[State Of The Game] Are The Gaming Retail Wars Returning?
Many gamers will remember the legendary rivalry between the two gaming retail giants: GameStop and EB Games. The sight of two massive corporations fighting to the death over your dollar is one of the single greatest things in the world for a consumer. This is why with the death of EB Games in October of 2005 when GameStop had simply swallowed its greatest enemy whole, gamers became worried.
With no true competition as far as a retailer that does exclusively games, (not including websites, those are arguably much easier to manage,) trade-in values plummeted, GameStop‘s cockiness became unbearable, and sales became infinitely less awesome as competition grew to be nearly non-existent.
But now, a challenger approaches.
As of April 2011, Best Buy, that one electronics retailer that single-handedly put Circuit City out of business and will stop nothing short of world domination, had announced that they would be stepping up as an entire company to secure the spot for the number one retail outlet for gaming related needs, vowing to pull ahead of the only two retailers currently doing better: Walmart and GameStop.
The destruction of Walmart is simple. The only reason they’re only a top competitor in the gaming market is because you can buy an Xbox at the same place as you buy all your groceries. That, and Walmart is freaking everywhere.
To put it into perspective, Walmart is approaching 9,000 stores worldwide. Best Buy has just over 1,200. For every Best Buy, there are about seven Walmarts. Once Best Buy manages to push past pure numbers, Walmart‘s gaming section is toast.
But that still leaves GameStop.
There’s a huge advantage that GameStop has right now, and it’s that GameStop is rooted into the minds of nearly every American gamer as the place to go to get everything you need gaming. Granted, the trade-in values for your games aren’t very good, (GameStop‘s max trade-in value before any special promotions is only $20,) a location might be hard to find and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who works at these shops and doesn’t either loathe their own job or doesn’t get the point at all because they aren’t a gamer, and aren’t really qualified to work their in the first place.
I’ve been to dozens of GameStops across the country and thus far I’ve only found one filled with employees who could actually tell me when some obscure game was coming out, let alone hold a conversation about anything other than World of Warcraft. That was in South Elgin, IL, and it closed down almost three years ago.
That’s Best Buy‘s biggest obstacle. They need to get it rooted into the minds of gamers, casual and hardcore alike, that Best Buy is the new place to go for gaming.
The casual crowd is simple. Have some decent sales that beat out the competition. While weekly ads can be completely hit-or-miss, Best Buy is off to a great start with promotions like the Buy 5, Get $100 deal, a promotion that has a customer pick five games out of a list of about 16, all big games like Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim, and the customer will get $100 in gift certificates after they pick up the final game, which basically works out to $20 back per game. Keep having great deals and casual gamers will keep coming back.
Hardcore gamers are trickier. Hardcore gamers, when not yelling at each other anonymously over the internet, are an incredibly loyal bunch. Behind each and every hardcore gamer is the slightest thought of competition. We’ve all had that experience when finally faced with someone who might actually be able to hold a conversation about games, and we secretly test that person trying to slip them up. If Best Buy can break through that initial barrier, customer bases will flip around instantly, especially considering Best Buy doesn’t partake in any shady business practices….that we know of at least.
Where Best Buy is falling, is with the hardcore crowd. Call any five stores in your area and I guarantee you they don’t have a copy of Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3, Disgaea 4, or Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked. Granted, these are about as niche as you can get when it comes to video games, but that’s the true test if Best Buy can cater to the crowd that will spend thousands of dollars on their gaming supply.
Not only that, but look at the loyalty program of each respective retailer:
- Points earned for every purchase
GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards Pro Benefits
- All benefits of free version
- 10% off pre-owned games and accessories
- 10% extra credit on trade-ins
- Entries into special contests and giveaways
- One year of Game Informer Magazine
- Two points per dollar spent on games and accessories (accumulate 250 points for a $5 gift certificate)
Best Buy Reward Zone: Gamer’s Club Unlocked
- All the benefits of free version
- 10% off pre-owned games
- 10% extra credit on trade-ins
- “Exclusive” Gamer’s Club Unlocked offers and promotions
- One year of @Gamer magazine
Seems pretty damn similar, doesn’t it? That’s probably because the PowerUp Rewards and Gamer’s Club programs are nearly identical.
Even better, Gamer’s Club used to have an infinitely better option. Members got 500 bonus points, the equivalent of $10, for every $150 they spent in gaming. In order to accumulate enough points now, members need to get 500 points the hard way, which is spending $250, $100 more than it used to be.
Best Buy, I’ll give you some free advice here:
If you want to crush GameStop into dust, (which I seriously hope happens as I’ve never been a fan of GameStop,) you need to do better than the competition, not copy them. No one ever won a war by using the exact same tactics that their enemy did, they beat them by being better. Staff your gaming departments with people who eat, sleep and breathe gaming. Hold regular events and tournaments to get in good with the hardcore crowd and become THE place to go to for gaming.
Put all your years of corporate training aside and think like a gamer. Put sales to the side and focus on attracting an entire community. We know everything we need to know about anything that we want. If we come in to pick up a copy of Dead Island, chances are there’s absolutely nothing you can say to get us to walk out the doors with anything more than that. The human mind works in such a way so it won’t be convinced of anything unless it is looking to be convinced, and THAT is when you can share everything you know about the six different kinds of Xbox controllers you have on the shelf.
We’re gamers. You don’t need to say a word to sell us on anything. You need to capture our trust, our loyalty and our attention to buy our gaming supplies somewhere else. Once you have that, millions of dollars of gamer’s money will come to you, and only you.
Let the retail wars begin.
State of the Game is an opinionated column written by We Got This Covered writer, Mike Niemietz, about the art, politics and technology of the video game industry. The views expressed in State of the Game are not necessarily those of We Got This Covered or anyone on it’s staff. To contact the writer, or request a topic for a future edition of State of the Game, leave a comment here, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, message Mike Niemietz on Facebook, or follow Mike on Twitter @State0fTheGame.