Gaming’s funniest joke: GameStop

, | Games

The biggest joke in gaming is sadly not “Funny Ha Ha.”

Lately, the uproar has been about GameStop opening copies of the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and removing coupons for a free copy on the OnLive system. They weren’t really in the wrong on the point that Square/Enix shouldn’t have included coupons for a possible GameStop competitor without their knowledge. However, instead of holding the game back and discussing it with the publisher, they just opened them up, removed the piece of paper and then sold them as new. Is this legal? Maybe. Is it the right thing to do? I personally don’t believe so.

Though the Deus Ex thing is the latest hoo-haa for GameStop, it’s far from their first and certainly not the worst. With that in mind, lets take a look back at some of the other reasons you shouldn’t shop with GameStop.

After the Jump: GameStop, I Hardly Knew Ye

The time is late October 2004 and I want the most recent installment in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series: San Andreas. I make a trip down to my local GameStop where, on the counter, there are over fifty unopened copies of the game. I approach the counter and ask to buy one. The conversation went as such:

“Hi, I’d like to get a copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”

“Did you pre-order?”

“…no? you have a freaking ton of them.”

“Those were all pre-orders. No pre-order, no game.”

“You guys know they have them at Best Buy and other retail outlets?”

“Those people didn’t pay for the right to reserve a copy.”

So, I called a nearby store and they also said they had no copies available unless you pre-ordered. I then drove to Best Buy where they happily accepted my money and gave me the game. It was that day that I decided to avoid using GameStop for anything except in the rare case that I had no other option.

The issue isn’t that they were holding back copies of the game for people that had pre-ordered. That’s your business model and you should be able to fulfill your orders. The issue is that I’m a customer, standing in front of you, with cash in hand and ready to buy. As a retailer, you should supply me with what I’m requesting if it’s within reason, otherwise you’ve thrown away business. Punishing your customers for not pre-ordering one of the biggest game releases ever – that you should have extra stock of – is not a wise decision.

Pre-orders: I believe the first time I ever saw mass pre-orders was from GameStop. They started insisting that games may not be available unless you pay for it in advance, or at least put five bucks down. I mean, hey, it’s only five bucks, right? This is fine in concept, though a bit ridiculous, but what happens next is where the whole thing gets a bit iffy. GameStops then start only carrying enough copies for their pre-orders on release days, effectively removing their walk-in retail potential and forcing customers to pre-purchase a game in order to patronize their store.

So, effectively, GameStop started selling the idea of owning a game eventually, instead of selling the games themselves. Unlike other pre-order services, you are required to pay a bit of the cost up-front, which then sits in the GameStop accounts accruing interest. This is one of the most lucrative parts of their business and why you’ll never visit a GameStop without being harassed about pre-ordering the next AAA title.

“New” Games: I’ll never forget the first time I went into a GameStop for a copy of the game and they went and got the display box off the shelf, opened up their drawer behind the counter, pulled out the disc and put it in the case then presented it to me as new. How does this even work? Most places give discounts on display units,but not GameStop. Maybe I’m just being picky but , everyone in the world has shoved it down their pants, pulled it out and stolen the codes on the inside. I don’t want to touch that. You don’t want to touch that. No one wants to touch that, and I guarantee you’d probably like to be able to use your packed in codes as well.

Of course, this practice has been explained as “We want our employees to know about these games so they take them home and play them. It’s not really used as we took good care of it.”

Nope. It’s used.

“But we were really careful!”

Nope. Still used. Why can’t they get this point? Every other retailer I visit doesn’t do this. This may seem nitpicky to some people, but when I buy a new product, I prefer it be sealed. I don’t buy opened jars of jelly at the grocery store because they “wanted to make sure it’s peach” or “wanted our employees to be able to be knowledgeable to better assist you.”

Used Games: I saved the best for last! When you go into a GameStop, you’ll notice that the used section is as large, if not larger, than the new section. This is because the used section is what makes GameStop the best money. Games cost a good bit and, for the average person, any reduced rate you can get is going to be worth it. GameStop knows this. That’s why they sell their used games for two to five dollars less than the MSRP. It doesn’t matter if the game has a manual, a case or even if it looks like it was run over by a car with wire-brush wheels, it’s always just below standard retail.

This may seem like a small issue, and one that was met with harsh backlash from publishers (I’m sure you’re all familiar with the pack-in codes for multiplayer access, etc), but the point still stands: you are taking money out of the pockets of the people who created these products, and not even for a reasonable price for the end-user. It shows an absolute disdain for your vendors and customers with a “Hey, screw them, we got our money,” vibe. Poor form and practice.

Now, none of these things are illegal and I’m not going to touch on the morality, that’s not the point of this discussion. For me, the point is that I refuse to support stores that have actively hostile policies regarding, well, everyone they deal with in any fashion. There are, of course, two sides to every point mentioned and this isn’t an indictment of GameStop, it’s just my personal feelings on the matter. I encourage every game consumer to consider another source if available.