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Plugged In

What game retailers won’t tell you

Plugged In

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Sales are brisk

Where would we be
without video game retailers? A stalwart of the business since day one, they're
still a vital part of the industry ecosystem, providing a window into the
games world in thousands of malls and high streets, giving gamers a place to
hang out and browse, and, of course, supplying a healthy selection of great deals without the painful delays of online shopping.

But, like any business,
they're in it to make money, and they're not necessarily telling you exactly
how they go about doing it. Check out a few of the dirty (literally, in some
cases) secrets of the video game retail trade.

They're making
a  bundle on your trade-ins

Just how do specialist retailers like Gamestop stay in business with competition from huge
chains like Walmart and online discounters like Amazon? Answer: their used games.

Over 40% of Gamestop's profit comes from selling pre-owned games,
according to a Wall St. Journal estimate. That money comes straight from
the folks prepared to accept Gamestop's ultra-low trade-in prices for their
valuable games. Do yourself a favor: resell your games yourself, via eBay,
Craigslist, your local small-ads, or use peer-to-peer trading sites like Goozex. Line your own pockets, not Gamestop's.

They sell opened games as new

Ever wonder how game retailers can get away with selling opened copies of games as if they were new? Yeah, us too.

Ask the employees, and they'll typically tell you they use empty,
display boxes on shelves to reduce shoplifting, and when you buy one of those
copies they're just putting the original contents back inside.

Don't believe them. According to a 2009 expose by Kotaku, Gamestop policy
allows employees to take those games home and play them for days at a time.
Insist on a sealed copy, and be prepared to walk if they refuse. After all, if
you wanted a used game, you'd have picked one from the used game rack.

Extended warranties are a waste of money

All sorts of retailers just love to push those extended warranties on concerned customers, and it's not because they have your best interests at heart. All they really have is cold, hard
greed: they know the vast majority of extended warranties go unused, making
that cash pure profit. With the Red Ring of Death behind us, home consoles don't often outright break these days, and even if they do you'll have the manufacturer's warranty (and subsequent cut-price repair program) to rely on. Warranties on games themselves? Yes, they exist, and no, they're not worth the few bucks they cost. Just put your game back in the box when you're done and everything will be fine.

They don't always clean the used kit before reselling it

Getting surprise extras in your video games is usually a pleasant experience. Usually.

One shopper received a shock when their haul of reduced-price Gamecube games contained a few six-legged (and unsanitary) passengers: dead roaches, complete with eggs. Yuk. Maybe they came from the store, maybe they came from the previous owner. Either way, if that's not enough to make you look over your next game purchase with a fine-tooth comb, you've got a stronger stomach than us.

If you don't pre-order, expect to be treated like a scrub

If you've set foot in a Gamestop, you'll be familiar with the pre-order sales pitch. "Call of
Honor VII is in really high demand! If you don't pre-order RIGHT NOW you won't
get a copy until next year!"There are sound commercial reasons for this, and
for once it's not necessarily because they want to get one over on you: counting pre-orders gives the store a clear idea of regional demand, and lets
them plan their exact allocation of launch-day games.

But you don't have to play along if you don't want to. Roll up on launch day, ask for a copy, pay up, walk out. And if they say "No preorder? Sorry, we're sold out," don't take
their word for it. Check the retailer's web site, and place a store pickup order if you can. You may -- like this consumer -- find the store suddenly becomes a great deal more cooperative.

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