Welcome to the FlipSide, where the good and the bad in video games collide. Every week, I will recap one positive news story, one negative news story, and then explain what I think about both. Let’s begin this week with the bad…
What the hell is happening at GameStop. Kotaku is reporting that a program called “Circle of Life” is driving employees to possibly lie to customers in hopes of hitting certain sales metrics. The metrics included in this program are pre-orders, reward card subscriptions, used game sales, and game trade-ins. Each store is given a certain quota to hit in each of these categories and if metrics aren’t hit, jobs could be lost. This had led to employees lying about inventory of new consoles and games to sell pre-owned games. To make matters worse, according to accounts from GameStop employees, corporate encourages this type of behavior. It appears that this program has been going on the past couple of months so if you have had any experiences like this at GameStop recently, this could be the reason why.
This is a very crummy business model GameStop has implemented. It’s been obvious in the past that this was the direction GameStop was heading though. As the push towards the digital age becomes more and more clear, stores like GameStop are struggling. To account for this, GameStop tries to sell something that has been traded in to them. When this happens, GameStop receives all the profits instead of having to share cuts with the publisher of the game amongst a bunch of other people. It seems like the oncoming digital age has pushed GameStop into a corner where they had to make this “Circle of Life” program to make their employees help the company. Even if that means lying to a customer looking for a new copy of a game. While, I wasn’t lied to, my last experience in the store buying WWE 2K17 was one I did not enjoy.
I did not pre-order WWE 2K17 because of my views of the pre-ordering business well before No Man’s Sky was released. It was a WWE game. How likely are they to be sold out of the game? When I asked the representative about getting a new copy he made it seemed as if it was flying off the shelf and he wouldn’t have one. It was almost like he was hoping he didn’t have it either. However, he did have a copy but then he went through the checklist that makes the purchase five minutes longer than it has to be. This comes after waiting in a line that seemed to go forever because he had to go through the same checklist with everyone else in front of me. He asked me about a rewards card. I said no thanks, but he went on to tell me the perks even though I’m pretty sure my face told him – please don’t bother telling me I’ve heard it before from this store. He asked if I was trading in anything towards the purchase. I obviously said no because I had nothing in my hand coming up to the counter. Then, of course, I was given the list of all the things I could pre-order including the season pass for WWE. I said no thanks once again as politely as I could. Each time I said no during the checklist, he seemed to become more aggravated. It wasn’t my worst shopping experience, but that visit has stuck with me in a way that makes me not want to go back to the store ever again. After reading this article though, everything in that transaction makes sense now. From hoping he didn’t have the game to going through the checklist, he was trying to get his metrics up. I feel bad now in a way cause I sunk all his metric categories. I’ve had friends work at GameStop before this program came to be and I know a lot of their hours were determined on metrics. Now, it seems those need for metrics have only become worse and I hate to see this kind of poison in the gaming community.
This isn’t going away anytime soon. More articles seem to be coming out talking about this trash and GameStop is becoming a dumpster fire I can’t look away from. I encourage anyone reading this to take the time to read the accounts I linked to above. There is a lot of interesting perspectives and it really puts light on the shallow company GameStop has become. As time goes on, more light will be shined on this and I really hope it puts GameStop into a position to have to change this program.
When writing FlipSide every week, I usually bounce ideas off of Joe and Marc for any ideas that I may have missed during the week. When this news came about Joe became absolutely furious to the point where I thought he may want to write this section. He ultimately decided not to but he did go on a rant saying, “Every industry is not without its gross and inexcusable behaviors. For games as an industry that is moving ever digital, one of the last remaining brick and mortar retailers in the U.S. to provide physical copies is surely doing everything it can to prevent people from wanting to buy there and worse- from wanting to work there.” I agree with 100% of what Joe said and couldn’t think of a better way to write it.
GameStop is going to have some fine PR work to do to come back from this. This company has already had a crap reputation and now it’s really in the gutter. When Kotaku, reached out to the company all they had to say was this: “All of GameStop’s internal programs are designed to provide our customers the best value in all their video game purchases, including new and pre-owned merchandise. With any program, opportunities arise for improvement and we will continue to refine it to equip our knowledgeable store associates to provide a great store experience.” This is just some long-winded PR way of saying a lot of nothing. The only thing worse than this statement is saying that they aren’t open to change or not saying anything at all. As much as I would love to see this company go under, there are too many jobs at stake that I don’t want to see people lose to wish that. I hope for everyone’s sake that GameStop changes this program and their business model in a way to not lose people jobs and not have this deceitful culture they have built.
However on the FlipSide this week…
Every year a popular fighting game tournament is held named the Evolution Championship Series (EVO). It is the largest and longest running fighting game tournament in the world and 2017’s tournament looks to be no different. The tournament is held in Las Vegas. While we know eight of the games that will be there already there is a unique fan vote that is going on currently for the ninth and final game to be played at the tournament. A donation drive is being held where the game that has the largest amount of donations behind it will be played at this year’s EVO. This is not the first time EVO has had a vote like this. The last time this happened was back in 2013 when Super Smash Bros. Melee won the donation drive. The game ended up raising $94,000 on it’s way to winning the drive.
The donation drive is well underway now and we aren’t off to the biggest donations yet but the early front-runners are Pokken Tournament and Ultimate Mavel vs. Capcom 3. Other games that are competing are Killer Instinct, Skullgirls, Windjammers, ARMS, Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Nidhogg, and Mortal Kombat XL. Voting will end on February 8th.
I love this idea. Any chance for the gaming community to raise money for charity is awesome. It’s one of the reasons why I love AGDQ. The money is being raised for Make-a-Wish International. I can see why some games that are on the voting list are controversial to the fighting community. An unreleased game like ARMS should not be on this list, but its the bigger picture of raising money for an awesome cause that makes me ignore that issue. Plus, if you don’t agree with the game being on the list, vote for something else. Deep down I would love to see Nidhogg win to see some cool action in that game, but from the current front-runners I would like to see Marvel vs. Capcom win. The tournament isn’t until July, but this little teaser already has me excited to watch come the time in the summer.
The GameStop program is some of the ugliest stuff I’ve seen come out of the gaming industry in a while. It ultimately explained my last visit to a GameStop, but there should be no reason why I had to have the experience I did and why that employee has to push so hard to meet those metrics. I’m not calling for a boycott of GameStop, but I sure won’t shop there as long as I know this kind of culture is still being supported by corporate and upper management. I’d much rather spend my money at another store or throw money at EVO in hopes I see Nidhogg played on stage. I will be back next week with more of the good and the bad in the world of video games.