In case you hadn't realised, video game brick and mortar stores in the UK are dying. Ah, i hear your reply "oh but we're all dying since the day we're born" and while that is true i'd like to add and that i mean dying soon and that you're a miserable twat. In Edinburgh, Gamestation has more or less closed down, CHIPS has closed down, and a couple of other independent video game stores have long since bit the curb.
Realtalk. Okay it may not really be happening that soon but it seems eventual and this is a bad thing. People (some good friends) are going to lose their jobs; a significant customer chunk that support the industry are going to stop buying games (i.e. the non-enthusiasts); and the lack of competition in the marketplace is ultimately going to hurt us. I mean, would you rather buy all your games from EA's Origin at full RRP? No thank you. Physical retailers are a necessary evil and it's hard to argue that it's a good thing that they're closing down.
However, certain experiences recently make me think you know what?
It all started many weeks ago when i decided to get excited about a game i really should never have got excited about: SoulCalibur V. Even the great ProfPew called it and said that i wouldn't be playing it in a week. Goddammit he was right, i loved the older games but SCV for me was as fun as explaining to your parents why your socks snap when you fold them. Nae bother, i'll just trade it in. Used games, the last great bastion of the physical retailer.
I stroll into GAME and say "i'd like to trade this in please". The clerk tells me i'll get 30quid, which i think is pretty reasonable for a game i paid 36 for. He asks for an ID and I hand them my NZ drivers license. He then proceeds to explain to me that he is not sure if he can accept that as a valid ID and that he won't go through with the trade. I will need to get my passport. Ah bugger, alright i'm annoyed because a drivers license is a pretty valid ID but perhaps that's the law and i can hardly argue. I go back the next day to the St James GAME store, passport in hand and successfully make the trade. In fact, the clerk made an error and gave me 35 quid. Score! I decide to put 5 quid on a Mass Effect 3 preorder, i RARELY preorder but thought why not since it was free money anyway. What a happy ending.
As you probably have heard already GAME is not doing very well financially and EA refused to give them credit. The end result being that GAME has gone from being the exclusive sellers of the N7 edition to not getting the game at all. As a gesture of goodwill GAME offered customers an extra 5quid store credit. Brilliant, i'll just buy ME3 from Amazon and use my credit to buy Street Fighter x Tekken.
On Monday of this week (my 30th birthday i might add) it was reported that game will no longer be stocking SFxT. Ah bugger, that really threw a spanner in the works. But i devised a plan so cunning that Blackadder himself would go "crikey, that's mighty cunning of you". My plan was to use my credit to buy SSX (40quid) take it to HMV (a music/game store) and trade it in for 35quid store credit. I only lose 5 quid but as that was given to me by GAME for free i haven't really lost anything. Ace.
So i go into the St James store, and ask if they have SSX. No surprise they just sold the last copy an hour ago. I say, okay can i just get my credit back on my preorder and i'll try the other branch. The clerk tells me that i can transfer the preorder to Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City and unfortunately here's where i was inadvertedly a cunt. I replied "ah no that's a CAPCOM game too so i'd rather just cash in my chips and get off this sinking ship"
. I didn't realise that was a real dick thing to say until i saw their d'aww faces. These people are probably losing their jobs, i'm really sorry about that. Anyway she gives me my credit and my 5 quid extra and i wander off to the other store feeling like a jerk [Maybe they didn't really care and i'm imagining that part but i still felt like a jerk anyway..]
Success! The other store has SSX. Only, the previous clerk failed to tell me that the 5quid goodwill gesture takes 24 hours to process. I got off work early especially to sort all this shit out and now i'm going to have to repeat the whole process in 24 hours while taking the risk that the value of SSX at HMV will drop. Fuck it, i want done with this, i'll spend money to make money (or err to not lose money). I use 5 quid of my own money and get SSX. Done deal, sorry GAME but i'm not having my vouchers be null and void when you go into administration.
Last step is to go to HMV and trade this new copy of SSX into the store. Simple huh? Well, apparently the HMV staff member decided i was trying to game the system and refused to trade in new games. He told me, this is sealed and new we don't trade in new games. Wtf? I said i can open it right now and he replied that i would literally have to go home and play it and i can trade it in tomorrow but he will NOT accept the trade in today because it's new and i may be trying to make a profit. Profit!? i said, i can show you a receipt that says i just lost 5quid and i'm trading it in for a special edition of a game i'll be paying full RRP for. He will not take the trade in, i have to play the game. I'm gobsmacked.
Luckily he didn't call the other branch and i was able to open up the game on the way so i wouldn't have the same problem [speaking of which if anybody needs an online pass for SSX just say so in the comments]. The second branch took the trade in and i asked about pre-ordering the SFxT special edition. I thought i'd preorder to make sure they get allocated stock. He tells me that to preorder i have to register for an HMV pure card which costs 3quid but also that "We don't have the Special edition our system". You have got to be fucking kidding me. So now the final solution is cancel my Amazon preorder, buy SFxT from them and hope that there are still copies of ME3 at HMV available on Friday (which there will be).
What a kerfuffle. A simple trade in turned into, trading in, preordering, cancelling a preorder, buying a game, trading it in, thrice cancelling and reordering amazon orders and generally being treated by retail staff like Typhoid Mary. While online i may not be be able to trade stuff in i do receive texts informing me my order is placed, packaged and shipped to my door. I used to work in a game store, i know how shit works. To be fair the issues with GAMEs creditors is outside the staff's control but what i experienced yesterday was unacceptable customer service. I'm fine with unfortunate circumstances, but don't be either incompetent or outright rude when you explain the situation to me.
Alright, I'll admit i'm just ranting in long form and i guess you could argue that i was doing a bit of swindling but the point still stands that maybe these retailers wouldn't be hemorrhaging customers if they made the whole experience a little less like getting a root canal. I've had a root canal, it actually wasn't as bad as trying to buy Street Fighter x Tekken.
So maybe GAME is dying, and quite honestly I somehow still think this is a bad thing. I'm sad for the people involved but after this experience i think of a phrase my mum used to say
"God helps those that help themselves"