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GameStop's View of the Gaming World

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the looking-pretty-good-out-those-windows dept.

Businesses 61

Gamasutra has up a massive interview with some of the executives at Gamestop, the largest games-specific retailer here in the US. Speaking with folks like senior merchandising VP Bob McKenzie and marketing VP Tom DeNapoli, the site explores the retailer's unique position within the gaming world, their views on the three consoles, and even the possibility that they might someday stock AO titles. "Gamasutra: There was a point where Manhunt 2 was considered an AO game. Is an AO game something that you would consider selling if it came out? Is it something that you would consider carrying in your stores? Bob McKenzie: I think that it is an opportunity that we would have to look at on a case-by-case. In this situation, I'm glad that they went back, reworked it, and it will be M rated. I can't say that we would have supported it at AO, and I can't say that we won't. In the past, when there was an AO game such as Leisure Suit Larry from a couple of years ago, GameStop wouldn't support that game in our retail stores. However, that was before the merger with Electronics Boutique, and EB did take the title into their retail stores. So, again, it is a situation that we have to take on a case-by-case. But I have to say that we prefer that the AO games are not anything that we are out there in the market looking for."

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Censorship (0)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703021)

The refusal of all the major retailers to sell AO games amounts to nothing more than censorship. It's absurd. We should get rid of the "sex is bad" crowd, get people to realize video games aren't any different from movies, and keep the government regulation out of it. The game publishers shouldn't even bother getting their game rated in the first place if all that's going to happen is a refusal to sell them because they're rated too strongly. If stores are refusing to sell games that aren't ESRB-rated, then the ESRB has a monopoly and should be taken care of by the antitrust laws.

Re:Censorship (3, Insightful)

edwdig (47888) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703439)

It's not the "sex is bad" crowd that's causing this. It's driven primarily by the Jack Thompson "video games make people murderers" crowd. Hot Coffee was just the final straw on top of all the violence complaints about GTA.

And yeah, video games aren't different than movies. Movies went through this junk too. Unfortunately, this stuff doesn't get resolved until the people who grew up with the thing in question are old enough to have a significant influence in politics.

Re:Censorship (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718583)

### It's not the "sex is bad" crowd that's causing this.

AO was for years a 'sex' rating, games with violence didn't get it, games with nudity and sex got it. Manhunt2 is I think the first violent game that got it. This really has nothing to do with Jack Thompson and friends, since violent games continue to sell and allowed to be made, its only the AO ones that aren't even allowed to make it onto the consoles, since Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo won't allow it.

Re:Censorship (5, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703445)

The refusal of all the major retailers to sell AO games amounts to nothing more than censorship.

Sigh. Private business should be and are allowed to make their own rules. How is that censorship? Whether the decision is moral, financial (smaller market for those AO games you see) or ass-watching (don't want an employee to accidentally sell one to a kid, or get accused of it, etc), it doesn't matter. My store, my rules. That's like saying you stop by a gas station convenience store, and get pissed off because they don't have (say) bread. Sure 99% of gas stations stock bread, but for some reason this one chose not to. More power to them. Are they now censoring the carbohydrate industry? Your argument is absurd.

If stores are refusing to sell games that aren't ESRB-rated, then the ESRB has a monopoly and should be taken care of by the antitrust laws.

Game studios can sell direct. 18 and a credit card. More power to them.

Re:Censorship (1)

thryllkill (52874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703621)

jeez I wish I could mod you up. I just have to add that a reviewing body (like the ESRB) can not have a monopoly since it isn't a fricking company. GP is a reactionary moron.

Re:Censorship (2, Insightful)

Drathos (1092) | more than 7 years ago | (#20704691)

..ass-watching (don't want an employee to accidentally sell one to a parent who gives it to their 4 year old kid for their birthday, or get accused of it, etc)
Fixed that for you.

Re:Censorship (4, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#20704847)

"Private business should be and are allowed to make their own rules."

Individually, yes, but what happens when they collude? There's a difference between individual retailers refusing to carry a product and all retailers refusing to carry a product.

The example used is Leisure Suit Larry. It made Sierra money, therefore there was quite the market for it. But in today's market, despite potential customer demand for such a game, the retailers as a whole would refuse to sell it, denying Sierra access to customers and vice versa.

"Censorship" likely isn't the right word, but it's certainly "anti-competitive practices."

"That's like saying you stop by a gas station convenience store, and get pissed off because they don't have (say) bread."

No, it's like every gas station refusing to sell a particular brand of bed. Because they all got together and decided they didn't like the bread you were selling and that it was best for "the children" that you not be able to sell it.

Re:Censorship (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#20708939)

Individually, yes, but what happens when they collude? There's a difference between individual retailers refusing to carry a product and all retailers refusing to carry a product.
There's a difference between all retailers individually making the decision not to carry a product, and all retailers working together to decide to not carry a product.

No, it's like every gas station refusing to sell a particular brand of bed. Because they all got together and decided they didn't like the bread you were selling and that it was best for "the children" that you not be able to sell it.
That is indeed collusion, however, that analogy may not apply. If there was a food scare and each retailer decided not to stock bread due to low demand and potential exposure to lawsuit it's not collusion. Retailers are hesitant to stock AO titles because the market is much smaller, fear of community backlash and bad PR, and risk of lawsuits.

Re:Censorship (1)

Hoknor (950280) | more than 7 years ago | (#20709805)

The thing that bugs me about the handling of Manhunt 2 is really the fact that they decided to submit it for a rating in the first place. They could have made the game contain whatever they wanted and left it unrated, if it worked anything like movies some stores would then actually carry it because it had bypassed the AO stigma to some extent. Otherwise they could just sell it online. Does Steam have a policy about AO or unrated games? It makes me suspect that as far as Rockstar/Take Two are concerned, all of this is just a very effective advertising campaign.

Re:Censorship (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 7 years ago | (#20711887)

"There's a difference between all retailers individually making the decision not to carry a product, and all retailers working together to decide to not carry a product."

Pure coincidence? Going back to the example of Leisure Suit Larry, what do you think would happen if only particular retailers carried the game? Those retailers could advertise "You can only get it here!" and the retailers that refused to carry the game would lose business.

A retailer's decision to not carry something that would otherwise be in demand must necessarily depend on what his competitors are doing. If nobody else is carrying Game X, it makes it far more comfortable for the retailer to decline to carry it personally (as there's no risk of a competitor luring sales away). And, of course, once you reach a "critical mass" of sorts, the behavior also makes it that much more uncomfortable for a retailer to break ranks and offer Game X in spite of industry norms.

Re:Censorship (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#20713371)

Pure coincidence? Going back to the example of Leisure Suit Larry, what do you think would happen if only particular retailers carried the game? Those retailers could advertise "You can only get it here!" and the retailers that refused to carry the game would lose business.
Video game stores are associated with children since they are the primary sales demographic. By selling AO games a retailer runs the risk of parents standing outside your store with signs saying "Gamestop peddles porn to kids." The risk to lost sales (parents stop bringing in their kids to buy Pokemon 19) is much greater than any marginal sales gains from Leisure suit Larry
An AO game could find its way onto shelves, but it would have to be a high quality critically acclaimed piece of art. Most likely such a game would cause a review of the ratings system in the first place (ala Midnight Cowboy for the movie business)

A retailer's decision to not carry something that would otherwise be in demand must necessarily depend on what his competitors are doing.
Not necessarily, the retailer's decision is based on the market envrionment. There are many high selling games that aren't brought over from Japan and same applies to high selling US games not sold overseas.

Re:Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20706809)

It seems to me if the companies stated really were worried that selling an AO rated game would come back to bite them in the butt, it would be fairly easy to put into place something like what they have to get booze in some states, (or even better yet, OTC meds that have psuedoephedrine). Have whoever is purchasing the game sign with a space for personal information and a Drivers License number. At end of day you check list vs what AO games were sold, if they don't match, look up employee number of whoever sold the game without getting the information, fire them.

Seeing as AO games are such a small portion of their overall business, it really wouldn't add that much to the 'work'load of these guys anyhow.

Re:Censorship (1)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20706889)

If private businesses were allowed to make their own rules: http://www.solarnavigator.net/geography/geography_images/New_york_old_timer_structural_steel_worker_empire_state_building.jpg [solarnavigator.net] Private Businesses that were forced by the government to adopt safety standards: http://www.parallaxfilm.com/sky_hkworkers.jpg [parallaxfilm.com] Which would you rather be?

Re:Censorship (1)

KyleTheDarkOne (1034046) | more than 7 years ago | (#20712095)

I would rather be with the business that were allowed to make their own rules. That is a little thing called "freedom". Any time the government forces regulations on people it nicks away at their freedom. Regarding safety, if a person does not feel safe working at a business, they can always quit. There are plenty of people willing to risk their lives for money and if there are not the business will fail and more safety regulated (internally) businesses will rise.

Re:Censorship (1)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20713397)

What exactly is freedom? Where do we get it from? How is it deprived? What defines government versus business? There are plenty of limits on freedoms that aren't written into law, some with harsher consequences than laws. Is it truly a freedom if all places honor the same "rule"? If one is under 17 and enters a movie theater in the US, is it really freedom to see a movie if all movie theaters prevent that 17 year old from seeing a certain movie? There is no law written by the government that prevents that 17 year old from seeing the movie. I'm interested to see what definitions you provide? Because the reality is that there are rules in place that are not laws that put far stricter restraints on freedoms than any law can ever do in the United States. Why? Because private enterprises are not bound by the constitution.

Re:Censorship (1)

KyleTheDarkOne (1034046) | more than 7 years ago | (#20713737)

Freedom is an ideal, like love. It cannot be explain, only felt. To try to explain it would not do it justice. As to where we get it, just look in a text book. We have fought for it, for ourselves and for all, at least we used to. As to the movie theaters, it is a voluntary action by the National Association of Theater Owners to prevent 17 year olds from seeing a certain movie. This is the freedom of the business to select who it allows to purchase what. These rules were voluntarily added. I do not see how these rules violate the constitution.

Re:Censorship (2, Insightful)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20715499)

The rules do not violate the constitution in the sense that the constitution defines any sort of rules over private enterprise within the United States. For this, I am well understanding. However, where we run into a problem is the evolution of power of the private enterprise since the Industrial Revolution, well over a century after the Constitution was written.

Essentially, what I am saying is that The Constitution as it is written does not apply to modern times. "The System", that is the bureaucracy that maintains and runs the United States, which goes beyond just government, has grown so large and so complex that government truly plays a fairly limited role in the day to day operations of the United States. That is, the government has essentially become more obselete than it used to be.

The reality of the situation for us is very dire indeed.

Government cannot prevent freedom of speech.
Government cannot prevent public displays.
Government cannot search you without reason.
You have a right to an attorney (a representative of law) and to a trial to determine guilt.

These are all basic things that we have as a result of the Constitution. All of these rights granted to us through the government are not granted to us through private enterprise.

If you enter a business to protest their dealings you may be arrested.
If a business has the suspicion that you are a thief they may hold you without cause and make accusations and decide whether or not you may return to be a patron.
You do not have a right to a trial nor to an attorney by a private enterprise with regards to their laws.

Essentially what has happened is that "private enterprises" have grown so large, so vast, and so expansive, so all powerful (See the RIAA, the MPAA, and other cartels) that essentially they have become above the law and in more control. When people see the RIAA and MPAA on slashdot, they see the groups as one giant entity. They do not recognize the groups independently as BMG, Elektra, UMG, and so forth.

What is happening is that we are seeing a limited number of companies become more powerful than the government.

"Weapon" (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#20735311)

"Power usually makes its own rules." -- Space Commander Travis

Re:Censorship (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#20735251)

If private businesses were allowed to make their own rules: New York old timer structural steel worker empire state building [solarnavigator.net] . Private Businesses that were forced by the government to adopt safety standards: Sky HKWorkers [parallaxfilm.com] . Which would you rather be?
You would hardly expect the Cult of Skaro [imdb.com] to be all that concerned about human safety when they built [imdb.com] the Empire State Building with homeless laborers.

Re:Censorship (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703847)

The refusal of all the major retailers to sell AO games amounts to nothing more than censorship

Are you saying you should be able to force businesses to sell AO games? Bullshit. It's their store, their shelves, their property, their prerogative, their BUSINESS.

GameStop a non-factor (2, Insightful)

amrust (686727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703223)

Nobody buys new games from GameStop, anyway.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

snsr (917423) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703411)

I do, when I have games to trade in exchange.

There are TWO GameStop stores closer to my home than any big box stores (WalMart and Target included). When instant gratification is the name of the game..

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703415)

Nobody buys new games from GameStop, anyway.
Perhaps they will if it's the only brick-and-mortar store carrying the games you want to play.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

provigilman (1044114) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703561)

Not to mention they're making a lot of exclusive deals on special pre-order bonuses. Like the Bioshock LE.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

darthfracas (1144839) | more than 7 years ago | (#20705207)

well, anybody with a brain. those that do shop there don't realize that used game sales are as big a threat to the video game industry as piracy. for example, when gamestop runs their annual "trade in this year's ncaa football game towards madden and get $30 credit instead of $25" and that traded in copy of ncaa sells for $5 less than the new copy, EA sees none of it. any wonder why gamestop is able to keep raking in cash during quarters when publishers and developers lose money?

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20706659)

Gee, maybe they wouldn't push used game sales so hard if they could make enough money on new games to stay in business.

Besides, it's like the old piracy debate: If they couldn't get it free, they'd buy it! -- Yeah, sure they would. If they couldn't get it used, they'd pay full price? How are they supposed to get the extra money that the didn't get from selling games back and the extra cost for the full game? People that can afford new games buy new games. Those who can't buy used games.

But let's look at another aspect: When are used games sold? Launch day? Nope. Next week? Only if the game's absolute shit. Next month? Nope. Months later. After interest has already died down, used copies are available.

And what about old games that are out of print? Game stores have plenty of those, and their availability helps drive console sales.

Far from hurting game sales, used game sales help it instead. Get all the facts before going on a rampage against the store of the week.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20715897)

Hardly months later. I can buy a used copy of BioShock right now. In a week, I could buy a used copy of Halo3 if I looked hard enough. I don't do this because a) I work in the industry and I like to think that some of my money would support the developer, and b) saving $4 on a $60 title doesn't feel like a big win to me.

I'm not saying they shouldn't sell used games, I don't think brick-and-mortar stores can survive on new game sales alone. But used game sales do not help developers (which is one reason why they are changing their revenue stream to online content and ads).

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717913)

Then Bioshock should have bothered to make the game have some replay value. I beat it in less than 20 hours ($3/hour, for those that are counting!) and started a new game to play again. I think realized I had done -everything- I cared to do the first time. There was nothing left except playing Pokemon with audio clips and plasmids. (Collect them all!) 'Non-linear' my ass.

Again, used games sales do help developers, but only indirectly. They keep the market alive and gamers interested. If I couldn't get games, I'd have found something else to do instead, and they've have lost a customer for life. For the same $60 a game costs, I could buy some rollerblades and have a -lot- more than 20 hours of fun. (Actually, that suddenly sounds like a good idea.) Or for the price of my 3 consoles, I could have a really nice pool table. (No room for it, though.) There's plenty else to do, and killing your market is not a good idea.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20726503)

I'm not sure how long I played Bioshock. I think its a sign of a good game if you don't feel the need to time it. It could of been 10, 20, 40 or so hours, but I enjoyed all of them. Yes, it was almost totally linear. But I'm okay with that. It was like a great movie or book. To me, it was well worth the time and money.

If you wanted a game that lasted forever (or at least felt like it did) you should of bought one of the epic RPGs or an MMO. You could spend 100's of hours in EQ2 killing rats. If all you want to do is kill time, there are even MMOs out today that allow you to do this for free.

My point being, the game market is huge and full of choices. I'm not sure how they would lose a customer for life if you didn't play every game that came to market. In fact, I think they are more likely to lose you if you keep playing games you don't enjoy.

Also, as you said, there's plenty else to do. In fact, there is almost to much to do. In addition to working full time and being in a relationship, I'm an avid inline skater. I also enjoy biking, skiing, movies, amusement parks, books, and the internet. With so much to do, I'm glad I can find a game that is fun and doesn't eat up all my time.

(In short, go out and skate!):)

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#20727187)

Actually, I've done the MMO thing and I can't stand it any more. There's no substance.

And I've done the 'epic RPG' thing, too. Even Oblivion. (Which I played around 120 hours... First game to last me that long in -years-.)

I expected more from Bioshock. It doesn't matter that there are other games out there that last longer, when I pay $60 for a game, I expect to get more than 20 hours of fun out of it. At the very least, I expect a very memorable experience. Bioshock was fun, and mildly interesting, but after the part shown in the demo, there's not much else that's new or shocking. That's pretty sad.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

Gothic_Walrus (692125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20707741)

well, anybody with a brain. those that do shop there don't realize that used game sales are as big a threat to the video game industry as piracy.

I guess piracy must not have been much of a threat, then...unless I'm mistaken, I don't think that Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft are on the verge of folding due to buying used games. Saying that is just preposterous - not everybody can afford $50 for a game the day it comes out, and games only have limited shelf life. Let's say I want a copy of Mario Tennis for my GameCube. I could get a copy of Mario Strikers or Mario Baseball, yes, but those aren't tennis.

Also, regarding the "anyone with a brain" comment: nine times out of ten, new games I've gotten from GameStop have been opened so they can be stored behind the counter. This wasn't an issue before, but became one when my sister got a new copy of Elite Beat Agents and was crushed to find that everything had already been unlocked. A new game should be new, not taken home by bored and underpaid employees. As far as I'm concerned, GameStop doesn't deserve money for new games if that's going to happen...especially when I can get the same game for the same money from Target or Best Buy, and know that it actually is new and won't be scratched up or containing someone else's save files because it's still sealed.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20715933)

"..became one when my sister got a new copy of Elite Beat Agents and was crushed to find that everything had already been unlocked.."

Most likely they sold her a returned (used) copy as new. 100% pure profit for the store.

This probably wasn't a company policy but just a bored underpaid employee who didn't care to check. Either case, I hope you returned the title and demanded the new version you paid for.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#20716599)

Most likely they sold her a returned (used) copy as new. 100% pure profit for the store. This probably wasn't a company policy but just a bored underpaid employee who didn't care to check. Either case, I hope you returned the title and demanded the new version you paid for.
Actually, what is company policy (and most likely what happened) is to open games so that they have "display boxes" that they can put out on the floor so that if someone swips the box they don't get the game. Of course, if someone swips the box, that means they have a "new" game to sell without a box. That also often leads to scratched discs, missing books, and other problems. Like the gp poster's problem. They probably let the employees or customers try the game, or even some stores actually have policies to let the employees borrow new games. The problem isn't just bored underpaid employees making mistakes, the problem is that store policies require some new games be opened and even played and still sold as new. You can't even rely on looking at the game to make sure it's sealed, because they have a sealer in the back room. Really, the only way to make sure you buy a new game in the condition a new game should be in is to buy it from somewhere other than Gamestop.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20717219)

We're all just guessing here, and that causes problems.

I doubt GameStop, or any major game store, has any policy that allows employees to play games and then re-sell them as new. Not saying it doesn't happen, just that it isn't an official policy.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720809)

We're all just guessing here, and that causes problems. I doubt GameStop, or any major game store, has any policy that allows employees to play games and then re-sell them as new. Not saying it doesn't happen, just that it isn't an official policy.
No, I used to work at Gamestop. I'm not guessing. The policies require one of every new game to be opened so an empty box can be put on the shelf. The opened games can then be used by customers to try the game, or some stores will, depending on the manager, allow the employees to borrow the game, at least that was the case a couple of years ago. I don't know if it was official policy to allow employees to borrow games, but the district managers and probably corporate knew about it and allowed it as long as the store managers could handle it. What was definately official policy was that if a game came to a store as "new", it had to be sold as new, no matter what happened to it. If Elite Beat Agents shows up as new, one of the copies will be opened according to store policy, and then if it's played by the employees during their breaks and customers who want to try it (that happens everywhere, there's no policies against that), official policy says that it has to go back in the box and the box gets resealed in the shrink-wrap machine. Even if everything's been beat in it, or even worse, if the manual got lost or if the game was a disc and was all scratched up, or anything. The employees are never allowed to sell it as used.

Maybe they've changed their policies since I worked there, but considering I keep hearing stories like the other poster's, I doubt it.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#20726577)

Thanks for the inside information.

Like you said, there probably isn't an "official policy" to play the open games but everybody does it. And since they have to sell it "as new", that's going to bite them in the ass.

The first "new" game I buy from GameStop that comes with everything unlocked will also be the last game I buy from them.

Re:GameStop a non-factor (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720605)

well, anybody with a brain. those that do shop there don't realize that used game sales are as big a threat to the video game industry as piracy.

Yeah. But do you know what really thrates an industry ? Ebay. It allows people to get old stuff cheap, instead of doing their consumerist duty and buying everything brand new.

Yes, buying used stuff is equivalent to stealing from the manufacturer ! Please write to your Congressperson immediately so that we may end this horrible, unfiar practice. I shall write to the Finnish Parliament and point out that an american is considering this legislation; that should make them push it through post haste. They may not even themselves know what, exacly speaking, is illegal according to the new law, like happened with Lex Karpela, but it's not like that has ever stopped them before.

Re: Censorship (3, Insightful)

g_adams27 (581237) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703397)

> The refusal of all the major retailers to sell AO games amounts to nothing more than censorship.

Do you understand what censorship is? Here are three examples:

  • When the US government tells you that you are not allowed to play a certain video game, that's censorship.
  • When a retailer decides not to stock a certain video game, that's censorship (of a kind).
  • When parents tell their child that they are not allowed to play a certain video game, that's censorship.

Only one of those is illegal. Do you know which one it is?

Frankly, I'm not sure what you'd propose as an alternative. Do you want the government to require that retailers who sell any video games must sell all video games out there, regardless of their rating, sexual content, violence level, or even based on whether it's any fun or not? And you think that's an improvement over the free market where a company decides on its own which products to sell? While you're at it, maybe you should get the government to force all video retailers to carry all NC-17 videos. And maybe they should also require all booksellers to sell all X-rated books and magazines that exist.

> We should get rid of the "sex is bad" crowd

Right! We need to censor those guys! Er... hang on...

Re: Censorship (2, Interesting)

ZerMongo (1129583) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703827)

Yes, only one of the types of censorship you wrote about is illegal. However, just because it's not illegal doesn't mean it's right.

> Frankly, I'm not sure what you'd propose as an alternative. Do you want the government to require that retailers who sell any video games must sell all video games out there, regardless of their rating, sexual content, violence level, or even based on whether it's any fun or not? And you think that's an improvement over the free market where a company decides on its own which products to sell? While you're at it, maybe you should get the government to force all video retailers to carry all NC-17 videos. And maybe they should also require all booksellers to sell all X-rated books and magazines that exist.

You're completely missing the point. It's not about the government forcing retailers to carry products; it's about the retailers carrying all products to let the consumer make the decision. Yes, you can go on about how Gamestop is a private company and they can take their ball and go home if they want to: no one's disputing this. We just want to see companies like Gamestop actively make the decision to let the customer choose what they want to buy, rather than Gamestop. If a game is rated AO, only those older than 17 can buy it: why the hell wouldn't you stock it? What's to be afraid of? That people might buy it?

> We should get rid of the "sex is bad" crowd

Right! We need to censor those guys! Er... hang on...


I realize that this comment was meant to be funny, but your word usage is incorrect. He's not talking about censoring the "sex is bad" crowd: if they don't want to buy Leisure Suit Larry, they don't have to buy it. They can picket the company's headquarters all they want. But their squeamishness over sexuality shouldn't prevent me from being able to walk in and buy it should I want to play a shitty game with titties... That doesn't involve volleyball or wrestling, of course.

Re: Censorship (2, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20704817)

AO games don't sell well. That's a pretty solid fact. Retailers don't like to carry games that don't sell well, and especially don't like to carry games that don't sell well AND give them bad PR, which AO games do (even M rated is started to acquire bad publicity now, back when I was a kid an AO game was treated much as M rated is now, it's something that you sell knowing that people will complain that you do sell it).

Now the interesting point here is that AO games sell bad because few retailers will carry them. That sets up a catch-22/loop, lack of retailers -> lack of sales -> lack of retailers ad infinitum.

No stores in the US "actively make the decision to let the customer choose what they want to buy" (with the extremely minor possible exception of collectible game stores that let you order stuff through them, though that doesn't count). Stores carry what they want to carry, usually based on how well they think the item will sell. If you want proof of this just pick an item, a book for instance, one of those complete flops that no one wants to buy. What do you think the odds are that your local bookstore will carry it? Not particularly good, unless you're very lucky. How about organic foods? For a long time grocery stores didn't carry those because they didn't sell well except among a certain crowd who didn't even shop at grocery stores. Was that an issue of censorship? No, it's good market decisions.

Gamestop has a limited space in which to carry games. If you've ever been to one of their stores they can have something like 300 games on display at any time (at their bigger ones, including the tiny game cassettes at the register). They don't carry AO games for the simple reason that those games would take up space and would not sell well, according to studies and something like 10 years of market research. If you believe they would sell well then you're in the vast minority and fighting an uphill battle.

So to recap, Gamestop not carrying AO games is 80% a marketing decision, and 20% a PR decision. Get all upset with the PR roll not having AO games gives them, but don't imagine that they're 'caving' in. They're simply making the intelligent decision to not fight for a game genre that has been shown to not sell well, you're asking them to carry a bunch of games that would sit on their shelves, selling once in a blue moon, and get thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people angry at them. That is not a smart decision at all.

Re: Censorship (1)

Jthon (595383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20705321)

Sure the local bookstore won't carry a flop but usually they are willing to order one for me from the publisher. All I need to do is ask. It might take awhile but I'll still be able to get a copy.

I can't do this with video games from a place like Gamestop. If Gamestop won't stock it they aren't willing to contact the publisher and order a single copy. This leaves someone with the only option of trying to buy from the publisher directly. In some cases you might be able to buy something from their website, but not always.

What irritates me most about Gamestop is that their selection can be limited at times, and games get dumped real fast from online and stores. Sometimes this works out for the consumer, because if you're lucky you can pick good stuff out of the clearance bins. Contrast this with a bookstore where even unpopular books may be available, but they'll only stock a few at a time.

This makes Gamestops more like Airport bookstores that only stock the latest NYT best sellers than a real bookstore.

Re: Censorship (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#20718695)

The basic problem here is that retailers base their decision on what to carry and what not on the ESRB rating, which however has *nothing* to do with how good or bad a game sells. Just for the record, GTA:SA is among the top ten best selling games in video game history and quite a few of those copies have a AO rating, due to the AO rating being given out a while after the game was already on the market. So "AO ratings don't sell" is quite simply bullshit, because the rating has nothing to do with how popular a game gets. You think that the Fahrenheit(AO) would have sold less then its censored US-release twin Indigo Prophecy(M)? I kind of doubt that it would have made much of a difference. But since AO won't even be on the shelves, the developers have to censor it to get M, not because AO "doesn't sell well", but because AO isn't sold at all.

The crux is of course that its a feedback loop, since not stocking AO causes all potential AO games to be censored to get a M, which in turn only leaves a few crappy sex games with an AO rating, which then of course don't sell well.

I have no idea how government regulation should help with this, but on the other side I strongly disagree with just saying "its private business, they can do what they want, everything is fine", because something is hugely screwed up here. One thing that might help is simply having a mandatory and government controlled game rating system, since unlike with a a private business controlled one, one could start a lawsuit against it to fix the issue.

Re: Censorship (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#20731925)

. . . and there's usually a big drop in box office receipts between a PG-13 movie and an R movie. Why? Audience. If you have to ID people to get them in the door, then you're gonna have fewer people coming through the door. Cutting out anyone 18 is a huge part of the market to slice off. The same is true for games.

Re: Censorship (2, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#20703977)

Censorship is removing content from something in order to deny people access to it. Not stocking a book isn't censorship, removing parts of the book is censorship.

Please learn what the word means, because claiming everything is censorship when it isn't is doing us more harm than good.

Re: Censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20704253)

True. But the second definition is to keep from being published or transmitted. Stores that refuse to sell AO games are restricting the ability of the average consumer to acquire those titles. Yes, there are other options. Yes, you can buy it on the internet. However, those stores are still limiting the distribution of said titles.

Re: Censorship (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#20704589)

You are using RIAA logic there. Book shops have no agreement to stock everything, if they do not feel the book suits their store they can refuse to stock it, the same way a library won't stock porn. It's not censoring anything, it's just not stocking it.

Re: Censorship (1)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 7 years ago | (#20707529)

Precisely... Amazingly, you're the only one who has it right. Further, censorship is denying access to something to which there is no alternative to get it. (i.e. the Government pressuring the censoring comics in the 1950's.)

A retailer is free to stock or not to stock games that the retailer feels is not their priority to stock. It's their store. If you want to stock it, start your own store...

It's a shame you haven't been modded insightful yet, because of all the censorship related chatter... you're the only one who gets it.
Every time the word censorship is misused, it loses its potency and effectiveness to shine the light on the REAL censorship in the world.

Re: Censorship (2, Insightful)

Grim Beefer (946632) | more than 7 years ago | (#20708051)

You are misunderstanding the issue of censorship.

It's not that some business, government entity, or individual is withholding certain information, it's that a controlling entity is withholding said information. Censorship matters directly in proportion with how much of the population receives their information from said group. Considering that most major retailers refuse to carry AO titles, and that most consumers purchase their games from major retails, there is a direct correlation between their policy and what types of games are made. Video game history has another great example of this, namely with Nintendo and Mortal Kombat. Nintendo's strict censorship policy led to the Genesis version of the game to heavily outsell the SNES port. By the time MKII came about, Nintendo had changed it's tune, and the age of mature gaming was born. The key here was competition; if not for Sega, Nintendo might never have changed its' ways. With no major retail player deviating from this policy, this breakthrough isn't possible right now for AO games. You can also watch "This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated" through Google Video to gain more insight into how this works with film.

BOOYAKA BOOYAKA (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20703871)

Printer friendly [gamasutra.com] mah dawgz

Gamestop don't know shizzzit (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#20704739)

They bought up all the FuncoLands and stopped selling practically all previous generation used games... which is all it was good for. THeir used games go for a mere pittance under what the new retail would cost... making it practically pointless.

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20705515)

Plus you can't buy new games there without pre-ordering them. They act like you *need* to pre-order and can't just go over the local Best Buy, which will happily sell you one of the dozens of unreserved copies they've got on the shelf.

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (1)

EtoilePB (1087031) | more than 7 years ago | (#20706583)

Plus you can't buy new games there without pre-ordering them. They act like you *need* to pre-order and can't just go over the local Best Buy, which will happily sell you one of the dozens of unreserved copies they've got on the shelf.

It's because of the way they work internally. Unreserved copies of a new game go to the stores that have had the most pre-orders. So no pre-orders = barely any off-the-shelf copies to sell. So you plug the pre-orders not only to get the game-reserving customers their copies, but also to have a bigger slice of the pie, as it were, to sell to the walk-ins.

At least, that's how I left it in March '06.

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (1)

TheWolfie (1160175) | more than 7 years ago | (#20707679)

Brick and Mortar game stores are worse than auto repair shops in terms of general grossness of the motives the employees have to sell things to customers. Back around July I was getting ready to go on infant care leave. At that time the new Harry Potter (for the wife I swear), Overlord and The Darkness were released. I walked into the local GameStop and inquired about Overlord. The employee made a big fuss when told that I had not pre-ordered a copy. I then asked about the second and third title on my list. Same disgust shown that I had not pre-ordered and was literally told I would not be able to purchase them. I flat out asked "I want to buy three brand new titles and you will not sell them to me?" So the employee and one of his buddies riffled through the copies of the titles and had some sort of conversation. Their solution? They would sell me the 3 titles only I pre-ordered another title. It obviously was not an issue with supply and demand. Kindly saying no thank you I drove 12 minutes to the Target and bought all three. I learned my lesson. I guess selling pre-owned titles marked up close to retail prices and getting that pre-order down payment so corporate can make money of the interest is more important than letting the customer conveniently buy what they really want. Which is fine, but I will no longer do business with them.

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20713655)

I work for Gamestop (so go ahead and mod me -5 asshole or whatever). I can honestly say that I've never given anybody shit about not preordering a game beyond asking if they have it pre-ordered. If you do, that's fine and dandy, and I'll try to see if there's another game you're interested in. If you don't have it pre-ordered, then I'm still happy to sell you one out of the drawer (or the display copy) if we have any. If the employee gives you shit about it or try to make a deal like that one, grab a business card (the store number is on it, speeds things up) and get the corporate phone number and complain. That's not the way to get reserves.

And for the display copy, I know some stores gut the whole thing (my current store) so it's just an empty case with the cover artwork in it.

As for employees taking new games home and playing them, that's a policy that varies from store to store. My manager when I was first hired preferred we check out new copies. My current manager prefers employees check out used games.

And I'll just go ahead and echo the sentiment that many complainers seem to forget. If you don't like our business practices, then you can take your business elsewhere. There's plenty of other places you can get rid of your old video games (friends, CD/Game Exchange type stores, eBay, Craigslist, et al). If all you want is to buy a game from somebody, go to Walmart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video/Game Crazy, or eBay, Craigslist, and CD/Game Exchange.

Gamestop don't know economics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20705789)

"THeir used games go for a mere pittance under what the new retail would cost... making it practically pointless."

Apparently you've never heard, "buy low, sell high". That applies across all kinds of industry. From booksellers to game stores. That's how they make their money, and with things like eBay and Amazon you can get in on the action of "buy low and sell high".

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (1)

Schmapdi (840038) | more than 7 years ago | (#20705851)

Yes, I love seeing a used game go for $45 at Gamestop instead of 50 new anyplace else. Then they offer you a nickel if you want to sell them anything back. It's pretty insulting. Plus a few months ago I went to my local gamestop to get Super Paper Mario the day it was released (I didn't feel like driving all the way to Best Buy) where they told me that the quoted day was the "ship date" and the release date was actually the next day. So I left and went across the parking lot to Walmart (a place I hate going to more than Gamestop) and bought it. Thanks Gamestop!

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20706621)

Don't forget all the shit and booger crumbs in the instruction booklet that that $45 gets you at Gamestop.

Or even better, the floor model they sell for full price. Some fuckwad employee once had the audacity to say "as opposed to a fake new copy?" when I said I wanted "a REAL new copy" when I spied him pulling a paper sleeve out of a drawer. Yeah motherfucker! When you open the package and let 100 people get their hands on the manual, it ain't goddamned new anymore!

Re:Gamestop don't know shizzzit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20713523)

They look at it the new games that they gut similar to how cars are sold. It is considered new until it is sold (though I think on cars there's a mileage threshold where they can't legally call it new even though it hasn't ever been titled). And car dealerships usually give a discount on the test-drive vehicle when it finally gets sold.

The problem with AO (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 7 years ago | (#20710361)

If you look at movies, there is a lot of variety when it comes to subject matter. You have your movies that go from the movies for the kids(G rated), to movies with some nudity, to violence of different levels of gore, and then to the seriously adult oriented movies with a LOT of sex. Note that there are very few movies rated X for violence when it comes to movies.

In almost all movies, there is an ARTISTIC element to the material though. With the exception of your typical porn film, nudity and even violence are done in many movies with an artistic approach to telling a story.

So, looking at the game market, what game titles have been out there that have any level of nudity that can be considered an artistic addition to the story, rather than as a very poor way to try to sell more copies to the young male audience? Is it about just trying to put sex in to draw those ONLY looking for more porn? This is why the game market doesn't get the same treatment as movies when it comes to material, a lack of art when it comes to nudity in games. This is not the same as saying the anime/hentai inspired games don't require artistic talent, but the overall story-telling in games tends to not include the addition of nudity in a way to enhance the telling of a well rounded story.

Games tend to focus on violence, but you never see heroes with a semi-realistic love life in games. Honestly, if a game is rated M due to violent content, then adding a bit of nudity that isn't a part of some sex game within the main game should be considered natural. The fact that so few games are out there with this sort of thing just shows why adult-only is never seen in retail outlets.

If people would get the idea that sex and violence were done in games with the same attention to story and artistic expression, they might accept AO titles. The problem is that there really hasn't been a lot of attention to artistic nudity in games, and as a result, AO titles get treated like rated X movies which tend to have their own room in video stores. If this situation ever gets addressed, attitudes may change.

Re:The problem with AO (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720309)

### So, looking at the game market, what game titles have been out there that have any level of nudity that can be considered an artistic addition to the story, rather than as a very poor way to try to sell more copies to the young male audience?

Dreamfall and Fahrenheit come to mind, both of them have been censored. Fahrenheit actually managed to come out as originally planed in Europe and only get censored for the US market. Other examples would be GTA:SA and Singles.

### This is why the game market doesn't get the same treatment as movies when it comes to material

Well, not really, because due to the handling of AO nobody dares to touch nudity and sex, except porn games, which really can't work around the issue, everybody else censors their game to have a chance to market them. So its clear that most AO games end up being porn.

### Honestly, if a game is rated M due to violent content, then adding a bit of nudity that isn't a part of some sex game within the main game should be considered natural.

Yep, but thats not the case, you quickly get a AO from trying something like that.

### The problem is that there really hasn't been a lot of attention to artistic nudity in games,

Well, because there really isn't much to pay attention to. No console allows AO and no PC publishers is going to deliberately risking a AO after having invested millions in a title, so everybody plays save. The only chance I currently see to change this is online publishing, when I remember correctly Gametap offers the uncut AO version of Fahrenheit, which is a good start, but its still a long long way to go from there.

Re:The problem with AO (2, Informative)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20720913)

So, looking at the game market, what game titles have been out there that have any level of nudity that can be considered an artistic addition to the story, rather than as a very poor way to try to sell more copies to the young male audience?

Ying Yan! X-Change Alternative [wikipedia.org] , which, ironically, is a porn game. The sex scenes and sexual elements in it are absolutely vital to the plot.

Of course a case may be made that it doesn't really count, being a choose-your-own-adventure rather than what's usually considered a game, but that's a debate for another time.

Star Control 2 / Ur-Quan Masters [sourceforge.net] also has a sex scene, but the cowards censored it by making the screen black out. It isn't quite vital to the plot like X-Change's scenes are, but fits it nonetheless.

Lastly, Nethack [nethack.org] has sex scenes with succubi. They are every bit as graphical as the rest of the game. They can have a dramatic effect [nethack.de] on the player character, and may mean the difference between winning or losing the game.

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