Monday, January 11, 2010

Gamestop isn't evil, but they aren't saints either....

I came across the blog of the Game Force 4, an interesting gaming blog site in the blogger family, and this article entitled "Gamestop is not evil" through Digg. Apparently it's the subject of quite a few heated statements. Now anyone who actually reads this blog knows that Gamestop and I have a rather rocky history, but I understand where the Author is coming from, however I offer a different perspective.

First of all, let's consider the statements about Gamestop killing smaller stores, creating a monopoly through merging with EB games, and enabling theivery. Gamestop is a business and at the end of the day it's going to do whatever it has to to survive. Businesses grow and thrive by providing services and features the consumer wants, and when most businesses see an oppurtunity to further their mission statement they do so. The Gamestop and EB merger was a means for both companies to further their profits, and it was consensual on both parties. Here's a snippet from the gamespot article i just linked to.

"Though technically a takeover, the GameStop-EB merger met with glowing approval from both parties. "This transaction makes a tremendous amount of sense from an operational, cultural, and synergistic perspective," said EB CEO Jeffrey Griffiths. "We will now be in an even better position to broaden our reach and generate further efficiencies for our business and our customers." Griffiths' role in the new company was not identified."
There goes that "Synergy" word again. If i ever run a business I will do everything I possibly can to make sure that word is eradicated from my vocabulary. However, I'm digressing.

Is Gamestop killing smaller second-hand gaming stores? Well it depends on who you talk to. I imagine that in some places Gamestop really is the only game in town (bad puns, I'm so sorry.), and their prices reflect that fact. If you have a Hollywood Video there's always Game Crazy, but since the Recession kicked in, those stores have been in decline. This sounds like a bad time, especially for retro gamers who actually want the physical copies of their games instead of settling for the VC/PSN/XBLA equivalent.

However, there is hope. Every mammoth company is always in a position of being usurped by a smaller company willing to tend to the needs of the lower end of consumers. This term is often referred to as "disruptive innovation". There are plenty of examples of this; the most notable is how RedBox is disrupting larger video stores like Blockbuster by providing the same newly released movies at a lower price. Here in Omaha, we have a chain of Gamers stores that are providing new and used Games Consoles and gaming peripherals at a lower price than what's been found at Gamestop. I've noted this in a previous article i wrote about how I needed a 360 power brick and was irked at having to pay $40 dollars at Gamestop when I could get the same thing at Gamers for $15. That's one of the reasons why i dislike GS, but I'll save that for another article.

Let me just say this about Gamestop and the claims of enabling thievery; Anyone who's been gaming long enough should know better than to go to gamestop to trade in anything. It could be likened to a grown man sticking his bare hand on a burner. You know you're going to get burned so why even do it? I could say the same thing about Pawn shops. They're always going to find a way to con you out of your money no matter how valuable your possession is. Just don't do it, or find a gaming store that will be a bit more fair about it. Oddly enough Walmart has used gaming kiosks now, so perhaps they'll provide a better service than Gamestop's "Ten dollars less than what you paid for it" model. Only time will tell.

And now for the final part of This article about an article. which is where I tend to have the most input on. Let's do a recap of the statement in question.
"GameStop generally hires two types of people: youngsters (18 – 22) and older gamers who are not educated enough to get proper jobs. In other words, you have kids, frequently the most obnoxious, self-centered people on the planet, and uneducated older folks who gave up on their dreams a long time ago. So, it's understandable that GameStop tends to attract the sorts of people who might annoy or frustrate customers.

Is it GameStop's fault that the people who end up working in retail are of one of those two categories and therefore more likely to cock up your order or piss you off? It's not a GameStop problem. It's a retail problem. You are not going to find many future Harvard professors working in retail. It's an annoyance, and I must admit that out of all the so-called problems with GameStop, it is the most real. However, as said, it is not a GameStop issue at all. It's the world of retail."
Errr... That's a pretty unfair assumption, Not unlike saying "all men are assholes." It's like you dealt with a couple of bad cases and immediately assumed everyone fit that stereotype. Now there are cases where people are like "it would be soo cool to work at _______." and that's what brings some people with very little knowledge of gaming to work there. Speaking from experience, most Gamestop employees are encouraged by management to read GameInformer and to play the newly released games to stay "in the know" for the customer. I don't consider myself the exception, but through having to organize the games during downtime, and the knowledge acquired through gaming circles and the internet, I knew enough to help out customers whenever I possibly could. However, you do tend to run into those who are "in the know" about whatever gaming platform they're interested in. That's pretty common, especially when you mention a system or game they have no interest in and respond with snide comments and dirty looks. That tends to fall into "bias" moreso than incompetence.

I went to an EB games store back in Virginia. I wanted to purchase a copy of Guilty Gear for PSX, The employee there did everything in his power to convince me that I shouldn't buy it. "It's just another Street Fighter clone, with a bunch of generic characters" he said. "You're better off buying something else." Obviously I disagreed with him and purchased the game. What he probably didn't know was that the game was sold out at every other store I went to, and that the other stores directed me to this store in particular. He was speaking his mind about how he felt about that product, and I decided to go against his reasoning and use my better judgment to get the game. The moral of the story is: "Just because that person is an employee of a gaming store doesn't make them right." This is the same for music store employees, Video store employees, ect. As for Harvard professors, I can't speak for all stores, but at the time of my employment the entire staff, except for yours truly, were college students all doing this to get a little bit of coin on the side. I on the other hand did it because I always wanted to work at a game store, and thought it would be a foot-in-the-door for eventually working for a gaming company (silly, silly boy.)

Gamestop isn't the devil, I can understand this from the article, but I just felt the author was speaking from an defensive standpoint, and not seeing it from all sides. Most of the ire that places like that tend to get are from it's horror stories from gamers and former employees alike. It's hard for people to ignore all that when they tend to have experiences of their own that are pretty similar to what's been said. Even with this, I can understand that Gamestop is a business and they're going to do what they have to to ensure that they're meeting their profit goals at the end of the year. This doesn't exactly make them the patron saint of retail game stores either. Let's just say this: I understand the nature of the beast however, I don't have to accept it, or like it for that matter.

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