By: Patrick "TheLaw" Morris
We have all been in a situation in which either by choice or out of necessity we've needed GameStop for something or another. But in recent years those GameStop trips that have happened out of necessity have been happening more and more infrequently. Physical media is dying and with everything becoming nearly immediately accessible even physical video games can be delivered to your front door in many cases as quickly as the very next day. Over the years GameStop has undergone some major revisions in an effort to compete in an increasingly crowded space; but a few changes in the market have left a nostalgic niche that if committed to could become GameStop's salvation.
Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. As GameStop locations keep closing and the future of the company looks more dire every day I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a way that I think they could right the ship before sinking it altogether. So lets talk about GameStop.
Now before we get into this I want to make it very clear that I have never worked for GameStop. I don’t have any insider information about their financials. And what I will be discussing in this video is based off anecdotal stories from other youtubers and friends who have worked for the company. While I don’t have any financial reports I do have degree in economics with an emphasis in industrial organization so this isn't baseless speculation…its educated speculation.
GameStop has a laundry list of problems, way to many problems to address in one video. So for this video I'll be focusing on a handful of their biggest problems and how those things can be overcome.
At the top of that list is image. GameStop has a major image problem. People don’t like GameStop and it feels like every time they get the opportunity to prove to their customers that they are a corporation that can and should be supported it seems as though GameStop actively tries to make the situation worse. Shopping at GameStop has become widely recognized as a ripoff that should really only be resorted to in the most desperate of circumstances. The company is constantly fucking over their customers and has nothing in place to create an sense of customer loyalty. Their sales policies are maliciously vague and predatory and in some cases even hypocritical.
One of the last times I shopped at GameStop was when I went to buy a copy of Prey 2017. The clerk told me they had one new copy left but she wasn’t able to find it. After asking a supervisor she was informed that the last new copy they had was the shelf model. The clerk then went to the shelf and pulled down the box then took the disc out of the drawer and put it in the case. I asked why this was considered a new copy of the game and was told that it had never been played. When I pointed out that while it may have not been played it had been opened and if the roles were reversed and I was trying to sell them an opened game that had never been played it would be considered used. The clerk told me that this was a matter of company policy and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. I wasn’t mad at her at all and am under no impression that this was somehow her policy, she was just an employee put in a bad situation by the company she worked for. A company that apparently didn’t care about openly holding their customers to a different standard than themselves.
And the second most prevalent issue currently facing GameStop from my perspective is radical mismanagement. The corporate management has created terrible working conditions for their in store employees. There are stories all over the internet of employees not getting paid for overtime, being offered what are frankly disrespectful raises after working for the company for years, and even being terminated for not adhering to policies when the equipment provided like time clocks and security systems prevents them from adhering to those policies. GameStop has spread themselves to thin opening way, way to many stores. I can think of multiple places where there are at least three GameStop stores all within reasonable walking distance from one another. Stores so close to eachother that if one store doesn’t have what I want I have literally just walked to another GameStop and bought it there. And finally GameStop management hasn’t been able to focus on what they want to sell. GameStop has become more of a store front for Think Geek type garbage than it is a store that sells video games.
But a few things have changed in recent years that have created what I see as opportunity for the company. Game collecting has always been a thing but in the past couple years as we hurdle toward the inevitable all digital future game collecting has become a much more popular and financially viable hobby. People collect all sorts of different games for many different reasons, retro game collecting offers a unique collection and the potential for better resale value. And modern games and consoles offer both current players and collectors the opportunity to keep their collections current. But that's where GameStop should draw the line, provide a place for customers to collect retro and modern games and consoles but all the merchandising and cheap crap needs to be completely done away with.
In the nineties Blockbuster was a force to be reckoned with. In the aughts Blockbuster was still a giant but having to compete with new players and new technologies in the market. In the early teens Blockbuster was circling the drain. And now in the early 20's the total number of Blockbuster locations has been reduced from their all time high of over 9000 to just one. Many factors contributed to the downfall of the once household name the chief amongst them being streaming and renting. Simply put: renting physical media is stupid. And the introduction and improvement of streaming technologies made that convenience factor to much to overcome. But one thing Blockbuster did right all the way up until the end was the experience. The experience of browsing all the movies both new and old and discussing what to watch with your friends, family, and in many cases other people in the store is one that streaming services were never able to replicate.
A lot needs to change for GameStop to be a viable business again. Change wont happen overnight and trust cant be immediately regained but if GameStop corporate can commit to a focused vision for their future then over time they can carve out a place for themselves and become a mainstay in the video game industry once again.
First and foremost GameStop needs to be exactly that, a place to stop for games. They need to focus on selling video games, and video game consoles of all eras. When I went to Blockbuster on Friday nights as a kid my friends and I would look at everything there was available, we would discuss the kinds of games we liked and what we didn’t like, then we would choose a game we all wanted to play and scrape together five dollars to rent it. When I need to buy an older game for my collection today it usually involves taking a risk on spending what is sometimes not an insignificant amount of money online without being able to check it myself for the quality that is so important in collecting. GameStop can offer a solution to both of these things. By focusing on games and offering games of every era in every store they could build a reputation as a place that can reliably offer high quality retro games that can be seen and held before purchasing. By focusing on games the company can have shelves and shelves full of games and not think geek bullshit to recreate that browsing experience for future generations to have. By focusing on games GameStop can change what they do to be relevant again.
And their policies need to be updated as well. GameStop needs to offer more pro consumer policies that will build customer loyalty. It's become a meme that GameStop offers some of the worst trade in values of any industry in some cases offering as little as $17 for a game that has just come out and is currently selling new for $60 then putting that used copy back on the shelf for $55. GameStop needs customers to keep coming back to sell their games and preventing those customers from feeling taken advantage of as they leave the store after having sold some games will lead to those customers coming back more often. Customer loyalty is a point I keep harping on in this video and that’s only because of how insanely important it is. Customer rewards programs are commonplace in almost every industry, some of those programs charge a premium and GameStop's powerup rewards is one of those. But for what it offers the powerup rewards program is a complete joke. GameStop needs to completely cut their powerup rewards program and replace it with a free loyalty program in which customers earn rewards points towards discounts. GameStop is in a place in which they need to give their customers something for nothing and a rewards program is an excellent way to do that.
And while building that customer loyalty GameStop needs to work to repair their image and moral compass and that starts with how they treat their employees. The company is notorious for pressuring their representatives to push their programs and used games. GameStop, look at me right now, give me your full attention because you need to hear this: STOP DOING THAT! Stop pressuring your employees to sell your customers the wrong product because that’s what's more profitable right now. Coach your employees to offer those things or even pitch them but stop making your employees feel as though they are being held at gunpoint to sign x amount of people up for powerup rewards every shift! Think about they kinds of people that work in the stores, by and large they're almost all just people who love video games and want to work around video games. GameStop's employees are their greatest asset as those people are the ones that mold that customer experience. Those people need to be paid more, a happy worker is a busy worker and paying people more makes people happier.
And finally close all your small stores and open fewer medium blockbuster sized stores. But that’s insanely expensive so make that a long term goal.
Jesus christ I feel like this turned into a massive rant that was way longer than I meant it to be. I don’t really know how to end this video besides saying thank you for coming to my ted talk.
Do you think GameStop can turn it around? Let me know in the comments down below. And while youre down there make sure to hit that subscribe button for a new video every week. You can see everything we do including both of our podcasts all in one spot over at ColdNorthPro.com, I'll be back next week talking about something else entirely so until then just go play some games!