Do Consumers Still Need Gamestop?

Or has it become a wasteland for gamers?

There was a time that Gamestop was the only place I would buy video games….period.  Those days are now far behind me.

Around the time I graduated high school in the early 2000’s (yes I did just date myself) Gamestop was the one stop shop for all of my video game needs.  For a restaurant manager paying his way through college, Gamestop had a policy that saved me more time and money than I could ever calculate.  The Policy: if you do not like a game you can bring it back within 7 days and return it for another game.  Can you imagine? You buy a brand new game, lets say 50 Cent Bulletproof, open it and find out how terrible it truly is and within 7 days you could take it back and trade it in for Grand Theft Auto 3 and you wouldn’t owe a dime. I have no idea how many games I was able to buy on a regular basis at that time, but this policy gave me room to make a mistake, a mistake that would cost me $40-$60 today.

Gamestop still has this policy when it comes to used games, but no longer allows you to return brand new games out of the shrink wrapping.  In the same scenario today, the best I would hope to receive would be maybe $40 in store credit. Probably less.  I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of just throwing $20 away.  I can spend money with the best of them, but I loathe wasting money.

With the rise of online mega stores such as Amazon and Ebay, Gamestop has more competitors than ever.  We live in a society that craves convenience and shopping online saves you time and money.  Those were the very same commodities that Gamestop would save me 15 years ago when they were my sole provider of video games.

When it comes to time and money, sites like Amazon can give consumers both whether they realize it or not.  Another huge way that we save time and money these days is video streaming, and who does this better than Amazon Prime?  Most people use Prime for video streaming and 2 day free shipping. But, as gamers, this also gives you a bonus of 20% off new games as well.  You can pre order a new release, save money and have it delivered to your door on the day the game is released! Who is going to drive to Gamestop and pay full price for a game when this perk is added to a service that you probably already have?  I know I’m not taking the time to drive to the store, wasting my gas and paying full price for a game that could be already at my house waiting for me.

While the intent of this article is not to label Gamestop completely irrelevant, they must find a way to compete with companies like Amazon and Best Buy (who also has a program saving gamers 20% when they buy a game brand new.) Gamestop must develop a program that offers equivalent if not greater savings if they want to be competitive in today’s market.

With that being said, there is a demographic that still needs Gamestop as desperately as Gamestop needs them and that’s the uninformed consumer.  The uninformed consumer consists of parents, grandparents, the significant other of a gamer or someone who just plays games casually. Many of you reading this as well as the staff here at Handsome Phantom would not fall under that category.  Rarely do we make an uninformed terrible purchase anymore. With sites like Handsome Phantom and multiple podcast services offering thousands of podcasts weekly, hardcore gamers are more aware of what they are buying more than ever before. With all the available resources we have today even the most informed gamer can still make the occasional mistake. I’m looking at you No Man’s Sky…

Gamestop may not be the one stop shop for all gamers anymore, but there is a reason to still shop there.

That reason is their used game selection.  Parents on a budget that are buying for multiple children are able to get used games that they might not have been able to afford otherwise.  GameStop offers an incredible buy 2 get 1 free sale on their used inventory a few times every year. This has become what I imagine to be one of their saving graces.  Without their used game inventory, I cannot see how they have stayed relevant for as long as they have.

Having a staff on site to talk to the uninformed consumer about the game they are about to purchase is a huge asset as well.  This is one aspect missing from the convenience of online shopping.  The downside to buying used games at Gamestop comes down to the horrendous stickers they place all over your beautiful game box.  This may not be a deal breaker to all gamers, but to anyone who takes pride in their collection those stickers prove to be a huge eye sore.

I spent the last week talking to many different types of gamers and the facts seem to speak for themselves. Out of the various people that I’ve talked to, the only ones to purchase anything at Gamestop were;

  1. a father buying the ever elusive NFC reader for his son’s 3DS
  2. two individuals who found the Nintendo Switch bundle available for a brief period of time and quickly ordered them from Gamestop.com. One of those two was also a father who bought the Switch for his son’s birthday ensuring that he would have the best birthday a boy could ask for.

On a recent episode of the Adventure Mode podcast, Handsome Phantom’s own Kevin Lukacs mentioned that he buys used games during sales to save money and stay up to date on as many games as he can while going to grad school.  Those being the exceptions, the majority of gamers buy from online sources or stores like Best Buy where they can save both time and money.

Though not the powerhouse they once were, Gamestop seems to own the used game market.  Until we find ourselves in a digitally exclusive age, this could be enough to keep them afloat.  Or will it?  Only time will tell.

Author: Phil Neyman

Philip is better at buying video games than he is at playing them. He was once told “it must suck to love something so much and be so terrible at it.” As a boy he would write terrible poems about himself and Ross Perot. He enjoys the best and worst of all forms of media, but nothing in the middle. Puyo Puyo Tetris has almost caused unreconcilable differences between him and his wife. He’s never had a hangover, but not from lack of trying.

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