Hey you. Yeah, you. The one who has “I love StarCraft II so much that I’d do anything to get a beta key” written all over your features. We’ve got a proposition for you. Now, we’re not gonna lie: it’s not glamorous. For instance, if you’ve taken to rampant prostitution in order to scrounge up enough dough to afford a beta key off eBay, you probably oughta just keep doing that. But if you’re truly willing to sink to the absolute depths of depravity, you could always grab your keys and head over to GameStop. You poor soul.
Just stroll into the store, hope your body doesn’t spontaneously burst into flames or – worse – get accosted by an employee who wants you to trade your entire videogame collection for a used toothpick, and then reserve StarCraft II. With that harrowing experience out of the way, you’ll have yourself a beta key. But at what cost?
In what it claims is the “most thorough study [of its variety] to date,” videogame retailer GameStop has found that digital downloads – like those found on Steam, Impulse, Xbox Live Arcade and other such services – won’t be making any real waves until 2014. Er, what?
And even once the strange, mysterious stardate of 2014 brings widespread acceptance of things like “The Internet,” apparently only 25 percent of customers will “have access to the technology required to download full games.” Also, the study found that, as of now, gamers are only willing to spend $39 per downloadable game, "so publishers will be less incentivized than some in the industry think."
So then, if this really was “the most thorough” study ever, we can assume it included PC gamers. Thus, we can conclude that we’re well within our rights asking the following question: “Are you kidding us, GameStop?” Look at Steam’s lineup, why don’t you? All those major game publishers are there for a reason. Hell, even consoles are beefing up their download services to include full, formerly retail-only games. And don’t even get us started on the iPhone’s app store.
All this? It’s happening right now. Five years is a long time, GameStop, and it already looks like you’re in your rocker, telling young whippersnapper download services to get off your lawn. Now just for fun, let's conduct a little study of our own: readers, how many games have you digitally purchased in the last month?
Yesterday, we reported that, along with losing Activision Blizzard, the PC Gaming Alliance accepted a shifty-eyed new figure into its ranks: Sony DADC. Fortunately, however, the SecuROM parent company doesn’t plan on working any shady deals behind the curtain, according to PCGA president Randy Stude. In fact, like Arnold in Terminator 2, Sony DADC is switching sides to help PC gamers topple a much bigger baddy -- in this case, piracy.
Speaking with BigDownload, Stude explained that Sony DADC decided to join the PCGA in order to assist the organization’s piracy-perforating subcommittee. According to Stude, keeping its alleged enemy roughly as close as its friends will provide the PCGA with ideas for its PC game piracy report, which is coming sometime before the year’s out.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the revolving door, Stude confirmed that PC manufacturer Acer left the building along with Activision Blizzard, for essentially the same monetarily minded reasons. Apparently, when it comes down to saving a few bucks or performing a philanthropic act – contrary to what Fable II and BioShock had us believing – the yellow brick road is the path of least resistance.
But hey, at least GameStop… exists. It recently joined the PCGA as a penny-pinching “Contributor,” which means that the notoriously PC-unfriendly game store is a member, but for less cash. Better than nothing, we guess.
Expect more PCGA-related announcements before this June’s E3 gaming expo.
Both Gamestop and Amazon are making a bid for your used games with tantalizing promotions. For Gamestop's part, the used-game reseller has been running a tiered trade-in offer. Trade in at least 2 games and get 10 percent extra credit. That number doubles to 20 percent if trading in at least 4 games, and doubles once more to 40 percent if trading in at least 6 games. Naturally, the trade-ins must be in full working order and the offer is good towards games only.
Amazon, on the other hand, has begun a tiered offer of its own. Send the company two used titles and receive an additional $10 off select new releases, or send the company four games to receive $20 off. These credits are in addition to the Amazon.com Gift Card sellers receive when trading in used games. See here for a list of eligible new releases, which include titles like Halo Wars Limited, Resident Evil 5, MLB 09, Street Fighter IV, and a whole bunch more.
Amazon launched its trade-in store earlier this month with 1,500 eligible titles. The company foots the shipping bill when you send in your used games, then issues Amazon credit in the form of a Gift Card, which can be used anywhere on Amazon.com. A quick glance of eligible titles reveals slightly better trade-in pricing than Gamestop in many cases.
Well, kinda. GameStop has reopened its palace doors to Dawn of War II and – by virtue of its inclusion with the game -- would-be assassin Steam, but THQ’s Saints Row II and 2K’s NBA 2K9 remain conspicuously absent.
Upon its removal from GameStop’s pre-order list, Dawn of War II was thought to be the opening volley in a scuff between storefronts – retail vs. online, to be specific. GameStop employees, however, insisted that the retail giant merely exhausted its pre-order supply for a short period of time.
Certainly, GameStop’s passive refusal to slow its waterfalls of boiling oil for Saints Row II and NBA 2K9 seems a little odd, but re-stocking Dawn of War II – PC gaming’s first heavy-hitter of 2009 – pretty much puts the kibosh on any sort of cold war between GameStop and Steam.
Have the first shots in the long-brewing Digital Distribution vs. Retail Wars been fired? About two weeks ago, GameStop.com abruptly stopped taking pre-orders for THQ’s upcoming Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, and scrubbed any mention of the game from its site. While no one has been able to get an official reason out of either GameStop or THQ, the speculation is that the conspicuous disappearance is connected to the use of Valve’s Steam service as copy protection—GameStop is probably peeved that in order to install DoW2, gamers will have to install Steam and be presented with an option for fabulous deals on PC games that doesn’t require hauling their asses down to the mall and digging through all the Barbie Horse Adventure games on GameStop’s depressing PC corner shelf.
Further investigation, though, may indicate that this is no coincidence.
It looks like GameStop is actively building their laundry list of problems, having just added piracy to the mix. According to Joe Haygood, they’ve been leaving plenty of game instruction books inside the open boxes on shelves, leaving CD Keys up for grabs.
According to Mr. Haygood, “I went back to the shelf and found three other games where the CD codes were smack dab in the package. Games like Left 4 Dead, Mercenaries 2 and Spider Man Web of Shadows. When I talked to the manager about this, it was said that it was a mistake and it would not happen again.”
This problem didn’t plague just one GameStop, either. He made his way to a second location to find “at least six games that had CD codes on the inside of the packaging, on the shelves.”
What do you think? Is this a problem that you’ve seen at your own local GameStops, or is this an isolated incident? Let us know in the comments.
Are you absolutely, er, perishing to play Left 4 Dead? Well, Valve has your back. Simply plunk down $5 on the undead murder simulator and you'll unlock a free demo on November 6 -- five days before everyone else.
"This pre-order promotion applies to all Steam PC pre-orders and all Xbox 360 and PC pre-orders from participating retailers in North America," read the press release. GameStop is the only confirmed retailer at the moment.
The demo will serve up both single player and co-op modes for 1-4 players. Since the demo's spewing a bubbling concoction of content, there is, of course, a catch: the demo -- like a zombie Undead American with a live grenade jammed down its throat -- will only be active for a finite amount of time.
"The demo concludes on November 18, when Left 4 Dead will be made available at retail outlets across North America and worldwide via Steam," notes the press release.
All told, though, we're pretty excited about this. Oh sure, we could give Valve a stern talking to for falling into the retail trap of giving preferential treatment to pre-orderers, but it's Left 4 Dead, guys. No matter how sordid the method of delivery, if we snag some hands-on time, we'll be too disgustingly over-joyed to care.
We remember it like it was roughly five years ago. Our wave goodbye. Their shocked silence. Our shoulders gloomily slumped as we trudged out their door. Their faces pressed against the cold glass, rain-like water pouring dramatically, but mostly because the fire alarm was malfunctioning. It was the day we discovered Steam -- our final farewell to a helpful cadre of GameStop employees. And today, it looks like our departure -- along with that of most other PC gamers -- is finally hitting GameStop right in the pocketbook.
However, that doesn't mean GameStop plans to drop PC games without a fight.
"[GameStop's PC game sales] are down probably more than I had anticipated," GameStop SVP Bob McKenzie told Gamasutra. "...We had planned for it to be down. Again, the number of new titles we have on PC is down probably more than what I had anticipated it would be down -- but I don't see that as a threat or a signaling, we're not backing away from it at all."
"A year ago we had 350 stores that didn't carry PC merchandise and today, that number hasn't grown any... [bit] the PC market is definitely still very alive, and a portion of our business that we're hanging onto."
Speaking of the digitally distributed elephant in the room -- the straw currently slurping up his company's PC sales -- McKenzie noted:
"Our position with our publishers is that we're not afraid to compete with them -- against that digital distribution model. We can offer it. It's really another choice for the consumer, as long as they're not making that choice an unfair advantage for them, where they're able to sell it earlier or they add something into the game that we can't get our hands on for our consumer."
McKenzie, you so just lost your place on Dan DeMatteo's Facebook friends list.
GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo recently voiced his thoughts on digital game distribution's far-flung, jumpsuit-clad future -- even in the face of screaming success stories like Steam. Fortunately, David Perry, Shiny Entertainment founder and current CCO at Acclaim Games, speaking for everyone else currently residing in, on, or around earth, decided to cram some food for thought down DeMatteo's throat.
"I hate to think someone this powerful can put out this kind of nonsense in an interview, and confuse professional investors, that might have been interested in the digitally distributed future of the games business," he wrote. "Some developer (or publisher) pitching a digitally distributed strategy might have just been 'thrown under the bus' today by Mr. DeMatteo."
"This wave will be just like the disruption the camera industry experienced – you can hope 'digital' won't show up and keep selling film cameras, or you can embrace the future. Every major camera company alive today embraced the digital future. It's not like he or GameStop has any part in deciding where or when; the consumers will decide. Let's face it, he's running the shop that sells the film."
"If they want their company to still exist in 12-17 years, I'd go and buy STEAM from Gabe Newell, which technically can't exist yet as Gabe is clearly 12-17 years ahead of the curve," Perry concluded, also noting that 100% of Acclaim's digitally distributed games are profitable.