With the popularity of message boards and blogs, people have found new ways to bitch about pretty much everything... but gaming retail seems to be at the epicenter of the whining.
Yes, we all know that GameStop has some less-than-ethical business practices. We get it. You should make threads like these into drinking games; every time you read a "GameStop sold me a used game as new" complaint, have a drink. You'll be an alcoholic in no time. What's even better is when people list solutions that seem plausible until you figure in the fact that implementing these solutions might, you know, cost money.
For example: Yeah, let's buy an assload of clamshells. Then, after that initial charge for some 5,000 stores, we'll pay staff to put the games in those things. We'll slow down point-of-sale transactions by fighting with the damned things to open them. That's a stellar idea for the busy season... who doesn't love waiting in line for even more time because the damned clamshell key won't work right?
What gamers fail to remember is that they are the cause of many of these problems to begin with. After all, during the NES era, you could return games to retailers, opened or not. Of course, it was expected that gamers were only going to return defective items... but then gamers became skilled and started blowing through games in less than a week... so they kept returning them and getting other games without having to pay anything extra. Retailers became ignorant rental locations.
Retailers smartened up. Policies were changed. Gamers lost a cheap loophole, and justifiably so.
Let's also not forget that the game gamers who bitch and complain about GameStop still shop there. Sure, you hear, "I'm not buying another new game from there. I hate their policies. They're rip-off artists." That attitude lasts until a new release doesn't show up on time at a big-box store and they really, really want to play it. Way to go with that 7-day boycott. That'll show 'em.
Here's another thing. Stop whining about poor trade-in values. Please. "Waaah... those bastards only gave me $8 for Katamari Damacy and they're selling it for $30! Screw them!" Here's a thought: Just say "no" to trades, if the values are too low. After all, why bother taking into account that selling new games only nets next to nothing in terms of profit. GameStop is a business, and they exist to make money. I'm sure that many of you want to open a video game store of your very own, but unless you want to go out of business within the first three months, you're going to find that marking up used games considerably over what you pay for them is a necessary practice, unless you want to charge $70 for your new games instead of $60.
Listen... I'll agree that GameStop isn't perfect. FuncoLand was far superior in terms of relating to gamers... they actually let you try games before buying and they sold display copies for a 10% discount at times, for example. Game Crazy tried to emulate that model, but has so far fallen well short with chronically late arrivals for new releases, which makes them less attractive for core gamers.
But, you know something? Griping on a message board only goes so far. Actions speak louder than words.
After tackling the Nintendo DS version of The Simpsons Game earlier this week for review purposes, I tried to play the Wii version.
I mean... I really, really tried.
But the game-- well, the camera, at least-- is broken. There's a lot of "Do this, but we're not going to give you any direction at all" crap in the Wii game, moreso than in the DS title. What's worse is that the control scheme isn't all that effective, so I'm forced to try to complete the same platforming sections over and over (and over and over and over) again. At least, in the DS game, it's a 2D romp. There's no broken camera that you have to babysit.
The humor doesn't save the game. It came close in the DS version, but the Wii version is so frustrating that seeing all of the gags and nods to the industry takes a lot more patience than it should. At least the game is authentic, with actual VO actors and new animation sequences...
Boo to EA here. Is it so hard to come out with a spiritual successor to Konami's Simpsons title? It's better to beat people up, anyway.
Tonight marks my first night back at video game retail in almost two years; it's funny that I can never stay away for too long before being lured back by a store manager who connects with me and basically twists my arm because he wants a knowledgeable person.
Of course, tonight is also the Halo 3 launch... fraught with excitement and potential disaster. The excitement is, of course, the build-up to midnight. Our store (along with many others) is throwing a pre-release party. I'm actually running a SingStar event, probably because I'm a karaoke DJ on the side and I guess it made sense for me to run it. We'll have a fair number of people, I'm sure, and it's nice to see the community get together for a common cause like this one. Although I don't own a 360 currently-- nor am I even remotely a Halo fan-- I can understand the enthusiasm.
The disaster could stem from the widely-reported defect with Halo 3's packing for its Limited Edition. Discs have potentially been jostling around since shipment, and many of the discs are likely to be scratched... some to unplayable proportions. Now, if we had enough copies with which to swap, in case the worst does occur, I'd feel somewhat better about this; unfortunately, it's been confirmed that we have a total of THREE extra copies... that's a total of 32 units, with 29 preorders.
Aside from the logistics of keeping such a huge launch smooth, we now have to deal with Microsoft's huge gaffe. It'll be interesting to see if upper management has heard about this and sets forth a contingency plan for tonight's launch... but I won't know until I get to work at about 7pm (EDT) or so.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft has yet to comment on this issue, which is being reported more and more as time goes on.
Tonight will get very interesting at the witching hour.
GameStop manager Brandon Scott has taken education enforcement into his own hands and is refusing to sell video games to minors without verification from an adult that the student is doing well in school.
That's a very noble gesture that Mr. Scott has begun; too bad that it should and probably will cost him his job.
See... in retail, your job is to sell. You may not like your customer base, but you're not paid to like them. You're paid to sell merchandise, pull in revenue, and (in the case of GameStop) sell magazine subscriptions and encourage trade-ins. It doesn't matter if the customer can't read a lick, reeks of marijuana, or is of a different race or religion than you. Your job description is very clear... and refusing to sell merchandise to anyone is akin to theft; it's basically stealing revenue from the company, based on your beliefs, stereotypes, or whatever else.
I understand that Mr. Scott's intentions are pure. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, and his decision to buy games for students that achieve a perfect report card is commendable. However, robbing potential revenue from his store-- and thusly the company-- is wrong.
Mr. Scott's policy is, in a way, discriminatory... and opens dangerous options for not selling.
There are other ways to get this message across without endangering the bottom line... and, at the very least, Mr. Scott should have consulted with his DM (District Manager) before embarking on such a course of action.
Despite still having the largest installed userbase in the world, and despite still posting decent sales of new units, I'm finding the lack of timely PS2 game reviews rather disturbing.
I do understand that the focus for online media is primarily on the latest consoles, but that doesn't mean that there isn't still a market or readerbase for PS2-related material. How hard is it to dedicate even one person on a staff to playing through these games and posting something? It can't be that taxing.
As I mentioned in my initial blog entry, I just got three recently-released PS2 games over the last couple of days: NHL 2K8, NHL 08, and Brunswick Pro Bowling. The two hockey games were no-brainers, since I'm a fan of the sport. I was even on the 2K Sports conference call prior to the release of NHL 2K8, and was mildly impressed with some of the additions to the game, such as the Superstar moves. NHL 08 has a full AHL license, which is a first for the series. That's a pretty big deal, considering that there's an AHL team in my backyard. (FWIW, I have some serious work to do in NHL 08. My first game was a scoreless affair.) Both games have some frame rate consistency issues. 2K8 has some strange audio dropout from time to time. That's not to say that both games aren't playable, because they are; unfortunately, it's a shame that there wasn't seemingly any interest in trying to resolve these issues before shipping. I can hear the producers now... "It's just the PS2. Who cares?"
My biggest gripe is with Crave's bowling game. Prior to this release, the original PlayStation saw the release of two above-average bowling titles, sharing practically the same name. The development team behind both titles was Adrenalin Entertainment, and they did a respectable job of nailing pin physics while creating a serviceable gameplay engine that was similar to a golf game. In this PS2 bowling game, the development team is different... and the results are disappointing.
The delivery is analog-based, which, in theory, isn't a bad idea... altering the speed of your delivery affects how much hook (spin) the ball has and may also affect the accuracy of each shot. In Brunswick Pro Bowling, it just doesn't work. The analog delivery just isn't consistent. Why, despite nailing the same analog motion five times over, is the accuracy (backswing) all over the place? When releasing the ball, why does the meter come to a screeching halt? If I'm releasing the ball with full power, why is it struggling down the lane?
I have no answers to these questions, and these problems kill an otherwise decent take on the sport. League bowling is implemented rather well (although it's individual and not team-based), and there are achievements to pull off and items to unlock.
I'll post more impressions of the two hockey games tomorrow, as I'll hopefully be spending more time with them today.
Despite all of the talk about the Xbox 360 and the PS3, I spent time today playing games like it was 2005... on my PS2. Granted, the games are new-- the latest hockey offerings from EA and 2K Sports, plus Brunswick Pro Bowling-- but thinking on this speaks volumes as to what I think of the current generation.
I grant you that it is sad to see inconsistent frame rates and various bugs that obviously were overlooked since the focus is on the relatively newer hardware, but my PS2 only cost a fraction of what an Xbox 360 or PS3 would run me, and the game library is already there. Instead of $60 for NHL 08 or NHL 2K8, I got both for less than that. The games are still fun, too, even without the bells and whistles of their current-gen counterparts.
For me, a guy who's been gaming for almost three decades, price has finally become a key factor. I am not a part of HD society, and cutting-edge visuals only do so much for me. If I can enjoy my hobby without sacrificing a cash cow to do it, then it's not even a debate. It's funny how things change once bills and survival enter into the equation... and the price of admission for this generation is still quantitatively higher than it's ever been.
I don't want to hear about adjusting for inflation, or about all of the niceties that you get for slamming down $400+ for a piece of hardware. The fact is that, prior to the Xbox 360 and the PS3, only three video game consoles retailed for more than $300 at launch: The 3D0, the Neo-Geo, and the Saturn. Look at where these systems ended up in the course of console gaming history: the 3D0 never got off of the ground (despite top-notch support from EA), the Neo-Geo never saw any market penetration, and the Saturn got creamed by the PlayStation after lackluster third-party support and general negative sentiment after the prior hardware debacles.
Yes, the Xbox 360 has seen some success. I actually did own one for a time, until the sheer amount of electricity needed to run it began to brown out my home at the time... not acceptable, for obvious reasons. Without a high-definition TV, though, it loses something. The visuals can be stunning, and Microsoft really has a great thing going in Xbox LIVE, but then you look at game prices-- $60 or more? Ouch. Still, it's the most success console to retail for more than $300.
I'm not impressed, though. The 360 hardware is proven to be unreliable. Look at all of those Red Rings of Death! At least Microsoft is doing the right thing and fixing them, but those who paid $400 still are forced to wait for days or weeks for their unit to be fixed. It's a frustrating experience.
As for the PS3, there's not a chance in hell that I'm paying for one... and that's despite my interest in Metal Gear Solid 4. $500? Are you kidding me? Since when is that price point acceptable? I don't care if it washes my clothes and fixes me breakfast every morning. Blu-Ray is still fighting for acceptance as a media format, and Sony's record in that department is inconsistent. (UMDs, anyone?) Besides... I just want to play games. I don't necessarily want to rebuy my entire movie library just to utilize the Blu-Ray capability of the system. We're also still waiting for a real killer app, and it's almost been a year. That's not a good sign.
Even Nintendo doesn't escape my criticism here. I love the Wii, but I'm either playing Virtual Console games, Wii Sports, or Gamecube games. Even Metroid Prime 3 hasn't stirred me (yet).
Maybe I'm just not "feeling" this generation. I hesitate to say that my love for gaming has diminished, because my PS2 has gotten a lot of attention (thanks to the latest .hack entries and a newfound interest in FFXII) and I take my Nintendo DS almost everywhere I go (Puzzle Quest FTW!).
The value simply doesn't match up to the monetary stake involved... at least... not yet. I'm still more content to play (or replay) my PS2 games than I am in spending even $50 on a new Wii game.