Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Play-N-Trade vs Gamestop: Which Game Store Topples the Other?

Ever since EBGames disappeared after the 2005 merger with gaming giant Gamestop, there hasn't been much in the way of competition in terms of game specialty stores. In many areas of the country it was either Gamestop or nothing. If you were unhappy with Gamestop's prices, trade in values or general business practices then it was too bad - either suck it up and purchase from them or order from one of the many online websites that sell video games. However, Play-N-Trade, a relatively new franchise-based game store, has been opening up retail locations all around the United States over the past two years. Does it topple the 800-pound giant that is Gamestop, or is it akin to the mediocre indie stores you randomly run into from time to time? Well, both stores definitely have their pros and cons, which are addressed below:

Great return policy on used merchandise (if you're unhappy with a used game that you've purchased then you can simply return it within seven days for a full refund).
+ Extremely convenient - since they can be found virtually in any mall or major shopping center, you will never have a problem locating a Gamestop store in a pinch.
+ Solid trade-in promotions - Although Gamestop generally gives chump change for the majority of game trade-ins, they often run promotions that (for example, an extra $10 for trading in multiple titles at once) make you feel like you've gotten a worthwhile amount of value.
- A complete absence of classic titles and accessories will turn off retro gamers.
- Many of the so-called "new" games are actually opened copies that look suspiciously used (they may be missing the game manuals or have scratches and smudges on the discs).
- You will be charged a resurfacing fee for scratched trade-ins, even if you purchased the title from Gamestop in that condition.
- The used game prices sometimes are aligned with online auction sites such as eBay and Amazon, so those looking for a bargain on rare older titles will be solely disappointed.


+ Offers a wide selection of games and consoles for sale, including pretty much every old school system.

+ Each store is equipped with a professional disc resurfacing machine (used to fix scratched and damaged discs) similar to the ones found in rental stores.

+ You can try any game in the store prior to purchase.

- Abysmal return policy (you can only receive store credit back on defective merchandise or even merchandise that you haven’t opened yet but want to return).

- As Play-N-Trade is a franchise, the pricing on items is up to the manager’s discretion so each store has game’s priced differently.

- Much like Gamestop, Play-N-Trade also sells “gutted” opened copies of supposed new games.

Overall, there is not a clear-cut winner in this case. Play-N-Trade is definitely an interesting newer store with a nice retro selection, but having to be stuck with store credit (even in the case of non-defective, unopened returns such as game consoles) would make me chose Gamestop over them in the event of a large purchase. Overall though, if Play-N-Trade could somehow create a universal pricing structure and improve their store policies then they would have a better chance of taking on Gamestop’s game store monopoly. With Play-N-Trade becoming larger and larger, however, I’m sure Gamestop is watching them very closely.

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