Saturday, August 17, 2013

GameStop Taking Advantage Of Customers With Xenoblade Chronicles?

Xenoblade Chronicles is widely considered one of the best (if not THE best) console J-RPG of the last console generation (Personally, it ranks in my top 10 RPG's of all time). The game oozes quality and the sheer volume of content rivals just about any other console game ever created. This epic RPG almost didn't see a US release but fan outcry convinced Nintendo to bring it stateside through a partnership with GameStop. The resulting partnership saw the game released exclusively through Nintendo's online storefront and GameStop (Stores and Online). This partnership was also unique in that GameStop split the production costs with the Big N ultimately creating a low print run of the game. This meant that after the initial batch was sold, prices immediately shot through the roof due to demand.

This brings us to a disturbing situation with GameStop. Under normal circumstances, a rare game such as this either becomes a collector's item and is priced accordingly or the publisher sees this increased demand and decides to order a second print run which was the case with games such as Radiant Historia (Atlus) and The Last Story (XSEED). The second print run will normally stabilize the price from whatever outrageous spikes it has seen. In the case of Xenoblade Chronicles, Nintendo was reluctant to even bring the game over to the US in the first place so a second print run was out of the question and GameStop could not make more without Nintendo. Prices has since risen with loose used copies going for $90 minimum and complete/new copies often ranging from $150-$200. 

Currently, GameStop has the game selling used on their website for a whopping $90 (one of the most expensive used games they carry) which would normally end the story. This is not the case though as GameStop has suddenly (and mysteriously) had a large restocking of the game and what's worse, the games seem to be in complete and new condition (minus the factory seal). Gamer's have taken notice of this are crying fowl accusing GameStop of taking advantage of a game they had a hand in bringing to the US. While some think that GameStop has somehow gotten a second print run, the situation likely has more to do with the company taking advantage of their involvement with the games distribution, allow me to explain. 
  • GameStop knew that outside of Nintendo, they were the only ones able to sell the game so they likely ordered as many copies for the company as possible through their deal. 
  • They advertised their exclusive retail availability of the game resulting in record pre-order numbers for the title which is especially noteworthy for the waning Wii system.
  • They sold through all of their pre-orders as well as some additional on shelf copies for their retail chain and ultimately "sold out" of new copies around the same time as Nintendo's online store. 
  • This caused the game to immediately spike in value shortly after due to a limited print run and universal acclaim.
Now it's time for the dirty part and while it is impossible to 100% prove due to shady business practices, I have personally witnessed similar questionably legal activities while working for the company. GameStop likely withheld new copies in their warehouses with the intention to stock them as pre-owned during a notoriously bad down time for video game sales (taking advantage of the collector's market for the game). Anyone who has worked in video game sales knows that the summer months are awful for sales as there are very few new titles and most people are waiting for the fall rush which kicks off in September. This is why game stores have summer sales to try and keep sales up during the down time. GameStop could neither sell the game new for a jacked up price or sell factory sealed games for used prices so they simply have their staff open the new product and ship it out as used. This has been backed up by recent purchases of the game which are in complete, brand new condition (even including unused club Nintendo codes which has been confirmed by Treon's Realm).

While this shady practice may seem isolated, it is similar to situations I have seen firsthand (while working for the company) where GameStop will take new product and sell it as used after the cost to the company has been mitigated. I personally had a GameStop employee admit to doing this last week when purchasing "used" copies of Wario Land Shake It! and Battalion Wars 2 (when I asked to checked the discs, she informed me that they had just been converted from new to used and sure enough, they were brand new games minus shrink wrap!). YouTube channel ReviewTechUSA has put together a hilarious "commercial" which illustrates how GameStop takes advantage of their customers as well as the industry. Enjoy!

NOTE: GameStop has responded claiming that they will be bringing back pricey "vintage" titles in the coming months. Metroid Prime Trilogy has already started popping up on store shelves and online for $85 used. Once again, the "used" copies of this game are in brand new condition complete with unused Club Nintendo cards. Provided these games sell, you can expect this to become a normal practice for the company as their traditional retail sales continue to fall in the face of a rising digital market.