Uncovered Convention

Sean Sands | 24 Sep 2007 21:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

Despite frustrating publishers, who see little or no return on the heavily emphasized used games segment of the retail business, they still have to find ways to get new versions of their games into stores. Making it worth store manager's while to get that Juiced 2 or Tony Hawk reservation becomes as necessary an expense as magazine advertising.

In the years I attended the convention, it was actually necessary to have a UPS shipping location on the convention floor to send back the boxes of swag, prizes, games and gifts companies liberally doled out to the managers. The publishers handed out hundreds of dollars worth of complete games and products, along with the promise of much larger prize packages for stores who stood out for meeting sales and game reserve goals.

The trickle down effect is potent. By creating store-level incentives, which managers have the choice of sharing with staff or not, publishers can actually market through the point-of-sale, as in-store management creates an environment where the focus in on moving particular products at the unstated expense of customer service. The bottom line usually comes down to making sure big-ticket products get pushed on customers.

Now, this isn't exactly a revelation of strategic business practice, and that the in-store management of specialty retail chains isn't exactly looking out for the gaming community shouldn't surprise anyone. But our collective cynicism at the decline of gaming retail service over the past decade is part of the reason their business model is leaving us even further out in the cold. Even real-world recruiting practices of Gamestop often frown on hiring so called "gamers," for fear that our own prejudices will interfere with what is a straightforward sales position.

Unfortunately, we as gamers continue to have little recourse. The retail chains, beginning with the elimination of return policies, have simply realized that they make far more money ignoring us than they do meeting us halfway. In addition, by opening up to significant partners willing to shell out big bucks for incentives, key shelf space, featured endcaps and signage, the companies can supplement revenue by selling more than just games and hint guides, but by selling the very phrases the employees use in answering the phones. And, in breaking down the barrier between in-store staff and direct contact with publishers at what often feels very much like an all-expense paid vacation, a sense of camaraderie not with customers but suppliers is established. Loyalty, if not to the almighty dollar, then to the guys from PR with whom you shared a beer and a game of Rock Band.

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