Realms of retail

Like most discerning gamers, I have a number of very good reasons not to do business with GameStop if I can help it. Aside from their corrupt policies, I’ve recently found they also have a better chance than not to smell like stale food, cigarettes, and mold. It’s as though, after years of diligence, they’ve finally acquired the quintessence of the seedy, dingy pawn shop.

But they must have the Devil’s own luck (which would follow), because circumstances keep drawing me into their squalid grasp — now twice in one week. The first time was for Retro Game Challenge; as a niche title from a small publisher, anyone could predict it might be in short supply, so I pre-ordered it. But Dragon Quest V? A game bearing a popular brand, from Square Enix? Having seen several copies of Dragon Quest IV still lined up on the shelves at Best Buy, I expected the next installment would be just as simple to find.

I was incredulous, then, when it was a no-show on Tuesday. I gave the title to one of Best Buy’s attentive blueshirts, who disappeared into the back of the store. I waited for several minutes, idly eyeing the World of Warcraft expansions and internally shaking my head at the eighty-dollar Rock Band 2 drum sets. Just as I was about to go back and make sure he hadn’t been crushed by some large object, he emerged to tell me that, oh, the release date for Dragon Quest V is the nineteenth.

“Sure it is, fella.” And I resigned myself to what I was going to have to do.

At GameStop, I didn’t ask whether they had the game, knowing the likelihood that the answer would be, “Did you pre-order it?” So I sidestepped the lecture with a question I might ask if I were going to pre-order: I asked the release date. A guy with an accent that seemed to waver between “English” and “surfer” tapped at his keyboard, mumbled some numbers to himself, and, again, excused himself to the back. But he emerged promptly, bearing a large cardboard box; the release date was today, he told me, and they’d only need to crack this shipment open to put the game in my hands.

So maybe I’m not so unlucky, myself, if I can go right into the belly of the beast and return with games rather than sulfurous woe. (I recall there wasn’t even an odor that time!) My only regret is that I couldn’t take the rest of that box’s contents with me — so many fresh, pristine, shrinkwrapped cases, soon but to be opened and gutted and covered in stickers. It is to weep.

[[image:nn_090217_sorrow_01.jpg:Also, DQIV killed itself after DQV slept with Torneko’s Great Adventure.:center:0]]

29 thoughts on “Realms of retail

  1. Where in the gay hell do you live, where all your GameStops smell like that? o_O All the stores I’ve ever been to in both NC and OH don’t smell bad. Well, except for the one that smelled like farts, but that really wasn’t their fault (supposedly).

    BTW, I’m gay, I’m allowed to say gay hell. :p

  2. Unless yours either only got one or two beyond preorders or really does promptly rip everything open then throw it on shelves, I think only one copy would be gutted while the rest are kept in a drawer. I’ve been told they wait several months until after a game’s out, but I guess it varies from location to location since I managed to score Steambot Chronicles shrinkwrapped over a year since it came out.

  3. Would it really have bothered you to wait a day to pick up the game at Best Buy or some other retail store?

    I don’t like the fact that Gamestop has run so many local video game stores into the ground, but, as a specialty store, they keep around titles that are far gone from other store shelves. I tend to shop at a local store for older (NES, SNES, Dreamcast, etc.) games and buy newer ones at Gamestop. I think it’s important to support both Gamestop as an institution as well as the local shops.

  4. Awesome that you had a positive experience yet still decided to talk a lot of yang on the internet. I hope you knocked over some magazine racks on your way out: that’ll show those min. wage earning jerks!!

  5. This could just be me, but I don’t have any issues with the Gamestop closest to my house. They’ve never pushed preorders or other non-necessities on me (the most I’ve heard is a standard “Is that all for today?”), and when I do decide to preorder from them (either for a preorder bonus, to guarantee limited collector’s edition, or just simply out of convenience), they always fill my preorder and give me any bonus items. Furthermore, all my games have been brand-new in shrinkwrap – except for one GBA game, the last copy of Astro Boy, but everything was still in great condition. Furthermore, the few times I’ve bought used games from them, they allowed me to compare discs and pick the ones in the best condition, and I have this one cleaning product that removes the mild sticker residue from the game case once I get home, leaving my cases with only minor shelf wear.

    Here at college was no different. I rarely go to Gamestop, but I went to grab Gears of War 2 on launch night, and the manager and staff were all very friendly and helped me out by advising me to “preorder” right when I walked in, since they were almost out of copies (according to the number of people they counted in the store) and I definitely shouldn’t have waited.

    I know that a lot of Gamestops have horrible practices, and I’ve run into some of them while traveling, but regardless of the implications for smaller businesses, I’ve always been treated right by the local franchises.

  6. I gave up on EB (here, GameStop kept the EB name because it had more brand cachet than “GameStop”) a few years ago, and investigated the hi-fi warehouse above. To my delight, I found games I’d assumed I’d never see on the shelves, for ten dollars less than EB sold them for. I pretty much abandoned EB on the spot. The only time I’ve gone there in the last couple of years is to take advantage of their deal to trade in an old DS for a new one of a different colour. I knew I’d break down and buy the red/black one eventually, so I figured I’d do it for a bargain price.

  7. I end up frequenting my GameStop because it’s less than a mile away and, as a Barnes & Noble employee, I get the employee discount there. Even then I have to grit my teeth though. I don’t remember the last time I got a game in shrink wrap there, including the new copies of Retro Game Challenge & Korg DS-10 I picked up last week. More often than not, when I ask them about a forthcoming or just released game, I get a response closer to the one Nicola got from the Best Buy employee. Still, 15% off keeps me coming back.

  8. and internally shaking my head at the eighty-dollar Rock Band 2 drum sets
    Shaking your head because you’re a no-fun grouch thinking “How could anyone spend that much on drums?”, or shaking your head because you’re a real manly rock star and thinking “How could you possibly rock out on drums that only cost $80?”

  9. I had the same story, only replace DQ5 with Street Fighter 4.

    I’ve known that Best Buy is prone to releasing more obscure games a week after everyone else (they did it with P3:FES and Bangai-O Spirits), but a Thursday? It is as if they’re just making up dates now.

  10. Also, remember Monday was a federal holiday. Shipping may have been affected for things this week. Best Buys in my area generally have new games on Wednesdays (and came through for me on a SF4 special edition), so having a release bumped to a Thursday in a holiday week doesn’t seem outrageous.

    But also also remember, Best Buy often deserves your scorn, and it is only in comparison with the more-scorn-worthy Gamestop that I’d ever give them the benefit of a doubt.

  11. It seems like every time I go to Best Buy hoping to get a new release, I’m told they dont get their new games in until Thursday. I don’t know if it’s a Best Buy thing or what.

    But, yeah, I pretty much rely on Amazon these days. And holy crap, my DQV arrives from there today!

  12. Amazon is pretty sweet once you convince yourself that you can wait a bit longer to get your games. Of course, I’m not at all perfect about that – I had to rush out and get SF4 – but everything else can come to my mailbox. Though since I can’t drive, having to walk to the post office is now a small tradition for me.

  13. *sigh* I die a little on the inside every time I read a GS bashing post or comments. There’s so much hate out there for them, yet they’re one of the only companies thriving right now. As a former GS employee, one of the driving factors in opening my own store was because of this seemingly universal hate. Unfortunately it does not translate into sales because people prefer the stability of a Gamestop over a mom & pop. There’s a GS in every town, most of them look the same, and you know they’ll always have the newest releases. The only way we sell new releases is if we have them nearly a week early, which doesn’t happen often. Even our practice of not gutting (opening) new releases for the first month or so doesn’t help us.

  14. Hence “discerning gamers,” sadly. Most people are just fine playing by GS’s rules, or complacent enough not to look elsewhere. But I’d definitely support a Mom-and-Pop if one existed nearby.

  15. Weird… buying DQV had me revisiting my Gamestop hate this week too. I live in SF and don’t own a car, which means that if I want to buy something at the spur of the moment, I’m subject to the whims of boutiques like Gamestop; or, if I want an “obscure” title. The whole only ordering enough to fulfill pre-orders so we can resell a bunch of games used for absurd profits that don’t benefit the publisher thing will hopefully go out the window as a business model once digital distribution becomes more widespread. Amazingly, they’re pulling this stunt with SFIV, which actually is available elsewhere.

    It’s cool that places like 7-11 are selling games, which gives urban dwellers another option, at least, though they’re of course not nearly as well-stocked (though they often beat the street date).

    One more word of warning with Gamestop — on several occasions, when I’ve pre-ordered a game and paid in full, the employee has tried to charge me twice for the game. Obviously this isn’t an official policy, but what I thought would be convenient (one transaction) turned into a headache.

  16. My GameStop is unequivocally fantastic on a consistent basis. I understand this is the exception and not the rule!

  17. I had a similar issue with DQ IV. I went to seven (yes, really seven) stores on release day. None of them had it. I gave up and went to game stop, which in my mall is alway ridiculously crowded with people who have no intentions of actually buying anything. It’s quite like an apple store, now that I think about it. Anyway, after the rude clerk asked me if I pre-ordered it, I snapped back with “Do you want the nice answer, or the real answer,” he politely finished checking me out and I went on my way.

    For DQ V, I just went straight to game stop. It was quite a bit nicer this time around. No idea why. Maybe it was the unnerving scowl on my face, likely due to being told my job will be moved to India in a few months. It’s like the guy knew not to mess with me.

    But… I’ve never thought of asking about pre-ordering on release day. That’s a fantastic idea, and I’ll prolly be doing that from now on. So thank you, Nicola. You are officially my hero!

  18. When I went to buy SF4 there on Tuesday that was the first time I had brought anything from Gamestop in about 2 years and that was only because they were the only place I could get the collector’s editon version at. Even so quite a few of my friends got screwed on picking up there copies of the game and the MadCatz TE stick at Gamestop, because GS accepted more preorders than the alloted amount they were going to recieve at the store. So my friends all got the automated calls saying there stuff was in and then when they got there they were told to wait till the end of March for the next shipment. This and the same reason that newfish stated are why I strictly rent and buy games from Gamefly now.

  19. I don’t know who this “Otacon” is or what “MGS2” stands for, so…I guess I’m a bad fan of something, or other? I’m confused. This makes about as much sense as one of my Japanese animes.

  20. Gamestop really falls apart when you realize how much of a sham their pre-order practices are. The vast majority of games they sell shouldn’t need to be pre-ordered, but they’ll often barely order enough copies to fulfill their pre-orders, so if you show up without you’re shit out of luck.

    And is it weird I have this desire to play Dragon Quest V, even though I have little to no interest in old-school grindfest/dungeon crawler RPGs? Talking Time is obviously rubbing off on me.

  21. You could have a lot of fun putting your own stickers on new games going on the shelf. Perhaps “Should Have Been Delayed!” for Gears of War 2, “Time Vampire” for Persona 4, or “Don’t bother playing this with your 360 controller!” for SF4.

  22. I work at Best Buy and let me tell you: a) it’s really frustrating, and b) we have absolutely no control over it. Street Fighter IV’s street date was the 17th. Looking at Best Buy’s website, since I really wanted to purchase it on the 17th, I saw it was listed for the 18th. I checked the back, as we are all wont to do, and it was not in. When I got there the next day, on Wednesday, we got a drop shipment with the collector’s edition and the regular edition. It is this way for almost every game we get. Add a day to every street date, every time. It is this way at other stores, too, but Gamestop seems to get them for the exactly advertised street date, as with Street Fighter IV for instance. Just wanted to throw in my two cents; say what you will about Best Buy, but in this case, they are blameless.

  23. Just wanted to point out that Penny Arcade has a comic on this very subject today. Must be something in the stars.

  24. I have never experience a terrible smelling Gamestop, other than that smell of corruption. I have about ten of them within ten miles of my house. I want to play DQV on the DS, even though I just beat the Super Nintendo translated version over the summer, but I need to buy a new DS first…

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