December 16, 2004

Game Stores

by psu

I went to buy Half-life 2 this afternoon. Up the hill from where I work, there is a huge EB Games. What I forgot is that every time I go in that store I have a crappy experience. So I ended up getting the game at a smaller local chain store across the street called The Exchange. Since this is Indie game week, here are some thoughts on why EB Games blows.


Every big chain game store I've been in just feels to me to be motivated primarily by profit. They could be selling you chips and widgets to do anything as long as they made enough money at it. Very rarely can you get good prices on first or second run games, or even used stuff. The local EB has Disgaea selling used for $10 more than I can currently purchase it at Fry's, and $25 more than the same used title at the Exchange.

The Exchange wants to make a profit so they can stay open, but it doesn't feel like they are relentlessly attempting to squeeze every possible cent out of the existing market. They offer a reasonable selection of merchandise at reasonable prices with no bullshit.


I hate the staff at the EB. I hate talking to them. I hate listening to them talk to other customers. I hate their attitude. Admittedly, I have experienced more tolerable staff at other stores, but comparatively speaking, the staff at the Exchange seem to be normal kids who like records and stuff and like working in the store. The people at the Exchange also don't look upon their customers with disdain.

At the EB today, I listened to the clerk there lie to a customer in the following way:

Customer: How reliable are these console machines?
Clerk: They have a three month warranty. They are designed to break. We offer extended warranties so you can get get the machine fixed when it breaks.

This is just a bald-faced lie to try and upsell the guy on the fake extended service plan with which EB wants you to flush your money down their toilet.


EB and their friends over at Gamestop have this cool scam. Whenever something new and cool is coming out, they convince you to give them your hard earned cash early on the premise that the manufacturer of the new and cool item will completely blow their sales projection on the item and immediately cause a huge shortage of supply and that they are the single outlet in the entire distribution chain that will actually have product available on launch day. This is called "pre-ordering". I suppose it must make them a lot of money and get those crowds of freaks outside the store at midnight. But it does nothing for you and me.

Here are my two presell stories.

A big game this year was Halo 2. Halo 2 generated something like 2 million preorders. People were nuts to get the game, lining up for hours at midnight. How did I get the game? I walked into a Target at 9am on launch day and picked a copy of the "limited edition" Halo 2 off a pile of 200 copies of Halo 2 that they had set out on a table. I could have just as easily walked into the Exchange and grabbed one, but they were not open yet.

Another big item this year was the Nintendo DS. In my trip to the EB today, the same clerk told the following lie to the same customer right after the lie about extended warranties:

Customer: Why can't I buy one of these?
Clerk: No one can buy those. We're only selling to people on the list. No one can get them.
Customer: What about this one?
Clerk: That's just a demo. If you look around, none of our stores will have any of these. You and the rest of the planet just have to wait.

Meanwhile, last weekend, I saw Nintendo DS systems coming off the shelf at the local Target like hot cakes.

A related note: those new small PS2s have been hard to get this year too... does EB have a special supply? I think not. They are sold out just like everyone else.

The point is, EB Games is just one of a billion distribution outlets in the modern gaming world, and presell is just a sham to get you to part with your cash early while getting nothing back in return.


Finally, here is what really confuses me. This EB store is huge, yet they don't really stock that many games. They seem to just stock 50 billion copies of the big games, and hardly anything else. They really don't have that much more than the small store across the street or the games part of a Target or Best Buy store. I went in today looking for a couple of not so obscure PS2 titles (for the new thin PS2 I scarfed at Target this weekend while EB was sold out) to go along with my Half-Life 2. They didn't have either one. EB basically doesn't stock anything that won't make a sufficient margin. Nothing off-beat. Nothing old. Very few bargains.

So I went over to the Exchange, and found HL2 and one out of two Playstation games mixed in with the old PC games, stuff for the Sega Dreamcast and N64 and even the SNES.

EB Games is over for me.

Posted by psu at December 16, 2004 08:20 PM | Bookmark This

A few weeks ago I went into the EB Games in Squirrel Hill. As my fiancee bought a GameCube, I asked the salesperson why he decided to work in a game store -- as far as I could tell, he was doing it simply 'cause they hired him. Upon further probing, I learned that "you know, they never really asked me if I knew anything about games during my interview."

I asked if the store let employees ever play games on company time, or take games home overnight to try them out and learn about them. "I never thought of asking. I think that would get me fired."

I was seriously impressed.

Posted by Chris Colohan at December 21, 2004 04:08 PM

Not surprised. I worked for Borders in the 90s and in that era before widescale expansion, their stock was widely varied and up until 1998, included software products. They allow employees to check out books, but talking about them is discouraged and no one cares if employees READ or have any kind of interest or background. There are no more specialists.

Basically EB and Borders and B&N all just want to pay the lowest amount period and only feature big sales items... Independents find no exposure here and employees are viewed as mindless drones to be controlled. We're all asked to use subterfuge to upsell or sign up customers for email lists.

I miss some of the people.. as it was like the other college for me, but I don't miss the corporate encroachment and backdor fascist communism practiced in todays stores. I don't miss retail... only the girls I met who worked there ;)

Posted by Jonquito at June 2, 2005 11:43 PM

whem does eb games open

Posted by anon at October 1, 2005 08:53 AM

You people should consider yourself lucky E.B. games now only offers 14 day warranty on new goods yet a 30 day warranty on secondhand games.

Here is one guy who will never shop there again.

But I have to remember that it is not the store employees who make this policy but E.B. Games manglerment

Posted by ballscrew Bob at October 31, 2005 04:48 PM

Maybe it's just me, but I've never had much problem with EBgames. Granted, I've only gone there once or twice, but their selection seemed to be pretty good and the staff was ok.

Last time I was over there, one of the employees came in with some obscure rpg I'd never heard of and was talking excitedly in low tones to the guy behind the counter about how he managed to find it. Presumably, there would be riots in the store, or something to that effect if the general public knew he'd managed to get a copy.
So, yeah, the employees at the Discover Mills EBgames seem to actually be at least somewhat in to gaming.

Posted by James at December 13, 2005 01:42 PM

When do you guys open? I've been calling for hours!

Posted by Grant at March 19, 2006 10:29 AM

I was talking to an employee at whichever one of The Two Stores it was, and he was explaining that with the merger, they were pretty much planning to stop stocking anything except A-list titles without pre-orders.

That pretty much ends me going to a game store. I actually go to a store for serendipity; but if I can't acquire it anymore, I'll just do everything online.

Posted by Mike Collins at March 19, 2006 11:42 AM

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