Thursday, January 28, 2016

Editorial: The Death of Game Hunting

I was unexpectedly given a WiiU for Christmas this year and my mind immediately started making the checklist of games and accessories I would want.

One of the games toward the top of my list was a puzzle game I thoroughly enjoyed on the Gamecube, Pikmin.

I added Pikmin 3 to my Amazon wishlist, and I was astounded to find a game that was only two years old was going for $120 on Amazon. I know Nintendo first party games have a reputation for holding their value, but I had never witnessed a game double in price while it's system was still on sale.

So I started digging around and I found if retailers had copies of Pikmin 3 in brick and mortar stores, it would only cost me the normal $60.

I love the hunt. Digging through dusty stacks, seeing what inventory each of the used game stores have is fun for me.

I like trying to find that deal. I like being able to see the product in front of me rather than buy from eBay based on someone's "technically correct" description of an item only to get a broken case that falls under the "Good" description guidelines.

My first stop is my favorite local used game shop, Slackers. Slackers used to be the king of having the rare games in the case near the register. Games you drool over thinking, "$300 really isn't that much for a boxed version of Lunar: Silver Star Story."

I've noticed recently that there are less and less of those games in their front cases. I figured this was for three reasons:

  1. Gamestop got into the retro used game market and has been filling Indiana Jones sized warehouses with old games.
  2. Retro-game collecting is popular, therefore more of the product is living in people's houses.
  3. Slackers has an eBay store.
I went to two Slackers without luck.

On the second trip I bought the NES Remix Pack for a very reasonable $25 and asked the clerk if they happened to have Pikmin 3 behind the counter.

He sort of laughed and said, "Are you kidding me? Have you seen the online prices for that game? We have to immediately send them to our online store to post on eBay if any copies come in."

So when searching for a rare game, Slackers is unfortunately removed from my list. They are a small business and need to make the most money and get the item in front of the most eyes. I get it, but I don't like it.

I stopped trying Goodwill and Flea Markets years ago. Once retro-game collecting became popular, people quickly figured out they could buy entire SNES collections for $40 from an unknowing vendor.

So I took a shot with Gamestop.

Gamestop allows you to check local inventory and request they pull the game aside by filling out a couple forms. I saw that a Gamestop only a few miles from my house had one in stock. I filled the form out, got the confirmation email, and I immediately went there. 

As I was pulling into the parking lot, I received an email from Gamestop saying they couldn't fulfill my request. I decided to go in anyway and ask about it. 

The guy behind the counter didn't know what game I was talking about, but he checked his inventory and found that they hadn't had a copy in well over a year. I went to the WiiU section hoping that maybe this was just a guy completely out of the mix and found that they had twice as many Amiibos as WiiU games, which makes complete sense in regards to WiiU total sales. 

Then, hoping against hope, I went to two Targets and a Wal Mart, with no luck at either. (Side note: Huge props to Target for stocked their WiiU section was.)

I had similar issues looking for a black labeled Vagrant Story and the non-Greatest Hits version of Ni No Kuni recently. No one had them in the store and I was repeatedly pointed toward their eBay stores.

It's frustrating for someone that loves searching for games in person rather than type into a search bar online. It's removed the chance to find a game store that has a game priced at a reasonable price. It's removed the possibility of haggling.

All the prices match across the board on eBay and even though we have access to more games overall, it hurts the collector paying the higher prices.

And before you tell me that digital is the future, I realize that. I have a vast Steam and PSN library. However, that trust was earned by Valve and Sony. Nintendo has yet to show they understand online functionality, let alone digital licenses and use fairness.

It's going to get worse as more brick and mortar stores go out of business, more move online, move games move to digital. It's one of those joys that I'm going to have to grow out of, not because I want to, but because I have no other choice.

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