When Kotaku editorial director Joel Johnson and east coast reporter Michael Fahey launch into an argument over which video game retailer offers the superior shopping experience, one withholds a terrible secret that renders the other's argument moot.
Joel: How in the hell can you say shopping at GameStop is better than shopping at Best Buy?
Fahey: Oh I'm not saying that. I'm saying that shopping at GameStop for a GAME is better than shopping at Best Buy. If I were looking for a dishwasher or a surround sound system, BB would be my first choice.
Joel: But…but GameStop is the worst buying experience. It usually takes longer to buy a game there than it does to buy one at Best Buy, despite the fact that I have to walk 100 extra paces in Best Buy. (Presuming we're not talking about, like, a mall GameStop.)
DID YOU PREORDER?
OH WE ONLY HAVE COPIES FOR PREORDER.
DO YOU WANT A COPY OF GAME INFORMANT?
WE HAVE IT USED BUT I CAN'T FIND IT.
Best Buy is one guy in a polo shirt who hands me the game from his crate of 1,000 copies and sends me on my way.
Fahey: Seriously, if all of the questions they ask you at the register still bother you after all this time you might as well start ordering all of your games from Amazon.com. Even at Best Buy you can't leave the register without the cashier trying to get you to purchase an extended warranty on the soft drink you purchased to quench the thirst you built up hiking a mile from the parking lot to the store.
And that whole 1,000 copies thing sounds lovely, but in my experience it's hardly ever the case. Sure, for big games like Halo or Call of Duty, but for an obscure role-playing games like Atelier Unpronounceable Name, Something of Mana? Either they get one copy in, or they don't order any at all. At least at GameStop half the time they know which game you're talking about.
Joel: Bullshit. They had two copies of Something of Mana.
Fahey: Obviously they hired an ex-GameStop employee.
Joel: But that's the thing: I do order most of my games from Amazon. But if I decide I want to pick up a game that came out today, going into a GameStop is almost always going to be an unpleasant experience. And it makes no sense, because walking into a cluttered store more-than-often manned by nice guys fettered to a terrible point-of-sale system and then being told not only can I not get the game I want, but that I'm an idiot for not pre-ordering it, does not really make me want to be a loyal, repeat customer.
And I mean, honestly, are there really that many obscure titles that GameStop has that Best Buy doesn't? Maybe in the back catalog, but not new.
Fahey: Man, tell me about it. I don't know how many times I've had my shopping experience ruined by a store's point-of-sale system. The way it beeps at them all smugly.
Look, people love to bring up the whole preorder launch day argument for GameStop whenever they rail against it, but I've only experienced that particular problem maybe two times in all the years I've been shopping there. It's launch day, they run out sometimes. There are five of them within 10 miles of my house, odds are one hasn't run out. Sure, another store might have plenty. K-Mart has it. Wal-Mart has it. If the situation does arise, I'll run down the street to another store, but it's not enough to turn me away from the chain completely. It's still much more convenient for me to hop into a GameStop than wade through Best Buy to get to its game section.
And you really should have preordered.
Joel: Why you little...
Fahey: *dives behind the counter*
Joel: Also, I wish to hell I knew this was happening before we started this conversation, but Crecente just forwarded me an announcement that Best Buy is changing its "Gamers Club" to work more-or-less like the Game Informer subscription/card at GameStop.
I've been set up!
Fahey: Oh, you saw that, did you. I happen to be writing a post about that.
In fact, this is that post about that.
Starting September 12, Best Buy is launching Gamers Club Unlocked, the paid extension of its Rewards Zone Gamers Club. For $15 a year (just like GameStop) members will earn an extra 10% off used games (just like GameStop), 10% more trade-in credit (just like GameStop), a 12-issue subscription to Best Buy's @gamer magazine (which is sort of like Game Informer), and special offers exclusive to paid members.
So, coupled with the recent push for a store-within-a-store format for its games business, it looks like Best Buy is slowly transforming itself into an electronics store with a built-in GameStop.