The People vs. GameStop

Thumbs down for GameStop
Have a seat, children. Let me tell you a story. 

It may be hard to imagine now, but back when I was a young ’un, every single video game was a plastic rectangle you had to buy from a physical store shelf somewhere. There was no eShop, no Steam, no XBox Live, no Google Play. There were these things called a “BBS,” but that was some arcane magic and far beyond my understanding at the time.

To play any video game, you had to buy a physical copy at a physical store. It’s weird to think about now, but that was our only option. Downloading didn’t exist as it does for you kids today.

90s kids at a game shop
Game shops. They just don’t make ’em like this no more. [spits into the dirt]

Yessir, things were simpler back then. If you wanted a certain video game your local store didn’t have, you had to “call around” on a telephone with a cord (what you kids call a “landline”) to find a store that carried your game. Of course, I never did that. I just took what I got, as I suppose most young sprouts probably did back in them times. 

Back then we had lots of choices, too. Every mall had competing software stores and an arcade (and an Orange Julius). Toys R Us was the pinnacle of gaming greatness and Circuit City, Best Buy, CompUSA and Ultimate Electronics all dewy-eyed and fresher ‘n dust on a tumbleweed. [Adjusts straw hat] 

My oh my, how things have changed!

Game and console publishers are using this newfangled high-speed “internet” to keep your money for themselves with their console-specific online stores. Middleman software stores like Electronics Boutique (RIP) are cut out of the equation completely. There was no way they could have stayed in business. Except…

GameStop Survives. 

Toys R Us closing
Toys “R” Us. Another victim of online sales.

You see, GameStop ain’t like them other stores. It’s different. Instead of making money by selling publishers’ games for them (they do that too, though), they make their real money by buying and reselling from consumers. That is to say, they stock their shelves buy buying from gamers just like you, junior. [Ruffles your hair.]

So instead of gouging publishers to generate profit like poor ol’ Circuit City had to do, GameStop gouges their own customers. And like any sensible person receiving a nasty gouge, those customers have become downright resentful!

Does GameStop rip of their customers?

So does GameStop rip off their customers? Well… yeah! But they kind of have to.

A trunk full of games to sell at GameStop
Classic GameStop meme action

GameStop was smart when they became a buyer and a seller of games. So, while you could buy new games there, why would you want to? Instead, you could buy a lightly-used copy of the exact same game for a few bucks cheaper? And when you were done playing it, you’d bring it right back and trade up for something else.

That customer buy/trade cycle is the only reason GameStop kept itself alive while all their competition drained off like hogfat at a yankee barbecue. And it benefitted gamers, too. They saved money. GameStop saved money. It made perfect sense. And yet…

During the Great Transition, game publishers made it more and more expensive for GameStop (and other stores) to stock their games, while making it cheaper for themselves to sell online, directly to gamers. To compensate, GameStop had to rely more and more heavily on their customers to score cheap used games to stock their shelves. Instead of publishers gouging GameStop, GameStop gouges their customers.

In fact, it seems to me like the biggest gripe against GameStop is the price they pay for used games.

Kermit GameStop meme
Kermit’s such a diva

Somewhere along the supply chain, somebody HAS to get ripped off.

What many young ‘uns don’t seem to realize (and why would they?) is, that rage-inducing rip-off pricing has to happen to somebody (pay you $2.50 for a game we’ll sell for $20). Because running a business is expensive as hell! GameStop was in a position to transfer the price-gouging from themselves, down to their customers. So that’s what they had to do.

That price disparity is the same thing that drove publishers to start selling online in the first place, through their own first-party e-shops where they can keep 100% of the profit. The exact moment online distribution became commercially viable, publishers wasted no time throwing electronics stores right under the “Steam” train.

But now the same thing is happening to consumers. With the advent of eBay, private sellers like us face the same problems as game stores. You can sell your games online at a higher price than what GameStop would pay, but after eBay’s listing fee, value fee, and shipping, you might as well have just gone and sold your games at GameStop. The prices end up being close to the same.

But at least at GameStop, the selling is so much easier. No packing, no shipping, no trip to the post office and standing in line behind all them old folks. [Adjusts straw hat. Awkwardly.] It’s just a clean transaction, up the street, and you can spend your money right away.

The line outside the post office probably
The line outside the post office probably

So which would you choose? EBay or GameStop? 

GameStop takes a lot of flack for their buy prices. But gamers don’t have any real choice when they want to unload their old games. It’s just a matter of whether you want to get ripped off by eBay, GameStop, or (worst of all, if y’ask me) Half Price Books. Gamers are literally damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. (And I mean, literally damned. They’re all going to hell.)

@BlackbirdFrost gets it.

Gamers are frustrated. It makes you mad to know that you’re gonna get ripped off, no matter who you choose to do it. But regardless of how you sell your games, GameStop is the only remaining pre-owned game superchain that still exists. So guess who has to absorb all that game-selling frustration

GameStop gets blamed for the problems of an entire industry. 

To let the memes tell it, GameStop is a criminal organization that should be shut down! But the internet loves to be angry, and they don’t usually care who or what they are angry at. So I asked the Ghetto Gamer community on Twitter and they were happy to share their opinions.

Something fishy about that guy…

That bottom tweet from @JtbrigGaming is a common sentiment. Lots of former GameStop employees seem to have a completely different opinion than the general public.

I did think @Anxsighetyy had an interesting take. Some folks have a bad customer experience, and naturally they whine the loudest. It’s impossible for any company to avoid some specific things that piss off their customers.

Kuni’s not wrong. But does he have to be so Canadian aboat it?

The whole community seems to agree GameStop needs to do something, and that corporate GameStop has issues. As a corporate worker myself, I can tell you it is indeed difficult to turn around a boat that big. It takes a lot of layers of “higher-ups” to work in tandem toward a goal they agree on.

That’s worth talking about. If GameStop “fixed” everything today, and was completely different tomorrow, the same gamers that complain about them would complain even more. The whiplash would alienate their customers and they’d be doomed for sure.

Good ol’ Showtime @Schovalder sums it up. If GameStop is still using hard-sales tactics with their employees, they should probably stop. I disagree about the tchotchkes, though. Those are a cheap source of revenue for GameStop and I like them. So does my 4 year old. More, more!

Agreed, Steve @TumsST. If they used to use hard-sell tactics, I think they may have already stopped. Possibly because of this article. (heh heh.) Every time I visit a store, the staff is ready to bend over backwards for me, even if I’m not buying anything.

I should mention here that I did have a recent problem with my PowerUp Rewards account getting hacked. And it did take a week and repeated attempts through multiple channels to get my points back. But I eventually got them. Seriously though, it wasn’t pretty. And if that incident was the norm for GameStop, I’d feel the same way the memes do. The customer service at GameStop stores is pretty much always good in my experience.


You just cain’t please everyone.

You still awake? Here’s my point…

If you like having a store that sells video games and video game swag, you ought to show GameStop a little respect. They rely on their customers to supply games to keep their stores running. If you don’t like the price GameStop offers for buying your games, don’t sell your games there! Seems real simple to me, junior.

GameStops prices are fair, or cheaper than fair if you buy pre-owned. Even cheaper if they’re having one of their frequent sales. And cheaper still if you have a Pro membership or better.

GameStop’s a lot like me, squirt. You might hate ‘em now. But you’re going to miss ‘em when they’re gone.

Now run along and play. [Pulls GameBoy out from under straw hat and fires up OG Link’s Awakening.]

Special thanks to all the Twitter fam that shared their opinions. Thanks to GameStop for being a good sport, and for not going out of business. So far.

– GG

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