The madness of GameStop

Most experiences I’ve had at GameStops have been positive. The staff has been knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and helpful. But between the piles of used games, the warranties, and the endless tchotchkes everywhere, I’ve always felt like employees are tasked to upsell like their lives depended on it.

I had no idea. Jason Schreier over at Kotaku has written up a pretty nutso description of what GameStop employees are expected to do:

The program, called “Circle of Life,” gives each GameStop store different percentage quotas for 1) pre-orders; 2) reward card subscriptions; 3) used game sales; and 4) game trade-ins. Each of these quotas is based on the store’s total transactions. Pre-orders and reward cards subscriptions are based on the number of transactions, while used game sales and trade-ins are based on the total dollar value of transactions. If a store’s quota for used game sales is 30%, and the store sells $1,000 worth of merchandise, GameStop expects at least $300 of that merchandise to be pre-owned […]

The more new games an employee sells, the more used games they’ll have to sell to make up for it. In other words, according to salespeople speaking to Kotaku and elsewhere on the internet, GameStop is incentivizing employees to stop people from buying new games and hardware. GameStop staff say the company has threatened to fire people who don’t hit these quotas, which is leading to all sorts of scuzzy tactics.

“We are telling people we don’t have new systems in stock so we won’t take a $300 or $400 dollar hit on our pre-owned numbers,” one GameStop employee told me in an e-mail, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press. “This is company wide and in discussions with my peers it is a common practice. We also tell customers we don’t have copies of new games in stock when they are on sale—for example, Watch Dogs 2 is currently $29.99 new and $54.99 pre-owned. We just tell them we don’t have the new one in stock and shuffle them out the door.”

I have a few friends at GameStop who confirm that these details are largely accurate. It’s a sad state of affairs and I hope the company puts a stop to this.

If a company structures its incentives incorrectly, sub-optimal behavior will always follow. For another example of this, see: that infamous Comcast phone call. Also, Wells Fargo.

Thoughts on Ryan Davis

I was absolutely stunned to hear today that Ryan Davis has passed away at the age of 34. The cause of death was not released.

I followed Davis’ work — in writing, audio, and video — since his time at Gamespot, through the departure of Greg Kasavin, Rich Gallup, and ultimately Jeff Gerstmann and Davis himself, as the latter two went to set up shop at Giant Bomb. It is not an exaggeration to say that the /Filmcast and any of the shows that have come afterwards would likely not exist without the inspiration of people like Davis and all the fine folks over at Giant Bomb (as well as the now-defunct 1up network). Their shows didn’t just serve as templates for the work that I would end up doing; they also provided endless hours of free entertainment and detailed analysis that have enthralled me for years.

Davis and crew blazed a trail for a style of podcasting that was loaded with hilarious tangents, entertaining riffs, and non-stop pop culture references. His demeanor was utterly relatable, yet harsh when a game/film called for it. Through it all, you could always sense his desire to entertain and deliver high quality content at the same time.

The online world has lost a great this week. R.I.P., Ryan Davis.

Another Argument for Videogames As Art

Michael Mirasol (via Matt Zoller Seitz) has written up a great defense for videogames in the “Can videogames be art?” debate:

I grew up on movies and on video games, and love and respect what they bring to the table. Though I enjoy them on different levels, they both have given me moments of wonder and serious reflection. As an avid gamer and film lover, I find it a shame to see how one medium has gained artistic acceptance while the other continues to be derided by the mainstream. There are many reasons why they are looked down upon, but if you give them a shot, you just might conclude that video games should be considered art.

Mind = Blown

The past week the Xbox Kinect went on sale and while some reviews haven’t been overly kind, it shows a lot of promise. Certainly the fact that this technology is available at the consumer level is impressive and encouraging. But the fact that the Kinect has already been hacked opens it up to some interesting applications:

I recently purchased my own Kinect and I’ve been having lots of fun with it, although I’ll be curious to see if more games come out that take full advantage of it. One thing’s for sure, though: whenever I’m using my Kinect, I feel like I’m living in the future.