GameStop Supports OnLive In Its Own Unique Way

By Adam Ma on August 28, 2011, 4:29PM EDT

Up until a few years back most of the gaming community had forgotten the PC as a console alternative. A combination of expensive customer parts, unrealistic graphical requirements, and a lack of variety on the PC itself would round out the typical excuses that most come up with regarding the slow 'death' of the PC. Never have I asked those questions, instead summing up my opinion with a 'why bother?' I can trade in games, bring them to a friends house, or not have to worry about installing anything. It was easier to buy a console game and get more out of it back in the day, and for that I could simply go to GameStop. No alternative was really worth searching out or investing time in since the prices were almost always the same for a product that I was mostly going to buy out of convenience anyway. No alternative that is, until recently.

The whole OnLive/Deus Ex issue really draws into light a pretty amazing problem for GameStop: people are looking elsewhere for their games. It's no secret that the company makes most of their cash off of an amazing trade-in scam that makes it easy for GameStop to recycle used games for above-average while still drawing sales from gamers obtaining undervalued store credit to put toward partial purchases of new titles. But times are changing, and most of the industry is pushing very hard to support cloud gaming on one level or another. More gamers are not only seeing digital distribution titles as being an alternative to physical copies but are also being rewarded in many instances for choosing to download their copies.

Why wait in a line at 12:00 when you can start a download at 10:00 and be ready to play the second the  clock strikes midnight? Or if that's not incentive enough, why pay full price when it's possible to get a few extra bucks off a brand new title? Older titles often get sales on Steam where prices are slashed anywhere from 25 to 90 percent with the occasional bulk purchase alternatives for those who're really looking to stock up; which by itself provides enough incentive to pass on waiting for a used copy to drop in price. The competition in online sales has become exceptionally fierce, and coupled with the fact that most online retailers have also managed to turn purchasing an item into participating in an active and engaging online community. Even pretending that digital distribution retailers alone aren't a problem for GameStop (and they are), online retailers that are willing to ship and deliver open up an entirely new world of issues for the brick and mortar store.

There are of course a few ways to deal with any kind of subtle threat to your franchise, one option being to stand your ground and offer competitive rates that would possibly get gamers looking at your company in a positive light. Another would be to not offer any real sales, discounts, and to maintain a business ethic that includes removing pre-packaged bonus goods from existing retail items covertly. Looking at every other option that GameStop had when it came to dealing with the competing OnLive coupon (all PC copies were pulled from shelves), it's difficult to see exactly how they planned on benefitting from removing the offer. First and foremost it brought light directly onto OnLive's services the second that the press caught wind of their actions, which was what the point of removing the coupon was in the first place. More importantly the moment you take away something that customers feel they are rightfully entitled to (regardless of the reason), it immediately makes them feel cheated. In an age where there are literally dozens of alternatives for consumers to purchase their goods both locally and online, GameStop's strategy is as puzzling as it is stupid.

So thanks GameStop, for helping draw some light into the rapidly growing business of online game sales, particularly on a competitor that is brand new to the scene. Ultimately the only ones you managed to hurt by your coupon-pulling stunt were the consumers who supported you with day-one purchases, which wouldn't be any problem if you had something to offer them in return, but the days where gamers are drawn in by alternative in-game clothing, posters, and bonus CD's is slowly coming to an end.

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