Game Stores

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. Motives

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.