In case you haven’t heard by now, video game retailer Gamestop is buying one of its biggest rivals, Electronics Boutique. This is the second thing Gamestop has done to really piss me off; the first was a little stunt they pulled slightly over a year ago. The buyout may seem like a good thing on the surface; EB stores will likely be converted into Gamestop locations, effectively adding to the parent company’s sprawl (especially in cities where there’s an EB, but no Gamestop). However, you must be wary of the evil that lies hidden below.
While the MSRP on games is usually fairly constant, the biggest difference between EB and Gamestop is their “previously played” (read: used) game prices, especially in the online sector. While newer titles’ used prices are generally $5 below retail at both stores, older games’ prices are all over the map. I’ve seen used Game Boy carts for $7.99 on EB, but $29.99 on Gamestop. Or SNES carts for $9.99 on EB, and $24.99 on Gamestop. Don’t think for a moment that EB’s used game stocks will keep their current prices once the transfer is over. So will this deal drive up prices on your favorite new games? No. But retrogamers looking for cheap classics may be disgusted and be forced to scour eBay once more and hope they get lucky. Son of a bitch.
Another issue is quality control. While some gamers are irritated by EB’s policy of “open games” (i.e., you pick up an empty box off the rack, and they stick the disc or cart in there for you, rather than handing you a fresh shrinkwrapped game), their quality control is still excellent. On the few occasions that I’ve bought a bum copy of a game from EB, they’ll replace it without a problem. Not only that, the clerks often check the discs for scratches before they even hand it to you.
Then there’s the whole preordering thing; with only one store in town, if a new game/system/accessory is on the way and you want to throw down cash in advance, your chances will be cut in half. Case in point: I preordered a Nintendo DS quite a ways in advance. I went to Gamestop to preorder, but they were sold out. Luckily, I had EB as another option.
It remains to be seen just how much damage this “merger” can do.