Is Selling an Opened Game as New Really that Wrong?

Gamstop.jpgI saw this article on Joystiq over the weekend and this is really the first time I’ve had to comment on it. Basically the author, Alexander Sliwinski, went to a GameStop to purchase God of War 2 and was offered an opened copy that had been on display. Mr. Sliwinski was flabbergasted that this would actually happen and left the store to purchase the game somewhere else, calling this practice “shady” because they didn’t offer him a discount.

Now, as you know from some of my older articles, I don’t really have that much love for some of the employees at these stores (at least in the central Michigan area) and their smug, know-it-all attitudes toward gaming. You may find this surprising considering I actually worked at an EB Games for about five months starting in the summer of 2003. Using the knowledge I gathered working there, I’m going to tear down the 8th wall and ask, “Is selling an opened game as new really that wrong?”

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When a hot new title like the one mentioned in Sliwinski’s article comes into a retail store, only a limited amount are actually shipped on the game’s launch day. This amount is usually enough to cover pre-orders, plus an extra handful for the people that didn’t or just weren’t able to reserve a copy. Once the shipment is received, the Point of Sale system prints out all of the pre-orders and the store employee typically tapes one to each copy, makes the calls to inform customers that the title has arrived, and then puts them in a back room, or behind the counter (sometimes in the glass cabinet) for safe keeping. Usually one or possibly two games are opened and the cases are placed out on the main floor for display, their disks having been removed, put into protective sleeves, and locked away in drawers behind the counter. The rest of the extra copies are placed in the glass cabinet and when someone walks in without a pre-order to purchase a copy, they are handed one of the sealed spares until the store is out.

It’s at this point in the process in which Mr. Sliwinski entered GameStop. He walked up to the cashier and asked for a copy of God of War 2 and having not pre-ordered, was only offered a spare copy. At this point the cashier went to pick up the store’s last one which was on display, grabbed the game’s disk from within the locked cabinet, and offered it for sale at full price. This is standard practice in many game retailers like GameStop or Gamecrazy. Mr. Sliwinski saw this and asked for a new (unopened) copy, and probably not fully understanding the clerk said it was new (probably as opposed to used). This prompted Sliwinski to simply walk out of the store and purchase the game at Best Buy. The proper response from the clerk should have been “I’m sorry, those unopened copies you see are reserved for customers that pre-ordered the game. This is the last spare copy we have.” Unfortunately this misunderstanding caused a loss of a sale and (what I feel) an unnecessary article written about this “shady business practice.”

Gamecrazy employeesSliwinski argues that he should have received a 10% discount because the item was already opened. I suppose if you compare an opened copy of a game to a major appliance where discounts are often given for floor models, you’d be correct. However, unlike floor models where people have put their grubby mits all over the merchandise and it may even be slightly damaged, what your purchasing is on the disk which has never been inside of a machine, and which has also been protectively locked away its entire time in the store. In Sliwinski’s defense, we should also take the condition of the case into account and if it was severely damaged, or if the instructions were missing, then he should have been offered a discount. Having not mentioned this in his article though, I don’t believe this to be the case.

So with this in mind, why is selling an opened copy of a game as new wrong? Who is hurt in this transaction? I mean, if you’re simply going to go home, rip the plastic off of the case and start playing the game then what’s the difference? The only situation I can see that purchasing an opened copy as new could be a problem is when you have no intention on playing it. Either you’re purchasing the game as a gift for someone else who may need to return it, or you plan on doing something else with it like purchase the game at a discount at one place just to return it to a different store and get some additional credit towards a different title. Also keep in mind that when you purchase an opened copy as new, the clerk is supposed to place a sticker around the casing in an attempt to “seal” it. While the sticker can easily be removed without tearing, this is supposed to be your proof that you purchased the game new and therefore may return it for a full refund as long as the sticker has not been tampered with.

Anyway…seeing that article on Joystiq over the weekend just annoyed me. Why dedicate an entire article to the fact that you were offered an unplayed, opened copy of a game as new? Why not use your power on a well-read blog to discuss other unscrupulous practices at GameStop-type stores, like calling a game “used” and only selling it for a $5 discount off of MSRP? I suppose the same could be said for this article as well, to which I apologize. I needed a place to vent. 🙂

About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including VGBlogger.com.