NOT the Only Game in Town

So there I stood on Tuesday, November 25, at one of the few GameStops I could stand. I was patiently waiting for the worker to go trough his shipment and find my copy of Chrono Trigger DS. Though I was pleased with the customer service, the fact that he had not even had a chance to get to the shipment on a day a game as big as this one was coming out just reminded me of why I was happy this was going to be one of the last times I shopped with this company.

When a good thing turns bad: I remember the old days of EB Games and GameStop. It wasn’t that long ago that any trip I made to a mall that had one of those two stores invariably ended up with me in it, probably more than once on that trip. I loved looking at their selection of games, trying to find the one I had been looking for or that gem you could not find elsewhere.

Christmas of 2006: I was working as the acting GM of a local Christian bookstore. Two of my coworkers (twin brothers no less) and I would frequent the EB that was in the same mall. The employees there came to know us, and when it came time to hire some holiday staff, they invited us to work for them. We jumped at the chance to get the discount and “rent games,” so of course we signed up.

It wasn’t long afterward that GameStop bought out EB. We were already being told by those working within the company that this was not a good thing. Most of them felt EB was the better company. At first, it seemed like sour grapes on their part, but it did not take long to see they were right. The change in policies at the stores, as well as not making it an emphasis to hire people who cared about games, started to leave a cold taste in our mouths. I did have to go back to work on a more permanent basis with the company in 2007-2008, and though it was made tolerable by great managers, I was not exactly relishing the experience.

I could go into a long list here of what is wrong with GameStop, but that is really not the idea behind this article. I just wanted you all to know I have seen the company from an insider’s perspective, and I have seen what was a company I really liked turn its back on the people they supposedly are there to serve.

The problem is that GameStop is the big player in the video game market. The company is the most recognized brand.

They are not the only one, however.

The Alternatives: There was a time where it was basically Gamestop/EB or bust. Then Game Crazy came, but it really did not last long; you can still find a few out there, but it is no longer a reliable brand.

So where do you go to get your games, especially used games, if you don’t want to just continue to feed into the corporate shell that is Gamestop?

Play N Trade is a new group of independent franchises appearing nationwide.

1) Play N Trade: never heard of this company? That’s not too surprising. They are relatively new, but Play N Trades are starting to pop-up all over the country. So what makes them any better than GameStop? Each store is an independent franchise and opposed to a corporate shell. What this means is the owners are given much more freedom when it comes to how they design the store, what they carry, and what specials and events they have. A couple of friends of mine just opened one in Phoenix, and the difference between this store and the local Gamestops is HUGE! They have 8 flat screen TVs with consoles hooked up for demoing games, a clean, open environment that encourages browsing titles, and a growing selection of retro games and consoles, something Gamestop refuses to carry. I even bought a Retro Duo there, which is a system that lets you play NES and SNES games. Now like any chain, there will be differences between stores, but if this is peeking your interest, check out http://playntrade.com and see if there is a store near you. If there is, check it out. You may just like what you find.

2) Local stores: Many larger cities have local games shops that either existed before GameStop and have still managed to hang in there or cater to a specific market, such as retro gamers. In Arizona, one such place is called Bookmans. Now Bookmans is more than just a video game shop: the chain deals in used books, movies, music, electronics, games….basically a little of just about everything. You can buy anything from a paperback novel to a 360 there (in fact, that is where I bought mine). The downside of a store like Bookmans is it only deals in used, which means you are not going to be able to buy the newest and biggest games there unless someone has traded it in. On the flipside, you can trade in anything they sell there for trade credit towards games, which is a VERY nice feature I have taken advantage of many times.

Bookmans is just one example of the kind of local stores you can find. Take a look at your local yellow pages or google video game stores in your area code. You may just find a store that is to your liking.

Sites like Amazon.com, Gamefly and ShopGoodwill.com can be great places to buy games.

3) Internet Sites: There are a ton of internet sites for gamers and game deals. Playswitch.com allows you to buy used games at a set price and sell your games as well. Since it eliminates the middle man when buying or selling games, you get better deals. Game HQ lets you buy or trade games for great deals. You can even consider joining Gamefly; not only do they rent games, they sell them to members at great discounts, and they give you even more discounts the longer you are a member. There’s also Ebay, Amazon, and a whole host of other internet sites that specialize in gaming and have great deals for people willing to search.

The Choice is Yours: I’m not here to tell you to never purchase anything from GameStop again. I can’t even say I never will. All I am trying to say is there are alternatives out there. If you are tired of the practices and attitude of the corporate giant, take a look around you. See if there is a local store you can frequent instead, or do a little research on the web and find a net based retailer you like. The choices are out there.

Gamestop has come to act as if it is the only game in town. Maybe it’s time we as gamers prove the company wrong.

============================ Another Take ================================

David Lange:

Ah yes the good old days of EB games and that coveted trip to the mall that would invariably find you there. I remember those days, when going to a game store was something you actually looked forward to with youthful glee. At least that’s what I’ll tell my children, when I reminisce about the golden age of retail gaming, because thanks to the soulless corporate zombie known as GameStop those joyous occasions are quickly being relegated to fond memories alone. “Son, when I was a boy, I would walk 7 miles through the snow to go to EB.” Today I wouldn’t go to GameStop if someone carried me on a cushioned pedestal. I exaggerate slightly. But not about the lack of joy, or the nostalgia of an era when your local game store was a veritable cornucopia of electronic euphoria (yeah, it was that good).

At the age of 25 (a genuine “old fart” in gaming years) I can speak to a new generation of 13-somethings whose only experience of retail gaming is an irritated sales clerk too busy unpacking a box to go get the Xbox 360 you’re trying to buy (oh wait that’s my experience). Really it isn’t all that bad, but it isn’t particularly good either, and that’s the point. It’s a sad state when a trip to the “game store” means logging onto Amazon.com, but I’d rather do that than go to an over-sized, understocked retailer.

So what changed? Lot’s of things I suppose, but the primary factor is the prevalence of industry giants such as Walmart and Best Buy. As corporations it makes good sense for them to avoid costly micro management of the multitude of product catagories they offer. Instead they focus on the mass market of the mainstream consumer. Jack of all trades and masters of none, as these commercial behemoths increase in size they swallow up various markets, smothering specialized retailers with name brand, mass marketed mediocrity. Each particular industry they absorb is marginalized and even stores such as GameStop that do “specialize” in one department still suffer from the corporate machine, cogs in which they are.

What EDG staffer Eric has done here with this feature is struck a blow for gamers everywhere, and I encourage everyone to look to alternative sources when trading and buying games. As hardcore gamers the video game community we belong to is a great thing that defines who we are. Every time we take the easy way out and buy from companies that don’t care about the individual gamer we contribute to the slow disappearance of this subculture. In the information age there are far better and more enjoyable ways to indulge in our beloved hobby, and going to the local “big box” stores is a lazy excuse we are all guilty taking. Over the next few weeks EverydayGamers.com will be featuring articles that look at unique opportunities to play and save. I hope we’ve got your attention because we’re just getting started.

Thomas Pine:

I couldn’t agree more with what Eric or David have stated. As a former employee of GameStop, I can sympathize with the underpaid minions who call GameStop their employer, but I have no compassion for the company because of what it has done to gaming. Yes, as Eric remarked, there is too much to cover in too little space, but all one needs to do is spend a little time inside one of these stores and the problems quickly become apparent. Fortunately, as the title of this article suggests, there are many other options available for gamers seeking games.

Sure you could bypass GameStop and go directly to the Best Buy or Walmart, but in essence you would be defeating the purpose. GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart – no matter the name they’re all the same monster. So, where should you go to buy your games? Most of the obvious answers have already been stated above, but allow me to rattle off a few of my top choices:

Amazon.com – Want to find a decent to great price on a game without having to wait through hours or even days of bidding? Amazon is one of your best choices. Not only do you have the option to buy games directly through Amazon, but you can also preorder upcoming titles, purchase accessories and hard to find gems, and shop various other sellers items. It’s like eBay without the bidding option. Like a game and the price? Then buy it from the seller. As an added bonus Amazon offers “deals of the day” and “gold box” deals, with both of these options giving you an increased savings over the msrp. Qualified orders also ship for free.

ShopGoodwill.com – This is a little known secret that I have been holding on to for a while. Most of you are familiar with the name Goodwill, but you probably associate it with “other peoples garbage”. Maybe that’s true, but remember the old saying – “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I have to say that I was completely surprised when I stumbled upon this site. It a retro-gamers paradise, with games and systems ranging from as far back as the Atari to the more modern 360. Choose an item that you like and bid on it, if the bidding ends with you on top pay for the item and have it shipped. It’s a strait forward process with little hassle, but a big payoff.

Independently owned local game stores – Many names have been mentioned above, but these are going to vary from city to city. I have a few in my town that I frequent, and I’ve found that it pays to become friendly with the owners. Once you’ve built a rapport with these guys, you’ll find that they’ll keep an eye out for you if there is something that you are looking for in particular. Obviously they’re not always going to have as large a stock of games as the GameStops or Best Buys, but if you put in a request most likely they can obtain what you are looking for. In addition, you’re most likely going to be able to find harder to locate games and systems through these smaller guys, because the don’t have to go by a corporate standard of what they accept as trade-in items.

Kurt Roberts:

As a self professed budget gamer, meaning I don’t buy new releases at full price and more often than not buy used, I share the same memories of EB back in the day. (Remember free shipping and stackable coupons online that resulted in purchases that cost them more to ship than they would profit?) Without getting into a rant about Gamestop and their incessantly poor sales techniques bordering on harassment, or the insanely off balance employee structure where they either know nothing about gaming or think that they know everything and aren’t open to other viewpoints, I like others have turned to alternatives. In a small town where your only options are Wal-Mart, Circuit City, and Gamestop, I have found online resources to be the best.

Forums like those at Cheapassgamer.com or dvdtalk.com are great resources for current gaming deals, and if you visit frequently you might happen upon a very short lived sale or pricve mistake. Store ads are often posted weeks in advance, so knowing that a game you want will be $10 cheaper next week or come with a gift card is great. In the used market, half.com and ebay used to be decent, but recent policy updates and sellers dishonesty has turned me away. Amazons used markets and selling/trading subforums of the above mentioned sites are great peer-to-peer oppertunities. Gamefly often has free shipping sales with great prices, available to those who aren’t even on a rental plan with them. Patience pays off, other than a very few ‘must have’ new releases, I never pay more than $20 for a game.

6 thoughts on “NOT the Only Game in Town

  1. I am the same way, I am one of those that counts down the days till a big release and gets mad when it's released on Wednesday instead of the scheduled Tuesday. I've spent $60 on titles I had no idea if I would like. Most of the time I am lucky but sometimes not. I usually always preorder and I am not sure why people are against it. Putting down $5 towards the full price of the game doesn't seem like a big deal to me. Even if they actually do have copies available I am not the confrontational type. I'd rather just get my game then try and make them confess they have copies for ones who didn't preorder.

    I would go the same route as you and sell my game after I beat it but I usually tend to go back to games a year later and play through them again. With multiplayer it makes it even harder to get rid of a game. I am also very proud of my small collection. Because the price of games drops so dramatically within months after release this make it hard to hold on to a game and then sell it which means you have to either sell it within the first month or just keep it forever.

  2. Unfortunately, for those of us who live and die off the next big gaming high, the only option is to buy it as soon as it comes out. I've often found myself attending midnight launches for those big AAA titles, wondering whether or not my $60 will go towards the fulfillment of my sick addiction, or whether I'm buying rubbish wrapped in coated in chocolate by PR. I absolutely refuse to pre-order anything though, if there's anything I'd like to stress to people, it's that you SHOULD NOT pre-order. Trust me, they will not be out of that video game if you get it within a day of release. I'm sure the cost associated with pressing a game onto disc isn't so extensive that there will somehow be a shortage.

    Indirect tirade aside, I've learned to cope with my expensive hobby by trading in those new games after I've beat them. Since most games take less than a week to beat you can turn around and trade that game in to one of the places listed here and get most of your money back. Imagine getting $30 in credit back for that $60 game! You could essentially be getting $90 worth of games for $60, even more if you do the math on returning the next game you got back. Using the magic, and somewhat arcane, power of mathematics you'll find you stretched that $60 to $116 by halving the amount you paid for the game and assuming you'll get trade credit. Gamestop is the only place I know of that screws you over in trade credit.

  3. Suppose you pre-order a game, and then later decide not to get it. With my experience at Gamestop, unless I do A LOT of complaining, I won't get that pre-order towards something else, so $5 wasted. When you pre-order you're essentially paying for something that doesn't exist yet, which isn't healthy for the customer. Other places will actually transfer your pre-order money, which is fantastic, but the whole idea behind pre-ordering is less practical than it is devious. The only way to put an end to a lucrative practice like pre-orders is to stop buying them. Strange as it may sound, I get my midnight releases at Wal-Mart, because they're the only ones not pushing pre-orders, magazines, memberships, and strategy guides down my throat.

  4. Actually, I've honestly switched my preorder money many times. If I preorder something and realize later that I don't want it I usually just tell them to transfer my $5 to another game that I am about to buy. I've never had a problem doing that. I am surprised to hear you have had problems.

  5. It happened with Oblivion and World of Warcraft Burning Crusade. Maybe it was just the people? They were very sarcastic about everything, and rarely answered a question seriously.

  6. Yeah, unfortunately most of the GameStops anymore are full ofemployees who are not really right for the job. Part of the reason for that is the policies of the company tend to drive true gamers away.

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