Monday, January 2, 2017

Retail Review: GameStop Vintage Game Sales

It's cool to pick on GameStop.

Unfortunately, a good deal of the time, it's justified. My own in-store experiences have included several instances of negativity. I've received incorrect games, damaged games, or even no games at all (as the customer service person forgot to put my discs into the cases). There's constant badgering for preorders, disc protection, and GameStop Pro Memberships.

There has also been some criticism of GameStop's sale of "vintage" games, with some customers reporting incorrect shipments, bootleg or reproduction carts instead of original software, and not receiving games as shown on the website when ordering. While I was originally skeptical of ordering these "vintage" games online from GameStop, I have to admit that my experiences so far have been almost completely positive. My expectations may differ from other customers and/or collectors, and this may explain why I'm a bit less critical.

The first order that I placed, on a whim back in October of 2016, was for three Dreamcast games: Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, and Virtua Tennis. After my Pro discount, the three games ran me about $19 (plus shipping). When I received the games, Hydro Thunder and Virtua Tennis were complete, while Ready 2 Rumble was disc-only. What I paid was about $10 less than VGPC (PriceCharting) values, so I think I got a decent deal. All three discs were in great shape and worked as they should.

This game is still awesome. Even with the awful faces.
Satisfied with the first order, I placed another one a couple of weeks later. This time, I picked games that I wanted but had rarely seen in stores around here: Bushido Blade 2 (PlayStation), Zombie Revenge (Dreamcast), and Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (Wii). After discount, I paid $33 for the three games. Bushido Blade 2 and Zombie Revenge were received as disc-only, while Sky Crawlers was complete. Again, all games were in very good shape and worked perfectly. I again wound up saving about $10 under VGPC value.

The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (kind of) brings Ace Combat to the Wii.
I decided to order again during Black Friday weekend, when GameStop was running a Buy 2, Get 1 Free promo for its vintage games. For this order, I went with Tales of Symphonia (Gamecube), Jumping Flash! (PlayStation), and Jade Cocoon (PlayStation). The total here, after discount, was $36. Jade Cocoon and Jumping Flash! were received as disc-only, while Tales of Symphonia was complete. As with the first two orders, all three games worked just fine. The only blemish was that the Jumping Flash! disc showed signs of wear, but this didn't (thankfully) affect the game's performance. Thanks to the B2G1 promotion, this order ran about 50% less than VGPC value-- it was an awesome deal, as I not only really wanted all three games and didn't care about manuals or cases, and saved quite a bit of money at the same time.

This is still one of my favorite PlayStation games. Go, Robbit, go!
Finally, thanks to a $100 gift card that I received from family for Christmas, I placed one final order for 2016. I picked another trio of games, all for the Dreamcast: Dynamite Cop, Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage, and Skies of Arcadia. The total for the games, after the discount, was $81. All three games were disc-only, but all three again worked perfectly and the discs were in very good condition. What I paid came to about $40 less than VGPC value... and I have to admit that I was psyched to be able to add these three games to my library.
Sadly, Dynamite Cop doesn't let you win a car. 
I do understand that some collectors are pretty adamant about getting their games complete in box; however, I'm not one of these collectors. My main objective when buying games is to be able to play them at will. While it's certainly preferable to get games complete, many of the games that I purchased in these orders from GameStop were cheaper than VGPC value and were uncommon to rare finds at brick-and-mortar game stores in my area. For me, the savings and the ability to own these games instead of continuing to hunt for them is worth getting them as disc-only offerings.

It's notable, however, that I have not ordered cartridge-based games from GameStop. Discs are a lot harder to pass off as counterfeit or bootlegs than cartridges are. Even if I paid $45 for loose Skies of Arcadia discs, they're the genuine article and thus more meaningful to me. I'm really not interested in cracking carts open to make sure that the boards are legitimate. For cartridge purchases, I'm still happy to stick to brick-and-mortar stores, so that I can inspect them before laying the money out for them.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied with GameStop's vintage games sales. Shipments all arrived on time, were packaged well, and every single game worked as it should. When I order from GameStop, I never expect the games to arrive in a complete in box condition. I'm okay with this, and it's a nice bonus when I do receive games that actually are complete. Either way, I get to play the games and paid a bit less for them than I could have elsewhere. If you're more interested in owning the games and playing them than you are in getting them complete, then I do recommend giving GameStop a look when considering adding to your PlayStation, Dreamcast, and/or Gamecube libraries.

Grade: B. While some collectors will not like the crap shoot that comes with waiting to see if games will be received as complete in box or not, the pricing is generally competitive and orders tend to ship fairly quickly. Occasional promotions, such as Buy 2 Get 1 Free offers and 25% off sales, can make GameStop a cheaper alternative to eBay or Amazon third-party sellers. Best of all, if the games aren't in acceptable condition, they can be returned at a brick-and-mortar GameStop store instead of going through the hassle of shipping them back.

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