“Remember when GameStop used to be about the games?” It's an argument that has lashed back and forth across the video game community table over and over again. Some people absolutely hate the direction that GameStop has taken. They still sell video games, but they're hidden behind the piles and piles of related merchandise. On the other side of the debate lies those video game fans who adore all the collectibles that GameStop offers. This is obviously where the money is. The games sell, but mostly at launch and when DLC is released. Meanwhile, video game merchandise is evergreen, it'll sell all year long.
GameStop, as a Fortune 500 company, knows how to make money. GameStop Corp. not only owns all the GameStop stores you see around the country and the world, but also ThinkGeek. You've most likely heard of ThinkGeek, but for those unfamiliar, it's an online storefront that sells video game merchandise. With these two retailers under their corporate umbrella, it's clear that GameStop doesn't plan to give up the merch scene any time soon. There's also some recent news that completely solidifies this point. (In case we needed more proof, right?). GameStop recently created a position within the company titled Senior Vice President of Collectibles. The spot was filled by an ex-Walmart executive who also had experience with Frito-Lay, Inc. and Estee Lauder. Needless to say, this is a powerful position being held by a powerful person. GameStop has no intention of quitting the collectible merchandise industry.
For fans of the pre-merch GameStop, it's time to stop hoping. We're going to deal with these figures, plushies, lanyards, watches, and branded candies whether we want to or not. For those who love the fact that GameStop sells a bunch of merchandise, you can rejoice in knowing that the company you support is hearing your voices. I tend to fall on the side of the line that says, “Why in the world would I need a Five Nights at Freddy's watch?”
However, I know many that fall on the other side of the line. Even my boyfriend took a moment to tell me that he loves that GameStop sells collectibles. I give him a pass because he's a video game collector, so it makes perfect sense that he enjoys it. But then there are others like someone I knew who simultaneously hated and loved GameStop's collectibles. There was a Plants Versus Zombies figure that riffed off of Mass Effect, called the Grass Effect figure. It was wildly overpriced for the piece of silliness that it was, so my friend kept coming week after week to see if the price would go down. When it finally lowered to an unarguably low price, he snatched it up with the phrase, “I don't even know why I want this thing.”
It's this thinking that keeps GameStop in the collectible and merchandise retailing industry. Many (myself included) have walked into GameStop for something to do and seen a piece of merchandise related to one of their favorite games. They can't fathom why they need said item, but yet somehow they do. There's something about seeing your favorite characters realized, and bless our capitalism-raised hearts, we can't help but buy. As I said before, the merch sells year-round, while the games only sell every so often.
It can be infuriating knowing that GameStop used to be all about the games and now is just about useless branded items. But to be fair, the company has made a lot of money doing what it has, and will continue to. We live in a capitalist society, and the point of businesses is to make money. And quite frankly, most video game purchases are made online anyway. So while I can lament not having the selection of games I used to at my local GameStop, I can also applaud them for what they have done. Sure, I might go in looking for a certain game only to find it's not available at that location, but I might find a collectible to buy for myself or as a gift. GameStop used to be all about the games, but now it's about the merch. Whether you agree with that move or not, the company has made it clear they're not going back to their days of old.