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Recently, a story broke on Kotaku about how GameStop was selling copies of Xenoblade Chronicles for $90. Many called this a scam, others climbed on to give the general GameStop hate, and some came to the conclusion that these used games were more likely reprinted.
If you do not own a copy of Xenoblade already, it is your own fault and nobody else’s. Plain and simple. You could have reserved one. You had most of last year to buy it. Copies were sitting in stores, on shelves, and in drawers, going nowhere.
Every time a story like this comes around, I read pages of comments from people who pile hatred on GameStop. While a lot of that anger stems from specific experiences in GameStop that paint an overall poor picture, I feel that there’s more to the problem.
Anybody who knows me or has read some of my past writing knows that I recently left GameStop after 10 years in retail. I spent almost eight years with Game Crazy, a chain of stores similar to GameStop, which is owned and many operated within Hollywood Video locations. When that business went belly up, I transitioned to GameStop, where I spent the last three years. During this time, I worked in six different stores across the suburbs of Chicago, central Illinois, and the outskirts of St. Louis. I ran stores both slow and busy and had as many different types of customers as one could in a decade. I’m sure I didn’t see it all.
Sometime around October 2005, people started reporting that they were finding copies of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for PlayStation 1 and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure at GameStop locations used. This was one of many, if not the first time, that GameStop had purchased copies of out-of-print games that were reprinted. As user drtomoe123 says on NeoGAF, these copies of Xenoblade Chronicles have different cases from the original release. The Wii logo inside the case has been replaced by a Nintendo logo.
This is a common practice. In early 2011, I remember copies of all three Fatal Frame titles started coming into my store. When I began to look over them, I noticed that the cases were different. When each of the titles first released, all PlayStation 2 cases included a slot to store a memory card. The new Fatal Frame cases were more in line with the recent PS2 cases, sans memory card slot.
There are a multitude of reasons why you should be upset with a retailer. I have my differences with the way things work at GameStop. Maybe I’ll talk about some of them later. But this is one thing GameStop does that is positive.
Xenoblade Chronicles very likely would not have come out in the United States had GameStop not sold it. Nintendo clearly had no interest in selling it although that later changed. The company didn’t think it would sell. But to a degree, this game was a success. After it came out last year, publisher Xseed Games decided to secure the rights to release The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower. Gamers won. Sure, they were late, but you were able to purchase and play them.
Leading up to the release of all three of these titles, consumers were able to preorder their copies. Months passed. In the case of Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, there were incentives. Xenoblade had an art book, and The Last Story came with a soundtrack in deluxe packaging that also included an art book.
For months, I talked to customers about these titles and to a lesser degree Pandora’s Tower though I left before it released. Many were excited to finally be able to play the game. Some didn’t know it existed until I began telling them about it. Others, who were already in my store talking about the game, refused to reserve it based on some type of broken logic.
If more people reserved the game, more copies would be available. GameStop, as well as all retailers, buy what they think they can sell. If you want it, reserve it. I know this sounds simple. I hear what you say about GameStop employees shoving reserves down your throat. But it’s their job. And while titles like Call of Duty or Madden NFL will always be in stock, this is not the case for most titles. It’s just how the games business works.
At launch, inventory is based solely on reserves, not the number of people who watched trailers on YouTube. Look at the way Nintendo’s own releases have become difficult to locate immediately following their launch. Supplies of Fire Emblem, Luigi’s Mansion, and most recently Pikmin 3 have run out during their first week of availability.
When Xenoblade came out (I believe it arrived to stores late), I called all of our reserve customers. At the time, GameStop used a robocall to do this, but I would occasionally handle the task for smaller titles. Once the initial customers purchased their copies, the game stopped selling. My store had copies of Xenoblade sit on the shelves for most of last year.
Then in late November, interest picked up again. We had a few left, and they were gone quickly. I was able to locate a few more copies in the area and send customers to other stores for copies. Then they were gone.
When GameStop began restocking copies, no matter where they came from, it was merely trying to meet a demand it saw in customers. Secondhand copies of Xenoblade are selling on eBay for $50 (for a mere disc) and over $100 for complete copies. GameStop’s $90 tag is actually reasonable given the current market. The vast majority of GameStop customers do not care where a game comes from. People are more interested in playing and enjoying them instead of complaining about everything. Games just need to be made available.
It is unlikely that GameStop sat on all of these copies until this week. Occasionally, new games that sit on shelves are then opened and sold as used. I bought Tales of Graces last year for $30 new when it converted to “used.” It’s possible that a handful of copies of Xenoblade were still sitting in stores somewhere. But given the thread on NeoGAF, I will assume that somebody, maybe even Nintendo, printed more.
Why isn’t anyone as upset that the Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii is $85 used? Does anyone remember when a copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on PS2 was $80 used? Just because GameStop can keep track of the value of these things doesn’t make them evil. If you can go to a store, look at the price, check the condition, and determine if a game is worth your money, then that is no scam or crime. Not in this case.
If you want to discuss this topic with me, feel free. I love telling stories about my time in stores. Heck, if you want tips or advice about buying or selling games, I’d love to share as much as I know.