Where we buy most of our games and consoles should rarely ever be a topic of conversation, let alone discussion. Yet, the competition between Best Buy, Amazon and GameStop has been receiving more and more media attention. A growing number of articles are following both the decline of physical media sales and what looks like the slow decline of GameStop which, at least in the United States, is the last video game centered chain of stores. As if that were not enough, I also have to endure the persistent day to day conversations with some of my gamer friends where they knock on GameStop as a whole and incessantly push for me to take my business to Best Buy with its Gamer’s Club or Amazon, which offers similar discounts.
For those of you who do not know, Best Buy Gamer’s Club is a two-year paid subscription service that gives its members competitive discounts (usually 20%) on most new games. It also runs promotions where members receive ten dollar off coupons on their next new game purchase when they buy a new game. What it adds up to is that club members that buy new games on a consistent basis will pay an average of $38 to $48 on standard $60 titles, as long as they keep their business within Best Buy. There is no tip-toeing around this one; it is a great deal. I doubt it will be as good five years from now. But, at the moment, it is hard to argue against it.
And this is something I find myself doing often. I am “that loyal guy” who, in general, continues to support GameStop even though there are cheaper alternatives pretty much everywhere else. The reasons are many but I have come to accept that almost all of them are irrational.
This will be the first in a series of articles attempting to convey what GameStop means to me and why. The intent is not to magically convert readers over or even garner interest in the store. But, pay my respects to a group of businesses that defined an era in my gaming life.
As a kid, I went to plenty of toy stores and always enjoyed looking at all the different toys and board games. But also, I loved looking at their video game sections: glass wall after glass wall of video game boxes.
Yet, it is impossible to describe my excitement when my parents finally decided to drive me to a video game store. The thought of a place that ONLY sold video games was more than my little brain could process. There is one feeling, one single sensation, that I recall clearly the moment I walked into that video game store for the first time: I am home. That feeling still lives with me. And, every time I walk into a GameStop, I relive that sense of belonging and comfort.
There is one feeling, one single sensation, that I recall clearly the moment I walked into that video game store for the first time: I am home.
That first store was not a GameStop, or any of its predecessors, but, soon enough, Electronics Boutique’s and Babbage’s started popping up around malls in my hometown. And thus my official relationship with the franchise began. From Babbage’s to Software Etc. From Electronics Boutique to EB Games (EBX too). Then, from multiple companies that competed for my money, to a single GameStop that had everything I enjoyed from all of them.
Back then, walking into a Sears or a Toys R’ Us as a teenager looking for a game would be met with blank stares and, only after the third employee, would you find someone that even remotely knew what you were talking about. In contrast, at video game stores, everyone understood you; no need to dumb down the language or bypass technical terms. Because, even if the person at the register was not entirely familiar with the specific game series you were into, another employee or even a random customer did. In a world where video games were that thing everyone played but never talked about, video game stores served as that judgment free zone where everyone was allowed to dork out. Within its walls, it was cool to be a gamer.
Within its walls, it was cool to be a gamer.
Even now, when video games have become more mainstream, going to a Best Buy or Toys R’ Us asking details about video games will generally still be reciprocated with very vague responses like “I am not sure” or “the expert in this area is not in today”. I have come to the conclusion that the “expert” is a lie. Now walk into your nearest GameStop and the response will be the total opposite. And this continues to mean a lot to me. To have a place that I can go to “talk shop” and listen in-person to other humans talk about their video game experiences. The staff may even have hands-on time with games that have not released yet, giving me the opportunity to ask questions and get details that no online article or video can provide.
Look, the reasons why there is still this difference between the “smaller” GameStop stores and larger retailers like Best Buy and Walmart are many and generally understandable; I do not begrudge them at all. There are plenty of items I go to Target first to buy. But, whenever I am looking for new games or making sure to get a pre-order on an upcoming console, I go home; I go to GameStop.
I go home; I go to GameStop.