Specialty retailer GameStop, for better or for worse, is committed to their business model. What was once a group of rogue elements comprised of Software Etc., Babbages and Electronics Boutique, GameStop Voltron’d all these retail chains together to make the corporation that is located in every major shopping mall across the united states. As much as the store touts their pre-order exclusives and their muscle when it comes to launch supply of both hardware and software, GameStop lines the pockets of their shareholders by dominating the used games market.
Its a fairly simple concept to grasp. At initial retail, a new game sells for about $60 with the majority of the sale being sent to the publisher and GameStop earning the few dollars profit that remains. But when that game is sold back to GameStop a mere two weeks later, they buy it off the hands of a gamer for a (generous) $20 in store credit, only to turn around and price the title at $55. Even older AAA hits like Bioshock Infinite, which has been out for nearly 5 months, commands a $19 trade in value at Amazon.com (which prices competitively) just to be sold at $50 used. With a profit margin well over 100%, it is easy for GameStop to keep sprouting new locations at strip malls and tourist traps.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with GameStop’s used game policies. This is in partly due to the fact that I rarely re-sell my games but mostly that the secondary market is a great place to find older gems or games that I was simply not willing to pay full retail price for. To me, gently used games are as good as a new game so long as I get all the intended content (which means I avoid games that have included activation codes) and I at least get a box to display on my shelf. There are a few exceptions in my collection, but these are reserved for games that are difficult to track down due to rarity.
Rarity on the used market is something that effects games value significantly on the private market, but rarely in a controlled environment like GameStop’s. Sega’s Yakuza 2 is considered to be a rare title and commands about $50 for a used copy on eBay. The price has been fairly consistent over the years but I purchased a copy at a local GameStop for under $20. I did not receive a manual or a box, but being able to have the game is good enough because I desperately wanted to play it. Today, a used copy of Yakuza 2 lists for $16.99 on GameStop’s website.
The reason I point out a rare game like Yakuza 2 is because GameStop claims that they price their used games competitively by analyzing private secondary markets. This can range from eBay sellers to used game retailers like Best Buy or even private sellers on Craigslist and Amazon. What has made GameStop attractive to me in the past is that typically, if they have a used game, they’ll sell it for a price lower than the original MSRP.
This all changed when GameStop suddenly restocked their used supply of Xenoblade Chronicles, widely considered one of the best RPGs for the Nintendo Wii. GameStop had already procured exclusive retailer rights to the title when it was made available in the US, resulting in the game never reaching official listings at rival retailers. Bottom line was that if you wanted a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles, you had to make a special trip to GameStop.
The problem with the relisting of Xenoblade Chroncles, after months of having practically zero stock on hand is that GameStop listed the game at $90, nearly twice the price of the game’s original MSRP of $50. Throw in GameStop’s initial exclusivity and gamers have been fairly offended at GameStop’s decision to price the game at such an extreme level.
Even though the game is competitively priced compared to Amazon and eBay private sellers, purchasers of this new stock of used copies have noticed a few quirks that suggest that this is a second printing of the game, taken through GameStop’s “gutting” procedure where they save copies of the game in the backroom to use the cases for display, re-stuffed and sold, practically never used (these copies are sometimes used as employee rental discs). Conspiracy theorists have even suggested that GameStop anticipated the game being high in demand on the secondary market, as many RPGs often are, and purposefully held on to a backup supply of the game to be sold at hiked up prices later.
Regardless of GameStop’s claims of adjusting to current market value, the fact of the matter remains that GameStop was in absolute control of the sale and distribution of Xenoblade Chronicles and through some intentional strategy, they managed to make the game a rare purchase. Which is fine. What is not fine is that they have either been sitting on a stash of used copies that they waited to release to the public or they had a backup supply of second printed games that chose to not sell immediately, all decisions which jacked up the game’s value. Even a source within GameStop confirmed to Kotaku that there was potentially a second printing of the title, delivered unwrapped so the retailer could carry out the ruse of selling the game as a used rare game. Reports continued to point out that the new wave of “used” copies had conditions that felt new and even included unused Club Nintendo codes.
While GameStop may be laughing at the opportunity to essentially quintuple their investment into a used copy of Xenoblade Chronicles, the practice does not sit will with a consumer base tired of dealing with GameStop’s shenanigans. Personally, I only deal with the retailer when I feel that they legitimately have the best deal available as I will often purchase through Best Buy (primarily for Reward Zone points) or wait for price drops and mega sales at Amazon, the Microsoft Store or my local small business games store (who gives me a loyalty discount).
Besides, irony would have it that I actually own a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles. Which I purchased from GameStop. On sale. Oh, and its still sealed. Maybe I can put it on eBay and quintuple my investment.