Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Would you like a strategy guide with that?

Type “Ebgames Policies” into google and you’ll get a couple hits about their great deals and then a slew of rants and raves from jaded customers decrying the evil nature of EB. The most common slander is along the lines of “ramshackle pawn shop” and I couldn’t agree more. Let me start by explaining how EB rakes in trucks of cash.

Firstly, they don’t stock new games. They generally bring in a number of new titles equal to pre-orders plus half. Six preorders? Three unclaimed ones will hit the shelf. Three preorders and you’ll probably see one in the store. See, EBgames only makes about 5 bucks on each new game they sell.

Gaze ye, into the mouth of darkness.

So how DO they make money? There are a few different things, one is to sell you game warranties. These are generally 2 or 3 dollars and provide you with a full refund should any harm befall your game, like…Well I guess being shot with a rocket launcher? I have NES Cartridges that still work just fine (after a good cartridge blow) and even if a disk gets scratched it only costs 2 bucks to have it repaired anyways. Employee’s have claimed outright that these warranties are useless but that their jobs rely on their selling them.

The other main money maker? Used titles. You see you can buy a game for 70 dollars, than trade it in for $10. EB then puts it back on the shelf with a ‘used’ sticker for $5 less than new. That’s right they pay $10, sell it for $60 and rake in dollah dollah bills. This is the master plan from which EB get’s the pawn shop moniker. The big problem with this is that the Developer and Publishers don’t get a cent from the resold products. This essentially makes EB Games the equivalent of a french fry vendor who sneaks around at night and shits in potato fields. Eventually the potato farmers are going to go out of business because nobody is buying their poo potatoes (heh pootatoes) and where does that leave the french fry vendor? Unfortunately, In the case of EB, sitting on a pile of cash.

Poo Fries. A delicacy somewhere.

This is why I don’t buy used.The employees don't seem to get it either. Several weeks ago I went to pick up a copy of Left 4 Dead and after the clerk had scanned the game he exclaimed “Oh we have a used copy!” And rushed off to another part of the store before I could say anything, he came back about 5 minutes later and exclaimed “I almost gave up looking for it but I found it in the back.” To which I replied “No thanks, I’ll take the new copy” He seemed incredulous and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to save 5 dollars. I simply said that I was hoping they’d keep making video games and so I’d rather give the money to the company. He just didn’t get it though.

Sadly I’m not completely immune to their wiles and I do trade in. Frankly I’d probably buy used if there were, in fact, significant savings on used copies. There are alternatives around that are slowly but surely coming into prominence. Direct 2 Drive (D2D) is an online company that allows you to download games directly to your hardrive, though you’re left without a hardcopy unfortunately. Valve’s Steam offers similar and many companies themselves are beginning to offer their games for direct ordering. This insures the company gets the full profit and, occasionally, comes cheaper than buying from a brick and mortar.

Until next time, may you find your own path to profit.



  1. I have to say that my favorite "stuff on fries" variant is Italian Poutine, where the gravy is replaced by tomato sauce.

    You'd think it'd be weird, but it makes more sense than some of the other wacky things that end up on fries.. for example, "Turkoutine", which serves a full thanksgiving dinner over a bed of fries, with a layer of cheese curds, then gravy.

    Strangely, you can only get this around Canadian thanksgiving. It must be a regional thing.

  2. I have been a proponent of Spaghetti Sauce on fries for years. It was the staff meal of choice at The Arch Steakhouse.

  3. Well I certainly see your point on the mark ups they place on used games I fail to see how the EB business model is any different then a used book store, some place I frequent quite often.

  4. Also... I hate 'fires.

  5. There's little difference between a used book store and an EB games store. The difference comes from the amount of money made on a single sale. You sell a used book to the bookstore for let's say $0.50 and buy one for $5. Profit $4.50. EB games buys a game for 8 bucks and sells it for 80. That's $72 profit on a single sale.

    The issue comes down to the fact that the profits are enough to create an international corporation with crazy profit.

    I don't know of any multinational used book store corporations.

    Further I challenge you to find me a used bookstore employee that doesn't know a good amount about literature.

  6. Well I concede to all counterpoints offed, I don't really see it as a huge problem, I just don't buy used games from EB... not because of any love of the industry. (Though it's a similar loyalty that drives to actually buy RPG books instead of just torrenting them) But because saving 5$ just isn't enough to inspire me to buy something that's bloody used. Honestly I really don't have a problem with EBs business model, I just don't get why some one would pay that much for a used product. But this is free market economics after all, if you can find a market your expected to exploit it for every bloody cent you can get.

  7. On the other hand, EB Games policy, especially in its attitudes towards stocking and distribution, do remind me an awful lot of Chapters bookstore. In both cases, a bulk of profit comes not from consumers directly, but from those up the ladder: games companies and publishing houses alike.

    In Chapters' case, the stones are free to order a glut of books - more than they could possibly sell, or are possibly interested in selling. These take up shelf space until they are shipped back to the publishers to make room for the next book they have down the pike.

    So the publishing houses have a massive amont of books shoved back in their laps, and no means of moving them along. They take the fall for Chapters getting to play-pretend like it's a library.

    In both cases it's a material concern, an insinuation into the means of distrubution. Chapters is able to exploit order-returns laws meant to protect small mom and pop bookstores, and EB Games is fuelled by a massive "trade-in" market.

    The whole culture of trading in, trading up" in games speaks to a whole bushel of concerns with the industry: The idea of games as disposable entertainment, the notion that better technology equals 'better games', even the archaic brand-war stuff about having the 'right system' and the 'right games'.

    It'll be telling to see how a business model like EB Games will fare as attitudes towards games and gaming continue to shift.

  8. And I think I speak for us all when I say...

    Fuck Chapters.