After my last visit to a Gamestop a few years ago, I had a think about how it managed to turn itself from a store I went to a couple times per month (in the past), into essentially Hot Topic for 5 year olds and parents that wish their kids would grow up like them. My personal, somewhat flawed opinion is it’s tied to their purging of retro games.
Gamestop’s business model is all about selling packaged goods. This makes sense, it’s a brick and mortar store. But as digital versions of games rose in popularity, and online merchants made buying packaged games from your house easy - easier than going out, even, Gamestop didn’t adapt well.
For a time, they tried to compete digitally, but then realized what they’re best at is selling physical goods - luckily for them, things like Amiibos came along and gave them a reprieve. But what they did to make room for that amiibo stock was chuck any game that was more than two hardware generations back.
As the popularity of amiibos waned, they found other merch to fill those slots. Funko pops, zelda shirts, novelty belt buckles. But the fact is you can very easily get all those things online too. So you wind up catering to two types of people - folks who don’t have good internet access, and folks who wandered by. I assumed because of this that the Gamestops in malls would be the ones keeping the rest afloat, but I’ve been told mall Gamestops actually underperform the others (likely because of the state of malls in america).
So why do I think this is tied to getting rid of older games? Well, the number one thing is the stock space issue, but on top of that, older games are the only things you can’t reliably get online. You’re more likely to come away with a bunch of stuff you’re looking for if you go into a brick and mortar store than if you do a lot of browsing. More likely to get a good deal, as well. And retro game stores are doing pretty well, though to be fair it is a niche market.
This guy might be an outlier, but I talked to one store in central Florida where the guy was making $5k profit per month. He had no employees and was the only retro game store for 30 miles, so there are a lot of specific factors in his favor, but still, he had a well stocked store that was doing quite well, where nearby Gamestops were floundering. But Gamestops form another critical and unfortunate part of that ecosystem.
Older game stores rely on Gamestop’s existence in a way that really sucks for Gamestop, and it’s their own fault. Basically, if someone comes in to a Gamestop with a bunch of N64 games, some Gamestops can’t buy those (some can, but it’s a crapshoot??). Or if they can, they can’t pay enough money, and wind up directing the customer to the nearest retro shop, which they’ll certainly know about. But what they CAN buy is all those copies of madden 2015 that the retro shop won’t take.
So the retro shop is sending people to Gamestop who come in with their old sports games, after buying everything good they might have (so I’ve been told by a local bay area shop). It’s handy for the retro shop because they can say oh, don’t worry, Gamestop can buy this, they’re around the corner. Meanwhile Gamestop is mostly buying the trash from that collection and sends the good stuff people will pay for to the retro shop.
So this is why I think part of Gamestop’s fall is tied to their lack of rero games. Through a combination of 1) culling older games to make space for merch, 2) relying on yet another physical product people can buy online for income, 3) turning away pricey older games in favor of “anything from the last 5 years” Gamestop has turned it into a place that nobody particularly needs to go to.
I’ve since been told that, since some Gamestops do buy retro stuff to sell online, and a few do sell in stores, my logic is a bit flawed - but I stand by the other points! It’s been interesting watching that particular business go down the tubes, while local game stores seem to be doing pretty well, at least in urban areas.