Gamestop Praying on Sheep

In case anyone has
missed it, Gamestop
has been trying a test run
of a new way to preorder systems in Hawaii
and Guam, to see if this policy could go work in the Continental US/Canada. The
way it was supposed to work, for anyone that doesn’t feel like following the
Joystiq link, was that it would run for a week – from the the 18th (this past
Monday) of September until the 25th – and anyone bringing in $50 worth of
trade-in games would be able to pre-order a Nintendo Wii, a system that is
looking like it’s going to be a top mover this Christmas.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Here’s the kicker: cash and prior
trade-ins are NOT allowed
. That means you can’t just walk in, give
them $50, and expect to get your system, nor could you put the $30 you had on
your Gamestop card towards it; it was either trade-in or f*ck-off. And we’re
talking by THEIR prices for what you, the consumer sheep, trades in; most gamers
falling for this could expect to be giving up either a lot of games, or some
rare goodies, at prices that have gone down since EB Games and Gamestop merged;
it could legitimately take $250 worth of games to get the $50 needed to get your
Wii preorder… which, on the poster that has famously circulated the internet
(above), only guaranteed a spot in line, NOT the Wii on the first night; some
unlucky XBox 360 preorder customers can remember just what THAT means.

Just as a test, in Gamestop this morning in Milford CT, I decided to check up on
some prices for a recently released sports game on two different systems: NHL
’07 for both Playstation 2 and XBox 360, to see how much Gamestop would profit
had I bought both games, hated them both, and brought them back. Let’s have a
look:

PLAYSTATION 2:
Original purchase price: $30
Trade in price: $10 (loss: $20, or 67% of the original cost)
Used sale price: $25 (five dollars less than new, not counting Gamestop card)
Total Profit: $15, or 150% profit (not counting new purchase
price)

XBox 360:
Original purchase price: $60
Trade in price: $25 (loss: $35, or 58.3% of the original cost)
Used sale price: $55 (five dollar discount)
Total Profit: $30, or 120% profit (not counting new purchase
price)

That’s just one example, with a game that has been out slightly longer than one
week, of the money that EB/Gamestop makes off of used game sales. Not to mention
the fact that game producers give a deal for the amount of preorders they get;
when you preorder a game, that increases the profit Gamestop makes, as you’re
ultimately paying the same amount for the same game (unless there’s a preorder
deal), and they’re paying less. It’s quite devious, and though it doesn’t seem
to add up to the gamer, deals like the one I just described above truly hurt,
especially now that, with the merger, Gamestop and EB Games are, for the most
part, the only game in town for people that don’t want to/can’t buy games
online. Think of how harmful this is with this one hypothetical example: if I
bought both these games (which would make me an idiot, but bear with me), and
returned them for trade-ins for my brand new Wii, I would have paid $90 to have
gained $35 towards a Wii, would STILL have to trade in $15 more (likely two
games; we’ll say they’re cheapies at $30 each), only to be able to pay $200 more
for a system that might not be in when I go to pick it up.
Total cost to me, all said and done: $350, saying I trade in those two $30
games. Not to mention the headaches that most trips to Gamestop cause as they
shove preorders and that blasted f*cking card down your throat (I’ll tell my
latest story of woe from Schenectady NY in another article, most likely). I
don’t care if the Wii is going to be the more affordable system, and likely the
most enjoyable one; with that much effort, it better be massaging my balls while
I’m killing Octoroks in Twilight Princess.

But this was just a test run, you say; surely, even your average gamer would see
through this bullshit and call Gamestop out on it, right? I mean, this SHOULD
fail spectacularly, and we normal Americans/Canadians won’t have to worry about
this, and we can go back to preordering the normal way… right?

I called up the Gamestop in Kaahumanu Centre to ask them if they
were definately doing the preorder deal; this was necessary, as many reports
from various sites stated that it was either confirmed or a hoax. He confirmed
that they WERE doing the deal, but were no longer doing it; they had stopped on
Monday. I passively remarked something about customers revolting… and was
slapped right back into reality. Gamestop had a small quota they were hoping to
hit for the week, and just their numbers on Monday smashed it… absolutely
obliterated it, to the point where not only was the program a success, but they
could potentially damage how fast the rest of the continent got their systems. I
asked him how feedback was for the program, and he said that it was about 90%
good; most customers were happy with it. I’ll bet most customers didn’t do the
math I did. Either that, or the excessive exposure to the sun in Hawaii does
some f*cked up things to peoples’ rationality.

I called up Gamestop’s main support centre, and got some talking head who’s name
I didn’t bother to take down; he confirmed that the program was going on in
Hawaii, and that it was ended after one day, however, he couldn’t give me any
numbers as to what the quota was, nor would he speculate as to weather or not
the program was going to be expanded to the rest of the US and Canada, nor
could/would he give me someone who could give me a definitive answer. I really
need to get a cool name like Alex Lucard so I can get these insider contacts…
but it did prove that the program was real, the reason for it’s early demise –
it being “too good” – was real, and honestly, you’d have to be either really
naive – or really stupid – to think that this won’t become a stateside reality.

I am fortunate enough to have two stores – one EB, one Gamestop – in my local
area that has people that I’ve known for years, who’s opinions I trust, and who
I know aren’t out to screw me over; Sara in the Gamestop in Milford CT is
usually the first person I ask about a new game that I’m thinking of. But I
can’t say that about most of the other stores; everywhere, people complain about
being blitzed into preorders, trade-ins and $3 game “guarantees”, and then being
ignored if they say no. One of the Joystiq comments laments that good employees
are being let go in favour of go-getter assholes who only want to sell extra
shit (the moron in Schenectady tried to get me to preorder games no less
than six times in one two minute conversation). And with the newest attitudes of
the corporation in charge – brought on by a virtual monopoly – my fear is that
the casual gamers are not being educated enough to know how badly they’re
getting hurt; it’s hard to know you need to be kissed first when you don’t know
you’re getting f*cked.

My purpose here is to educate the masses. Inside Pulse isn’t usually meant for
the casual fans of it’s respective genres; we’re meant for the hardcore, and we
write for them, casuals be damned. But this isn’t 1992 anymore; the casual gamer
drives this market now, enamoured by the additional advertising that the
now-profitable industry creates. We need to educate everyone that this system is
flawed, and the way to do that is by EVERYONE paying attention, becoming
educated, and leaving their games at home, even finding other avenues to
purchase their systems, even if it means waiting until after November 19th.
Trust me, the Nintendo Wii will be just as awesome in December or January as it
will be on November 19th… and there’s going to be more games out for it by
then, too.

So speak. Get the word out. And when this filthy policy comes to the United
States and Canada, let it be known that we’re smarter than we’re given credit
for. Or this pattern will continue to get worse.