Doom 3, Gamestop, EB, and Suckage

So right now I am in Austin, TX and I go down to the mall to pick up Doom 3. I go into Gamestop and the guy’s like, “Did you preorder?” and I say no. So he starts launching into this spiel about how only preorder customers can get it today, and maybe I can get on a waiting list in case a pre-order drops out or something. So I just leave the store because there is an EB in the same mall directly above it. On my way out he shouts after me “Hey, it’s Doom, baby!” in some kind of weird “I am trying to be way too cool, and trying to justify why we don’t have this game for you” way that gives me the creeps.

So I go to the EB and it’s the same story. They won’t sell me one, because they only have exactly enough for the preorders, and maybe if I come back the next day at 4pm I can get a copy.

So I mentally tell them to fuck off, and I drive across town to Best Buy, which has a huge surplus of them. I buy that and a headphone adapter, $70 that either of the other stores could have had but didn’t.

So I had deja vu after this was all over. During the past couple of years, this has happened to me for every high-profile title that I wanted to buy on the first day. And it just seems weird and wrong to me. Like, all the time, they have this huge shortage of games, but somehow the next day more of them will trickle in? It just smells like total bullshit to me. Especially since other stores that don’t specialize in games tend to have tons of copies. (I didn’t stop by CompUSA, but I am willing to bet they had lots of Doom 3 also).

My theory is that these game stores have adopted an unofficial policy wherein they simply will not sell you a hot game in the first day or few unless you preorder it. Because preorders are probably pretty lucrative for them, and so they need to ensure that the preorders are justified – what’s the point in going through preorder hassle if 90% of the time you could have just bought a copy normally? So, I think they are attempting to develop a false impression of scarcity, in order to bolster this weird pre-order revenue stream.

I’m not saying this necessarily happens at the individual-store level… I would believe that a new shipment of games actually shows up the next day from some Gamestop central office. What I don’t believe is that they are trickling in from the distributor… I think said Gamestop central offices are holding onto them intentionally to create a shortage. Modern retail distribution is very efficient, and it operates in big batches wherever it can. The idea that they’d send repeated truckloads of small shipments out day after day is ludicrous.

I can see why they’d care so much about preorders – a preorder is money that is definitely going to you and not a competitor; it builds brand loyalty; it’s an interest-free loan; it helps you data mine; and some percentage of pre-ordered games will of course never get claimed, which is pure profit. But at the same time, I have to wonder if all that is really worth them going through this trouble.

The idea of such a game distribution conspiracy might seem silly. But seriously. Am I expected to believe that these places that specialize in selling games – this is what they focus on directly – are somehow, every single time, for years, unable to secure a surplus of a hot game at launch, while generic we-sell-a-bunch-of-crap stores can get all they want? It just smells like bullshit.

If it’s not actually manipulation, the only alternative seems to be incompletence. But they’re too organized to be incompetent – they always have that follow-up shipment coming, and they can always tell me when it is. I dunno.

Either way, I guess what it comes down to is that I hate stores like Gamestop and EB, and it’s getting to the point where I’d rather have a highly visible frontal tooth pulled than go there again.

I so wish someone like Valve would get something like Steam right so that these fuckers get buried in the ground where they belong.

I spoke with the manager at the local EB (in Columbia, MD), and he said they started allowing pre-orders to pick up Doom 3 on Tuesday at 4:00 PM, and then at 7:00 PM they allowed anyone to grab a copy.

Doesn’t sound like much of a conspiracy. Although, they did break release.

Apparently some store in Ohio cracked the release date for them, so they said “fuck it” and started selling it early nationwide.

I went through the same thing with my local EB. I called them and asked if they had Doom 3, and they said that if I hadn’t preordered then I might be able to get a copy from them tomorrow, but maybe not. So I called my local Best Buy, and they had a ton of copies–I went to pick one up, and there must have been 60-80 on a huge four-sided display, plus more in back (according to the guy I talked to). So if this preorder-only thing is an EB policy, then it’s costing them sales. It cost them mine, at least.

I actually grabbed mine from EB this morning. I called around 10:30 am and had someone hold it for me. They had two copies outside of preorders at that point. That’s really sad, if you ask me.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but this one is sound. I can’t believe EB couldn’t have bought more. Don’t they realize they are giving everyone the impression that they are not the store to visit if I want a high profile game?

Yeah, I’ve had experience similar to you guys. I only ever go to an EB or a Gamestop these days to check out the used games once in a while* or track down some older less popular titles that don’t hold shelf time in the big electronics chains.

*and I feel guilty about encouraging that side of their business the way they gouge people selling used games. They’ll give you crap for it and turn around and put it on the shelf for three times what they gave you.

I first noticed this with GTA 3. It came out, my friend and I went to EB. “Do you have a pre-order?” No. “Sorry.” We went to Best Buyand got it, no problem.

I think with these big name releases (Doom 3, GTA 3, the next GTA) you are better off going to Best Buy/CompUSA/BigBoxStore. The big deal with pre-ordering I feel is getting it on release day. With games like these, everyone is going to have them and it makes little sense to pre-order.

In that ever present quest to make as much as possible with as little as possible and not get burned, EB simply is not ordering enough. They make sure to cover their pre-orders and have a few extra and that’s it. They truly believe that they can convert almost everyone into a preorder and that they don’t need to stock much more beyond that because that’s not how their customer base works.

Self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t it?

I used to work there and they were headed down this road way back then. They’re now at the point where it’s all they do with new releases. They simply do not order many for the people coming in off the street. And when I say “they”, I mean corporate. The stores have no control. All they can do is try to get you to preorder or put your name on a waiting list. If you do that, then corporate might buy some more copies to fill out the waiting list people that didn’t put down the money. But obviously, they’re always going to try to get your $5 or payment in full on every game you want before it ever ships. They don’t want to carry the inventory.

People had all kinds of trouble getting Tales of Symphonia for GC too apparently.


It is, and probably a massive revenue losing one at that.

I, too, have seen this in effect, particularly at EB. I can remember at least a half a dozen games probably more where the “Oh my god you didn’t preoder” speech was given and it would be days before the lowly off the street buyer could obtain a copy.

The only reason this ever kept them lucrative I think was because Best Buy generally isn’t a release day type store. If you absolutely must have the game the day of release normally speaking from my experience you won’t get it at big retailers. They normally get it a few days later than release date which is what always gave EB a slight edge. But of course, if EB doesn’t have it either…

Either way I’m rarely a first day buyer now (Doom3 actually being an exception mainly due to good buzz/nostalgia) so I’m not even sure if this is still the case or not reallly. Maybe big retail chains get games the same day now in which case EB really has no edge whatsoever.

I don’t get them only having enough for pre-orders? I can see reserving the pre-orders because that makes sense, but if a game is going to be big like Doom 3 why only order in enough for pre-orders the first day? Or is this some kind of tactic to get people to pre-order more often? I usually just jaunt down to Future Shop on release day and grab it off the shelf. Not too often that I haven’t been to do that. I assume they think if you pre-order (even if you don’t actually put money down) you’ll be more likely to buy the game there even if there is a price difference.

But this kind of explanation just doesn’t seem to wash… Doom 3 comes out Tuesday, and they are telling me that I can maybe probably get a copy Wednesday. Supposing that delivery arrives at their store on Wednesday, when was the delivery ordered? At least a day in advance – I mean, come on. So they somehow ordered a 2nd shipment before the game went on sale, but just one day too late for the copies to be there on the first day? And they do this every single god damn time? It simply defies credibility.

And as far as I know, distributors just don’t work that way. They aren’t going to ship 20 copies of a game to you 5 days in a row. That’s very inefficient and expensive. That’s why I think e.g. Gamestop themselves are holding the copies back. I also doubt that such a plan would work very well if it relied on individual stores holding the copies back, (I mean, it has to look to the employees like there really is a shortage) which is why I am hypothesizing the the trickle shipments are the way they are.

I do agree that they are agressively trying to promote preorders, I just disagree that the shortages are a mistake. I think they are intentional, to “teach you” the “value” of preordering. They would love to turn their business into mandatory 100% 2-month-in-advance preorders if they could.

And yeah, I think it’s totally stupid. Even if it’s unintentional and the shortages are a mistake, they must be losing a lot of business, and shrinking their market. How many times does this have to happen? I guess they just don’t care…

But this kind of explanation just doesn’t seem to wash… Doom 3 comes out Tuesday, and they are telling me that I can maybe probably get a copy Wednesday. Supposing that delivery arrives at their store on Wednesday, when was the delivery ordered? At least a day in advance – I mean, come on. So they somehow ordered a 2nd shipment before the game went on sale, but just one day too late for the copies to be there on the first day? And they do this every single god damn time? It simply defies credibility.

I’ve worked retail stores my entire career (I abhorred food service), and every job I’ve had in retail I’ve heard at least one employee bold faced lie to a customer if they had no idea what was going on.

The employee simply could have been uninformed, and passed that misinformation on in a convoluted lie.

When my ex-girlfriend worked at Gamestop, she said that the main reason they want preorders is because that money immediately goes into accounts and funds that start accumulating interest, hence they’re already making money off your money before they’ve even had to give you a product in exchange.

Fuck preorders. A store’s job is to stock product I want on its shelves that I can then pay money for and take home. You don’t get a goddamned cent from me until you have something to give me in exchange, and that something better be more tangible than “peace of mind” that I’ll have a game on release day. The Best Buy near work got in five hundred copies of Doom 3. The EB nearby claimed they only had four copies that were not already preorder reserves. Give me a break.

Again, much like the sense of grandiose entitlement that permeates the warez kiddies, this preorder thing seems to be peculiar to the game industry. One interesting exception was the last Harry Potter book that came out. The Barnes & Noble near my apartment claimed they were totally sold out of non-reserves, and unless I’d preordered, there was no way I was going to get a copy. Skeptical, I drove down the street to Toys R Us, which had a display up front with about a hundred copies.

Note to game stores: You are not the only places we can buy this shit. I will order something online and wait two days for shipping before I buy into your preorder scams.

I hate the whole pre-order push. I could write four pages on the subject, but I don’t think anyone wants that. :)

Instead, I’m hoping someone can help educate me on how these stores work. Essentially, what I’m wondering is: why should I have to pre-order Madden 2005 or Halo 2 at all? We know these are going to be two of the top-selling games of 2004 and demand will be huge. Why not just order more copies?

I realize there may be sound business reasons that answer the Why of this question. I also realize it may just be a bit of a scam, that stores are only pushing these games early because no one’s buying the games that are out now. Can anyone with experience dealing with these stores on the business end offer any insight as to why they continually claim they’re unable to order enough copies of the biggest games of the year?

For what it’s worth, EB Games’s big push on Madden 2004 and Halo 2 are that there are over a million pre-orders alone and that even though Halo 2 isn’t gold yet they’re currently having troubles manufacturing enough copies to send out. Yes, folks, this is what is straight from the mouth of the regional director over Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana/etc. Verbatim.

Not so much any helpful information, but more-so an addition that pre-orders are a big enough deal to these companies to flat out lie.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but this one is sound. I can’t believe EB couldn’t have bought more. Don’t they realize they are giving everyone the impression that they are not the store to visit if I want a high profile game?

I’m not buying the conspiracy theories here. I think its a combination of two factors:

  1. Activision clearly shipped the game to Best Buy before EB’s and Gamestops judging by all of the BB stores that received stock over the weekend while most EBs and GSs didn’t receive product until Monday. Considering the ungodly numbers of copies Activision must be shipping I seriously doubt that they all went out on the same day. Multiple shipments are likely to trickle into the stores over the course of a week. You can find reports of EBs and Gamestops that still haven’t received a shipment at all.

  2. How many people ever preorder from Best Buy? Yes they have preorder deals but I hardly ever hear of anyone taking them up on it. That means that almost every copy BB receives goes right on the shelf. Same holds true for stores like CompUSA and Circuit City. At EB, where preorders are clearly pushed, the bulk of the first shipment goes behind the counter for preorders.

I usually only go into gamestop to buy used games. ALthough every time I buy a used game, I am asked if I would like to pre-order something and the guy asks several times while pulling out the pre-order lists. The only game I ever pre-ordered was Xenosaga from Funco, and I ended up picking it up 2 days after the release date.

This all seems to work completely differently in the UK. I’ve never had a problem walking into a store on day 1 of a big release and just picking up a copy there and then. Even when you preorder, you don’t pay at that point - only when you actually go in to pick up the game. It’s harder to find less popular titles (Euro RPGs or strategy titles for instance).

This being said, I rarely bother buying games at retail any more. I’ve almost exclusively used for the last two years, because they’re cheaper, give free postage, and for some reason they get away with breaking release dates by a day, so you always receive a new title the day before it hits the shops. The only exception to this in over thirty purchased titles was GTA:VC on the PS2.

Ironically, preorders are best these days for smaller titles. EBs and Gamestops often won’t order any more copies than they get preorders for games from smaller publishers and restocking after they sell just the one or two copies can take forever.

A few answers…

Part of the reason they only receive more product the second or third day is because corporate DOES receive more product at the warehouse (in West Chester, PA, near me…I’ve been there) and will ship to the stores that need more copies while holding back on those that don’t. In other words, they’re trying to avoid getting stuck with too many in one store where they won’t sell. EB does not do transfers between stores AFAIK.

Also, if EB only fills pre-orders the day of release with a few to spare, they don’t have to drop ship directly from the manufacturer as many pieces as they would if they got their whole stock sent that way. I imagine they’re saving shipping money (it’s much more expensive to do direct store drop ships than to have huge stacks sent to corporate) by only drop shipping enough to make the minimal amount they need in the store on day one. Then on day 2/3, the normal EB restock process takes over and now you’re sending X copies to the store to replenish it to the level the store is already set at in the computer.

So if Store A is planned to carry say 10 copies of DOOM 3 at any one given time due to demand planning at the store level (stores are grouped by category, no doubt) then whatever number they are below 10 gets sent in a box for delivery in a day or two via standard UPS. This is how stores end up sold out by the end of the night on a Friday and are completely screwed for a weekend.

Just in the interest of disclosure as to how I know all this or at least can deduce how much of it works… I used to work at EB as a manager, worked in the warehouse a little bit during that time so I know a lot of their procedures which from my discussions with current folks haven’t changed much. Also, my current day job is administrating the financial Planning system where I work. So I’ve got over five years of experience in the back end of this kind of thing too.


Hey, so my boss called EB and he’s got a pre-order on it and they said they’d be in around 1:30pm yesterday. So we delayed lunch, took the cruise down there and they don’t have a single copy. So, that’s ok, we hop across the street to Best Buy and they have about 60+ sitting there.

Have you heard this story before?