about a guide, or this, or that. What about our member card? It saves you ten percent, or how about a warranty on each disc? The average customer usually turns down most of this, as even though it is in their best interest if they do a lot of business to pick up on these offerings, their original intention of shopping at the retailer was to stop in for an affordable experience today, not for the long term.
Now add in this figure, or that mug, or anything that the employee then has to offer before finalization. Now, there is also a Gamestop Credit Card, and a phone service, and so much more. Despite all of the fluff, your customer who walked in with an optimistic approach leaves feeling good, even with three games – because they feel like they listened to you, and they now can have a much easier shopping experience for future visits. It’s a win-win, right? Wrong. The next time the now seasoned customer comes in again, they are at the bottom of the ladder. “I see you already pre-ordered this game, what about that one?” “You have our card, well you could be saving more with our SUPER CARD!”
Eventually, the customer gets cycled through so many times they begin to get frustrated, as they feel like they simply cannot keep up with all of the programs and offerings to stay ahead, so they become bitter. Bitter customers also cause bitter employees. How many times have you had a bit of irritation due to being oversold that you had to decline in a stern voice? I can name at least twenty times that I have watched once happy customers get frustrated with me personally because of a simple offer, as they just felt so piled up on that they no longer wanted to be bothered. I always backed off, but I have also witnessed fellow employees do nothing more than enhance sales pressure just out of spite alone. Customers are right to feel frustrated, as this is their money that is going into a cycle, where the game they pre-ordered turns into a mere three dollars in credit the year after, and while shopping at Gamestop is a choice, it almost feels like an obligation as it is now something that they have invested in. This is why Gamestop gets trashed online by the very base that still use them every single month. You think every one of those “I HATE GAMESTOP! BLARGH” trolls do not shop there? No. They are mad because they do shop there and feel like they are no longer being catered to like they once were.
While this type of odd customer/retailer relationship was never anything new with Gamestop, the change of the industry has made Gamestop far more pressing on everyone involved. If I wanted, I could get a season pass and full version of a game directly from my Playstation 4, play it early, and still get a downloadable perk for my pre-order without ever sitting foot in that store. Of course the retailer realizes this, and that is why they have filled their stores with so much overflow of random merchandise that it is kind of difficult to go in without leaving with unintended items. Now let’s add DLC to the mix. Digital products that Gamestop offers on top of everything else. Gamestop still has to cater to 2k, Activision, and so on by pushing those “currency packs” for a very, very, mild payoff. The topic of loot boxes and the amount of terrible DLC practices is one for another piece entirely, but for Gamestop to suddenly devise a social media plan that makes their very customers look like fools for not shopping there is absolutely disgusting. Look at this advert for the new Assassin’s Creed.
Now look at the way they speak to their concerned customer base on Twitter and Facebook.
What in the hell is Gamestop thinking? It is almost as if Gamestop want to fail as a business. It is obvious due to mass amount of random stock in their stores that there is a lot of confusion of just what this retailer wants to be, but now they want to take the wrong side of shady practices from major publishers, making any consumer who does not follow their straight line feel stupid? I get it, it is a thing to be funny on social media. Wendys, Sonic The HedgeHog, and so on have kind of made it fun to follow their accounts, due to the amount of poking they all do at their competitors. That is a joke shared between consumer and merchant, and it is still relevant and ok. Gamestop’s recent use of social media however has put the joke on its own customers, almost as if they are rubbing salt on the wounds of the very people who already feel stuck in a corporate web. Sorry, Gamestop – but you don’t get to shit on the same plate you serve, and customers are not stupid.
You are allowed to make this elaborate cycle to sell us merchandise we ultimately pay more for in exchange for convenience and immediate affordability. You are allowed to shit on your own employees by paying them nothing to hawk your merchandise and programs, acting as their meager employment is a privilege. You are allowed to go after market after market until every pool is dry, and continue to take away the atmosphere that once made your stores great. You are not allowed to not be on our side. You are not allowed to be so desperate to stay alive that you mock your consumers’ purchasing habits that only exist because of the shady business tactics that you started, which set the path ablaze for major publishers to pick apart their products until every feature came at an actual cost. How dare you.
Gamestop has to be let go as they are no longer relevant in a society that no longer needs them. Going to a video game store is fun on a payday, but being entrapped by a company that continues to show its ass is a unnecessary hardship. With the ease of ordering online, shopping at other retailers, and simply staying at home for those who are content with digital, I see no reason to continue letting the hand that feeds us nibble on our thumbs as a cruel joke. I am hearing wind of a rental program, by the way, that will allow players to check out used games, which is also terrible. Imagine, employees now get to adhere to pressure to become collectors at the same wage, because someone didn’t return the game that they rented with trade-in credit. It is just too much and too complicated. Gamestop was once a happy place for me. Being able to interact with others who shared the same interest, the ability to physically examine a case before purchase, and just simply sharing excitement for a love pastime with others made it the place to go if you were passionate about gaming. The employees may be great, but miles above are a set of anemic men in suits, thirsty for every dollar as their ship begins to sink. Next time you make that purchase, ask yourself, is this retailer still the only option?
Oh, and by the way – just in case the little smart ass Facebook reps over at the big GS decide to comment and state how written journalism is also irrelevant – I know, but at least my existence comes with the best intentions for those who share the hobby that I have cared about for over 25 years.