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Microsoft partners with (saves) GameStop
What the "partnership" means for GameStop and how they can bounce back.
Betas, quick resume, and what GameStop can do moving forward.
Read time: 8 minutes
Here are small and developing stories you should keep your eye on.
Cold War beta: over the weekend, PS4 owners were treated to the official multiplayer beta of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. The two-weekend event was the first since the alpha a few weeks ago, and players have already noticed a handful of changes made by Treyarch and Raven Software. Although last weekend has exclusive to PlayStation owners only, Xbox and PC owners will have access to this weekend’s beta as well. Early access (for those that pre-ordered Black Ops Cold War) begins on Thursday, October 15, at 10 am Pacific while the rest of the community will get a crack at it starting on October 17 at 10 am Pacific. The beta lasts through the weekend and will end next Monday at, you guessed it, 10 am Pacific. This will likely be the last chance players will get at playing Black Ops Cold War until it’s release next month, so make sure to carve some time out and enjoy the beta!
Xbox quick resume: as many know, test units of the upcoming Xbox Series X have been made available to media outlets and influencers. Overall, the console has been met with rave reviews, and the hype around the console has never been greater. Outlets and influencers have had a chance to mess with a variety of features on the console, and the most recent feature is its quick resume. Videos on Twitter have shown demonstrations of the next-gen Xbox’s quick resume capabilities, with gamers being able to jump in and out of games without fear of restarting or losing progress. But not only are Xbox Series X owners able to jump in between games while maintaining progress, but they’ll also be able to do so even if the console has been unplugged. One person even mentioned that after a week of being unplugged, they were able to return to the game they were playing and pick up right where they left off. It’s an incredible feature, and it’ll be especially great for gamers who are constantly on the move.
PS5 backward capability: after months of speculation on just how many PS4 games will be available to PS5 owners, we finally got our answer — all of them…except for ten titles. Yes, PS5 owners will be able to play almost all of the 4,000+ titles released on the PS4 except for ten games. Here are those ten games:
Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
Just Deal With It!
Shadow Complex Remastered
Robinson: The Journey
Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
A pretty small list of lower-tier games, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as you’d expect. Although almost all the games on the PS4 will be playable, PlayStation has noted that “some PS4 games may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior when played on PS5 consoles.” That shouldn’t be too surprising, but it is something to monitor and be aware of whenever playing these older titles.
Microsoft and GameStop “partner up”
It seems like Microsoft has been dominating the spotlight recently, hasn’t it?
In another massive move, GameStop announced via press release that they would be entering a multi-year, strategic partnership with Microsoft. The move was made to help GameStop “further advance its strategy to expand its physical and digital video game offerings, as well as enhance the company’s retail technology infrastructure.”
It was a stunning move that not only had millions of gamers interested but investors as well. GameStop shares soared on Thursday, reaching a high of 44% at one point.
The press release primarily talked about the impact Microsoft will have within GameStop stores. Store associates will soon have access to Microsoft’s Surface devices to help improve the customer experience, and they will also start selling Microsoft’s gaming subscriptions. Alongside the physical changes, GameStop will also see some backend adjustments in the form of Microsoft’s Dynamic 365 solution. Associates will soon have access to real-time data on their store’s inventory, customer preferences, customer purchase history, and insight into where customers purchased a product (in-store or online).
The purpose of all these resources? More customized customer experiences and a transition to an omnichannel marketing approach.
But despite the exciting news, the press release failed to really discuss the strategy behind making the consumers experience better at GameStop.
GameStop has suffered from the rise in digital gaming marketplaces and the COVID-19 pandemic and, prior to this partnership, the long-time gaming vendor was on-track to follow-up it’s tough 2019 with an even worse 2020. Although this partnership has injected some new life into the brand, they’ll need to quickly announce or showcase how exactly they plan on utilizing these newfound tools.
What GameStop does next will be crucial to its existence, and it’ll be interesting to see how they capitalize on this opportunity.
While many are praising Microsoft for its business genius, they are also acknowledging that this was a necessary move for GameStop.
Even before the pandemic, GameStop was struggling. A big contributor to that is because of the emergence of digital mediums like Steam, PS Plus, and the Xbox Marketplace. Providing gamers with the ability to purchase their favorite titles on-the-spot, instead of traveling to their local GameStop, is a huge benefit, and it’s one that will continue to get popular as these online marketplaces are refined.
Alongside that, bigger retail stores like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are offering a more robust selection of gaming titles, with some stores even providing pre-owned titles. And when that's paired with cloud-gaming services from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the gaming ecosystem has never looked worse for GameStop.
But I don’t think those reasons are the only reason why GameStop is failing.
I think another big part of why GameStop is failing is because of…
The brand has become known for its shady sales approach, poor employee treatment, and awful trade-in services. I’ve heard awful stories of gamers trading in a plethora of quality titles, only to get “pennies” in return. We saw even some evidence of poor employee treatment a few weeks ago with the PS5 pre-orders, as many GameStop managers were informed that they would accept online and in-person pre-orders that night. Although the managers adapted well, the situation could’ve been handled a lot better had corporate had given its stores a warning.
I’ve even experienced some of GameStop’s awful practices myself, as some employees would sneak a pricey warranty coverage on my game purchases, despite saying I wasn’t interested. It was a frustrating experience, and I’ve had to review every action made by GameStop employees since then.
It’s bad, and people are catching on to how poorly the brand treats its customers. They may have been able to get away with it in the past, as they were viewed as one of the few gaming-focused vendors left, but I don’t think that’ll be true for long.
That all leads us back to the Microsoft partnership.
While many are focusing on what Microsoft can gain from this, and rightfully so, I wanted to focus on what GameStop needs to do to capitalize.
Most importantly, the company needs to straighten out the customer experience. Sure, it’s awesome that your associates will have access to Surface devices, but that doesn’t matter if they don’t trust you. The company needs to build trust, and they can start that process by cleaning up their business practices.
Offer genuine trade-in value when consumers come with quality, well-cared-for games. If someone buys a brand new game for $70, don’t give them $20 if the trade it in the next week and subsequently charge it for $60.
Have employees offer solutions to the problems gamers are experiencing, instead of just trying to sell a game or service. Not every gamer will actually come in with a problem, but framing it this way allows associates to provide something valuable for the customer, instead of the other way around.
MAKE SURE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE AWARE OF WHAT THEY’RE ACTUALLY BUYING.
(Sorry, lost my cool for a second.)
These seem like easy, obvious actions, but it’s something that GameStop hasn’t been great or consistent with. Prioritizing the customer experience at its stores could be a great step forward for the brand.
Other than that, they need to find a better revenue stream than simply leaning on trade-ins. Although this is still something that can generate revenue (and likely will for a while), it can’t be the only thing. It seems like they’ll have a solution to that via selling Microsoft subscriptions, but it’ll be interesting to see how this is implemented. With digital marketplaces continuing to grow in popularity, GameStop needs to find a way to leverage that, and selling subscriptions could be a good first step.
Am I a seasoned business professional with experience in optimizing business practices and revenue?
Absolutely not, I’m just a writer with an opinion.
But I’m also a consumer who continues to shop at GameStop and who has friends that work there. Although I likely will never get the full picture of how the company conducts business, I do have a good view of what goes on in its stores.
The company needs to be better, and I’m really hoping Microsoft can point them in that direction.
I really enjoy buying used games.
World Mental Health Day + Video Games = CheckPoint
Last Saturday marked World Mental Health Day, and the world certainly needed it.
With joblessness, a scary election cycle in the United States, and the COVID-19 pandemic (amongst other things), millions of people around the world are struggling mentally now more than ever.
For those that don’t know, I too struggle with mental health issues, primarily anxiety and depression. Although I don’t take any sort of medication for these conditions, I have looked to other mediums to cope with it, specifically video games.
It’s why I love the industry and gaming in general.
It provides me peace. It provides me comfort. It quells my otherwise cluttered mind.
In the spirit of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share this amazing list of curated titles that focus on your wellbeing. Created by CheckPoint, this list selection consists of games that can help you feel better or just distract you from the stresses you may be experiencing.
And if you have the time, I highly recommend you checkout CheckPoint. The charity aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide resources for those that struggle, with a specific focus in the gaming community. It’s a great site, especially for anyone that has used gaming as a positive outlet like I have.