Updated: Oct 9, 2019
You gotta fight. For your right. To sell games and consoles and Funko Pops and stuff.
GameStop isn't exactly in the best shape right now - a little beaten, battered and down some fat, fat cash has been the headline for them for a little while now. Last November they saw a loss of almost a half a billion dollars and stocks have since dropped by over 25%. Everyone in the industry has been sitting on the sidelines, unfortunately anticipating the day that the announcement was made that they were filing for bankruptcy and/or shutting down immediately. We all assumed it was just the next storefront to cease to exist since the rise of digital media and streaming services much like that of Blockbuster and many record stores.
And let's be honest - we're all to blame. I actually started to feel something about this company last year and moved most of my pre-orders over to GameStop just to show my support, however, with all of this bad news arising and it seemingly getting worse by the day, I feared that if I had 10-12 pre-orders there and then they decided to up and close their doors that I would have to deal with calling a corporate number to get my refunds or else my pre-orders would be moved to their website and they would end up being shipped to me. Which is problematic since the whole reason I don't have new games shipped to me is because I want them as soon as I can get my grubby paws on them and waiting until 3 PM for my mail carrier to arrive just doesn't cut it.
So I moved my pre-orders to Best Buy - why? Well, partially because I'm still grandfathered into their Gamers Club Unlocked program that gets me 20% off all new games releases until next month so I'm snatching up as many pre-orders as I can before that service is gone forever. But the other reason is simply because of how easy it is. On Best Buy's website I can pre-order a game as soon as it's announced, choose the store I want to pick it up from and I don't get charged until the game is released.
That's some dream-scenatio shit for me. I don't want to have to drive to GameStop every time I want to pre-order a game because it’s a first-world hassle considering how far away I live from one. I want to do it online, choose where I'm picking it up and not have to lay down some $5 deposit or something. The advantage of being able to pay it off a little at a time is enticing, sure, but the inability to do that online is unfortunate.
Why not have some sort of portal/deposit where you can toss in $10 here, $20 there toward all of your pre-orders, to be picked up at the store closest to you on release day? I think the reason for that relies on the "numbers" and expectations given to each employee as to how many reservations and power-up cards they can sell in a day that determines whether or not they keep their job and that store stays in business which, if you ask me, is just a shit business model.
I ran into the same situation working at FYE - where conning people into signing up for magazine subscriptions and telling them about a Backstage Pass that they'd hopefully forget to cancel after their trial were the only ways we maintained our hours and employment as opposed to being a knowledgable, likeable customer service representative.
I'm one of the few people I know that still likes to own physical media - partly because I buy a lot of games and sometimes you don’t like them, beat them or get bored of them and want to either trade them in, sell them on eBay or let a friend borrow them and with only buying digital, you don't have that opportunity. So GameStop's survival is something I really hope happens and I hope they can get to a point where I feel confident enough in their longevity and they can offer a solid online pre-order system that makes me go back to pre-ordering my games there permanently.
Anyways - and I promise I was going somewhere with this - this all leads to a press release that was composed by Joey Mooring of GameStop's Corporate Communications department which discusses their game plan going forward in their attempt to stay alive. They are partnering with global innovation design firm, R/GA to "strengthen its focus on creating unique in-store experiences as part of its strategic move in re-affirming its place in the video gaming culture."
The bulk of the press release reads as such:
"Together, GameStop and R/GA are developing and piloting new and streamlined physical store concepts, introducing new ways for gamers to try new titles before they buy them, and giving stores a unique layout and purpose that appeal to gamers. From store concepts that offer competitive sessions in home-grown e-Leagues to locations that sell strictly retro gaming software and hardware, GameStop will pilot the new store concepts in a select market to present something new to players both old and new, and searching for experiences in gaming beyond the console."
Essentially it seems like GameStop is distancing themselves from simply being a retail front and instead, existing as a both a game shop and a host for events and competitions that have been ruled by independent game shops and other larger corporations in the last few years. With the rise of e-leagues it all makes sense - rather than distancing yourselves from that community, embrace them and become part of it - or in this case, own it.
And on the retro side of things - awesome. Not everyone has a vintage setup in their basement with a CRT TV and some old consoles to experience gaming as you remember it when you were young and to have a specific place to do that, purchase N64 and Sega Genesis titles while meeting other folks that share the same nostalgia as you do - it becomes more of a social experience as opposed to just a storefront. And while these things don't sound like they actually generate revenue, the idea is that they want to make these places so inviting and fun that you go there simply because you want to. It's no longer an inconvenience because pre-ordering your game or picking up that old cartridge is now secondary to the experience instead of your only reason for being there.
So good luck, GameStop - it'll be interesting to see where you guys are at in a few years time. And I know some of you may be thinking "in a few years, they'll be under" but I don't think that's necessarily true seeing it as were approaching a new generation of consoles. In 2020 we will see the launch of the PS5, the next Xbox and, shit, possibly even a Switch Pro. And while you can purchase games digitally and play them in a matter of minutes, a console isn't something that just drops out of a cloud - that you must purchase from a physical store and if GameStop plays their cards right and shows their incentive to stay alive, I'll happily pre-order mine from them exclusively.