GameStop doesn’t always get a good rep. Despite existing as one of the last remaining physical game stores, the corporation gets a lot of flack from the industry. Usually the criticism stems from the company’s tendency to rip off gamers with its notorious trade-in program. This time, however, players are becoming suspicious of some strange pre-owned pricing.
Xenoblade Chronicles, a Nintendo-published RPG for Wii, is now considered a commodity. When it first released back in 2012, it was only available in the US through two outlets: GameStop and Nintendo’s online site. While initially retailing for the Wii-standard $49.99, the game now captures almost twice that on secondhand marketplaces like half.com and Amazon. Today, GameStop offers the title for a whopping $90. Is Xenoblade just that good?
The short answer is no. Although the game itself holds a respectable 92 on Metacritic, so does Uncharted 3 and a slew of other reasonably-priced modern blockbusters. So here’s the catch: When the title was first released, only a limited number of copies made it to store shelves. As basic economics will inform, low supply often results in high demand. GameStop, in an attempt to remain a profitable business, took advantage of these marketplace dynamics. If hawkers are making that much on eBay, why shouldn’t a legitimate enterprise profit as well?
Here’s the plot twist. Remember how the game was initially only available through Nintendo and GameStop? There’s more to it. Nintendo no longer sells the game, so there’s now only one place to buy. A few weeks ago, purchasing the title from a national chain was unheard of. It was something of a collector’s item, a cult favorite. GameStop didn’t have any copies, used or new, and you’d have to brave the Internet for a chance to buy. Flash forward to the present where suddenly, miraculously, the largest game seller in America suddenly has enough product to go around.
Needless to say, a few eyebrows have been raised. Xenoblade Chronicles is currently selling for $89.99, used, making it the most expensive disc the company sells. Did I mention it breaks that threshold by about thirty dollars? Well, it does. To use one of my least favorite idioms, something smells a little fishy.
The concern, as you might expect, is that GameStop has artificially created demand by controlling the supply of the product – and is now using that platform to raise prices. If this is what’s actually happening, well, it’s a disgusting exploitation of the corporation’s dedicated consumer base.
To quote Jason Schreier of Kotaku:
[quote]It’d be one thing to sell a game for $90 because it’s very rare, but when GameStop is the only retailer with access to inventory, and when that inventory has suddenly been restocked, this sort of price inflation is obscene.[/quote]
The company itself has yet to comment, but many gamers are becoming agitated by what they see as unjust market manipulation and price inflation. Some consumers are reporting that the allegedly pre-owned copies they’ve purchased feel awkwardly ‘new.’ Even more suspiciously, it appears that many of the included Club Nintendo codes have gone unredeemed. Head over to NeoGAF if you don’t believe me.
As of yet, it’s hazily unclear whether or not this fits the bill of a scam. Since the title is no longer available from Nintendo’s online store, GameStop is the only North American retailer to offer it. As such, they have the frightening ability to control both the cost and supply of the title for the foreseeable future. Given the company’s predisposed history of accepting game trades for chump change, this type of behavior doesn’t feel particularly out of line. All the same, try not to jump to any conclusions.
Neither party has yet to comment on the situation.
Boston-based writer, artist, designer, critic, loser & storyteller. Focused on the intersection of games, culture, narrative, and art. KillerStrokes on XBL, Steam, PSN. @Wherbit on Twitter. http://willpowerarts.com/