By Jeff Neuenschwander / August 20th, 2013
Well, this week would’ve been the start of my Sonic Retrospective. Unfortunately, my Wii is currently being repaired due to not reading game discs so I’ll need a bit more time in order to get through a few of the games. Also, something has come up in the past couple weeks that needs to be addressed. As always, anything I say is my opinion, is meant as part of an open dialog, and should not reflect upon the staff of oprainfall.
It was announced two weeks ago that GameStop would be selling Xenoblade Chronicles again with a listed used game price of $89.99. Now, we could talk circles about how much we love Xenoblade and how many gamers hate GameStop, but we don’t have time for that. Instead, I will keep this intro as brief as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, here is a quick dramatization of what happened when GameStop made their announcement:
GameStop: We’re selling Xenoblade Chronicles again!
GameStop: Yeah, we’ll be selling used copies for about $90.
Gamers: Wait, why? The game was only $50 when it was new.
GameStop: Well, we’re trying to be competitive based on the current market value.
Random Gamer: HEY! My copy has an unused Club Nintendo code! What’s the deal?!
Sprinkle in a few more angry gamers, add some confusing lingo from GameStop, and you’ve pretty much been brought up to speed.
Kudos to GameStop for absolutely confusing the masses. Their spin on this subject has left people like me puzzled and confused. It’s truly the stuff of underhanded political maneuvers.
Seriously, where did this influx come from? Did they actually gut some of the unsold cases like people are accusing them of (a practice that has gotten them into legal trouble before)? Is that why there are copies that contain unused Club Nintendo codes?
Well, to be fair, not everyone who buys a Nintendo game uses the codes. I wasn’t even a Club Nintendo member until a couple of years ago. I’m certain that the few games I traded in early on this past generation had unused codes in their cases.
For all I know, just from this scenario, this could’ve been what happened: GameStop starts buying back Xenoblade from customers and sells the copies used for $44.99 (which is in line with the 10% change in price you see them do between used and new copies). They then see what the game is going for used on Amazon and eBay and think, “You know, we could make a whole bunch more if we could sell at that price.” They then keep all traded-in copies of Xenoblade in the back room until all copies at every GameStop—new and used—have been sold off so they don’t get flack for raising the price on a game that’s on the shelf. Once the shelves are empty, they start selling the used copies again at around the price that the secondhand market has dictated (which, in this case, is about $90).
If this were truly what GameStop had in mind, I honestly would have to applaud them for doing it. This would not only be a shrewd business move, but one that would net them twice the money the game would’ve at the old price.
But then, GameStop came out with this little piece of confusion:
GameStop regularly receives feedback from our PowerUp members regarding old titles they would like us to bring back, such as vintage games like Xenoblade Chronicles. We were recently able to source a limited number of copies of this title to carry in our stores and online.
In fact, we have sourced several more vintage titles that will be hitting stores in the coming months, including Metroid Prime Trilogy.
(Side note: Metroid Prime Trilogy has already been selling at GameStop used at $70, a higher price than new copies were sold at. It will now sell for $85 used.)
Source? Vintage? What does this even mean? Does this mean that you’re printing new copies of the game and passing them off as used, as other gaming sites are accusing you of doing? Is this even legal? If someone from Nintendo is reading this, could you get one of the NOA lawyers to inform us about whether GameStop can legally do that?
But aside from the questionable practices of GameStop, there is one other thing that is driving me nuts about this situation, one thing that gets my blood boiling because there is a simple explanation for everything that is happening.
That would be the gamers crying foul because of the price.
I am not kidding you when I say that we’ve received a number of messages from fans (not too many, but a number of them) saying how they want us to campaign and start petitions for a lower, “fair price” on used copies of Xenoblade Chronicles. First off, we’ve retired from campaigning. Second, you guys are fighting this battle the wrong way.
Here’s the thing: the secondhand market is the truest form of the free-market economy known to man. There are no corporations setting prices for things, no government oversight (other than going after fraudulent sellers), just prices dictated by pure supply and demand.
For those who slept through Economics 101, here’s how supply and demand works. When supply is high and demand is unchanged, the price is low, as there is plenty of stock available. Conversely, when supply is low and demand is unchanged, prices go up because there is less stock available.
On the other side of things, when demand is up regardless of supply, prices go up due to a potential shortage. Conversely, when demand is down regardless of supply, prices go down due to a surplus.
Demand can fluctuate depending on popularity and price. When something is popular or pleasing to many, demand is higher, which causes prices to rise. If prices get too high, the demand will fall. It is therefore the job of sellers to understand the demand to determine the price and quantity of their supply to gain maximum profits. They do this by trying to find the equilibrium price, a point where supply and demand intersect that will lead to the most profit.
Here’s an example of supply and demand in action. Saint, a shooter for the Wii, only sold about 20,000 copies. Based on just supply, the price for the game should be up. However, since the game was terrible, there is little to no demand for it. Therefore, the equilibrium price on the secondhand market for Saint, as dictated by the free market, is only $3, less than 10% of the original price.
Meanwhile, Xenoblade Chronicles sold nearly 400,000 copies in North America, nearly matching the combined totals of the rest of the world. However, since the game has been so well-received by critics and gamers, there is an incredible demand for the game. Therefore, the equilibrium price on the secondhand market for Xenoblade Chronicles, as dictated by the free market, is $90. According to the free market, that is a fair price.
Now, before I get comments about how I should be ashamed of myself and how oprainfall no longer fights for the little guy anymore because they won’t petition GameStop, let me just reiterate this: this is the wrong way to fight this battle.
There is one factor still in play now available to us that will change the future of the used game market. That is the digital market, featured on the Wii U, 3DS, Vita, PS4, Xbox One, and computers. With full retail games now becoming available for digital download, the physical market can no longer dictate the price of a used game as it used to. There will not be another Xenoblade Chronicles or Metroid Prime Trilogy, where a game comes along that has a higher used price within a year of its release.
|The modern gaming market is no longer just physical.|
But for the moment, there is no such luck for Wii games. The Wii was simply not designed with full digital gaming in mind. It’s just not going to happen on that system.
So, with that in mind, there is still a plan of action you can take. First, you can simply tell secondhand sellers, “No, I won’t buy Xenoblade Chronicles for $90.” Seeing demand at that price fall will force the secondhand market to drop the price closer to the original $50.
Second, and the option I would recommend over simply saying no, you can politely ask Nintendo to release the game digitally on the Wii U. This will not only re-open the market for gamers who missed out before—it will drop the physical price like a rock. Secondhand sellers looking for a profit would be crazy to sell the game for nearly twice the price that Nintendo dictates for a digital copy (especially once they get their act together on IDs).
So, to GameStop, whatever you’re doing, don’t let it be something that’s illegal. There are some good people working at my local GameStops and I don’t want them losing their jobs because of something stupid that you did.
To the gamers, keep fighting the good fight. But choose your fights with more care. Even the best general knows that he can’t win every battle.
Supply-and-demand graph from stephansmithfx.com
GameStopsecond-hand marketused gamesXenoblade Chronicles