GameStop Hate; Unwarranted!

There has been a great deal of hate thrown at GameStop over the last couple of years. It seems that gamers/consumers all over the world have found fault with the company. It has gotten to the point where some have dedicated complete websites just to criticize this retail chain. I have never been one to just jump on a bandwagon of any kind, so I decided to look into the reasons behind all the hate. Before I comment on the silliness of all this GameStop hatred, I want to make a few things clear. The first is that United Front Gaming has no affiliation with GameStop (GS). Although I was once employed there and I love the Game Informer magazine, I don’t have an allegiance to the store. To me, it’s just a normal retail store. The way I feel about GS is the same way I feel about Best Buy, Target, Walmart, etc. So do not misconstrue my rant as blind favoritism for the company. I also want to point out that I am not “going against the grain” just for the sake of doing so. I find no joy in singling myself out. I merely want to bring balance to this lopsided argument. If at anytime while reading this editorial you feel as if I am doing anything other than that, feel free to reread this paragraph!

Issue Number 1: GameStop Rips Off Publishers

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. I have found that one of the main reasons why GS has its own angry mob (complete with torch burning apps on their smartphones) is because of the used game market. Gamers feel as though GS is ripping off publishers and developers by reselling their games at slightly reduced prices. First, let me address this by saying that this idea is completely backwards. GameStop has a legal right to resell games. They are protected by The First Sale Doctrine:

“The First Sale Doctrine… provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner”. – U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Resource Manual 1847

In layman’s terms, once you have legal ownership of it (i.e. you paid for it) the copyright of that purchased product moves to you. The original owner loses their rights to that particular copy of the product. Any money gained from reselling it goes to the current owner in spite of the interests of the original owner. So, when I buy my game from GS (who got it from the copyright owner) I am free to do with it as I please as long as it isn’t infringing on the original owners rights at the beginning of the sale (it wasn’t stolen, its not an illegal copy, or was altered/modified).

Now before some of the more instant haters try to dispute the above statements by citing software licensure laws or the “first sale regulations”, neither of these pertain to the resell of games by GS. When GS first receives a copy of a game, they obtain the rights to sell the ownership of that physical copy. They aren’t buying a license to use a product, and trying to illegally resell that. Nor are they initially underselling the games; they are selling the games at publisher determined prices. No laws are broken. Therefore, the publisher has no right to any money received from a second hand sell. If they have no legal right to that money there is no way GS is ripping them off.

This should be the end of the argument, but there is more. Some people feel if used games were not available then more new copies would be sold. Another faulty argument. There are many reasons why a game may not sell well. Used games aren’t one of those reasons. Poor marketing, however, is; I’m looking at you EA. Dead Space is an example of a game that had a large amount of people playing used copies rather than new ones. Remember Mirror’s Edge? Truth be told, those games were not marketed well at all. Even EA’s own John Schappert, chief operating officer, also stated that poor marketing hurt their titles. A few pages in a gaming magazine just doesn’t cut it nowadays. Solid marketing is what drives the popularity and profit of big sellers like the Halo’s, Mario’s, COD’s, etc. Now you might argue that these games had big companies pushing them. To that comment I would say, then what about EA? It’s one of the largest publishers of video games in the world. Everyone and their mothers know about the EA Madden NFL titles. They should be able to market all of their titles as well as they do Madden. It’s a shame good games like Dead Space had to suffer because of this issue.

I don’t want to get too far off subject here, but I just wanted to point out one of the many reasons why new games may not sell well. Blaming GameStop for the decline in sales of new games is really a stretch of the imagination. Not only that, you’ll have to lump in every other store that sales used items (including eBay and Amazon). Throw in the fact that every used title was once a new one, and you have less and less of an argument. Most new game sales are made within the first week of release. If your game has used copies available before the first week is out, then that’s your fault (publishers/developers) not GS’s.

Though I believe I have thoroughly defended GS’s right to sell used games, this new complaint is too idiotic not to mention. While online I ran into a group of people who felt as though they should be getting more money for their used games.  So, these people would rather go to places like Best Buy instead of GS, since they may receive more money for their game trade-ins. However, they also feel that GS’s profits from used games should be shared with publishers/developers. So they refuse to support GS retail chain, and take their business elsewhere. What I don’t get is…well, I don’t get any of it really. You can’t have it both ways. You want to trade in your games and get a good deal but you refuse to do it at GS because they are supposedly ripping off publishers/developers? Does it really make sense to then go to other used game retailers instead? They don’t share used profits either. No one does. If we pretend that GS is hurting publishers/developers with their used sales, then the same thing would apply to other stores that sell used titles. I get it. It only hurts the industry if you can’t get a good deal on used games right?

Issue Number 2: Confusing Used for New

Now, while I agree that GS’s used prices should be changed, it doesn’t make them evil if they don’t pay consumers well for their trade-ins. They are running a business. Going to a different store to get a better deal is one thing. Equating GS to a giant corporate pimp (or any of the other derogatory references found online) is just uncalled for. So are the random lawsuits concerning used games from GS. It seems that some people are confused about what the word “used” means when buying a game. This is probably because they ignore the signs presented to them. You know the ones; the sticker that says “used”, the placement of said item in a separate section of the store marked “used”, or the fact that it is has a distinguishable yellow used label as opposed to the new white one. Nope, none of these things told them what they were buying has already been opened and played. They just looked at the box and saw that it says that there is unlockable DLC included with purchase or some other free good. Ok fine. You missed the obvious. I guess they also missed the fact that consumers can bring back a used game within seven days if you are unsatisfied, or for no real reason all. I mean, you can beat a game, bring it back because you didn’t like it and ask for another. GS makes it their policy to explain that to each customer buying a used game. Even if the sales rep forgets to tell someone, it’s on the receipt that is issued with the purchase. If the customer missed all of these signs as well as the seven day limit (how long does it take to figure out you’re missing content?), then I have no sympathy for them. The ball was in their hands and they fumbled. What makes matters worse is that people have tried to take GS to court over this…. really? When are we going to learn to take responsibility for our actions and stop blaming others? Come on. Most of the time the “missing” content in question isn’t even critical; it’s a new color scheme for a gun or an extra map or two. Big deal!

Issue Number 3: Opening New Games

The second big reason why people stay up late blogging about their hate for GS has to do with GS’s policy on opening the cases of new games. GS doesn’t have glass cases to put their games behind, so they take a couple new games, remove their contents, and then place those boxes on the shelves. That way, if someone tries to steal a game, they’ll only get the box. Now, I understand how people can feel that they aren’t buying a new title because it has already been opened. But what I don’t understand is where all the hate over this issue is coming from. GS reps will normally pull an unopened game from behind the register, sell it to you, and then put the empty box back on the shelf for display. It only becomes a problem if it is the last copy, in which case you could just get the game from somewhere else. Again, nothing a reasonable person should hate them for.

Issue Number 4: Bad Experiences

The last reason I found was due to some bad experiences at GS. This group has a little more clout then the others…a little. Many people are upset about stores lending out new copies of games. Some stores allow their reps to check out new versions of games and bring them back to sell as new. When gamers get the game home, they see scratch marks and fingerprints on the disk; they paid the new price for a game that is technically used. This isn’t a company wide policy as GS strictly forbids it. However, there are some individual stores that break the rules. You have to lump that in with the “bad experience at a certain store” mind set and keep it moving. We’ve all had issues with retail chains. I can recall years ago, my parents buying a PC from Walmart (they weren’t up on proper computer shopping habits at the time). When we got it home and took it out of the box, the casing of the tower was cracked. My dad still wanted to try it out. Of course it didn’t work, so we took it back. Before we could leave the store with our new computer, I saw one of the store reps putting the computer we just returned back on the floor to sell. I was in disbelief so I walked over and noticed that they didn’t even put it in a new box. It was the same price that we paid for as well. This meant that we probably had bought a used computer without knowing it (same goes for the one we had just purchased). As long as the box looked new and there was no physical damage to the computer, it could take a while to realize it wasn’t a new product. As shady as that was, I didn’t go out my way to hate all Walmarts. It was a bad experience at one store. That’s all.

At the end of the day, much of the complaining is not warranted. GS is just like other retail chains, they just make more money then the others when it comes to gaming. There are some bad reps that have made GS look bad as a whole. At the same time, they are no different from all of the other retail outlets that gamers “claim” are great. They are far from perfect though; this recent issue with the PC versions of Deus Ex wasn’t smart on GS’s part, at all. Other than that, it’s a case by case basis. Make your decision to shop or not to shop there and move on. Seriously!

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