Penny Arcade strips, but so far that's how things are rolling out. The archives are just a wealth of entertainment and inspiration for me.
I have been employed by GameStop (EB Games before the acquisition) since November of 2004. So, y'know, five and a half years. Yikes. As a mandatory slave to the pre-order system, this comic really strikes me. In terms of real world comparisons it's just incredibly accurate.
Armed with "insider knowledge" of how video game distribution works, I do possess a certain... defense of the pre-order system. They are extremely expensive to produce and the companies generally like to know how many to create for the initial launch wave. If the companies make too many then they're losing money. If they make too few then customers are disappointed. The pre-order system appears to be a decent gauge for these people to lose the least amount of profits.
Companies such as Target and Best Buy have video game sections, and last time I checked they had no pre-order system. How is it, then, that they always have the newest games in plentiful stock with no worry of over or under purchasing?
Here is my theory: GameStop just sells video games. They have no other form of revenue, no appliances and home furnishings and surround sound system sales to fall back on. Target and Best Buy can afford to buy too many copies of a video game, they won't be losing out. Frequently, non-dedicated video game retailers will have new copies of fairly old games: I can only assume that this is because they purchased a massive amount at launch and they never were able to sell through all of their stock.
I have no proof of any of this, it is simply my best educated guess based off of everything I've learned about the business. There's my disclaimer.
I have a few personal stories to share with you.
Certain games are guaranteed hits; no matter what the pre-order numbers are that game is going to sell. These are most commonly franchise games, or sequels to popular titles. Madden, NCAA, Zelda, Mario, Gears of War, God of War, blah blah blah. There are many more. The "hype machine" is infectious throughout customers and stores alike, so it's easy to know when they're coming. It is stupid to be forced to push Madden reserves and actually try to convince people that they have to reserve a copy in order to get one on launch day. Thoroughly insulting and embarrassing to all parties involved.
Another instance on the opposite end of the spectrum is the rare time when a game just isn't reservable. Last year this was the case with Black Sigil. We received one copy and that was that. People wanted to reserve it but they were unable, including my co-worker James and myself.
In conclusion (?), GameStop boggles my fucking mind. You're a dedicated video game store, just sell the games please. I'm so tired of hearing about 300%+ end of fiscal year profits. I know where that obscene profit comes from and it's not a good place.
This ended differently than I thought it would.
I forgot to mention that I always pre-order games. I like to encourage more shipments, since I know how it works at GameStop, and I enjoy being able to pay off games in $5-$10 increments instead of $40-$60 all in one go! And, one last sad reason, I understand how difficult it is to get reserve numbers when I work and I like to support my friends that are on shift. The lengths I go to for friendships.