For avid collectors, GameStop discontinuing a game system is a brief cause for celebration. GameStop is one of the de facto repositories of old games for mainstream consumers, so the collector on the hunt for a missing game might find themselves looking for that last game they're missing in used form. For a short time, all of the games and accessories for the discontinued system are sold at clearance, as the store attempts to free up shelf space for the next big thing. The last time the company put a system out to pasture was in June 2013, when the company stopped accepting PlayStation 2 games and hardware in order to make room for the upcoming PlayStation 4. Always marching forward.
At the beginning of March, there were faint signs of a change of heart in GameStop. The company began accepting PlayStation 2 trade-ins once again.
"The video game console that had captured millions of hearts around the world continues to breathe life," GameStop said in a statement to GameSpot (say that three times fast). "The Sony PlayStation 2 is known for its vast library of games and being the top selling video game console of all-time. GameStop knows that a demand for this iconic piece of video game history is still high and will once again buy back PS2 consoles."
It wasn't much - $25 in-store credit for a full PS2 system, and $20 in-store credit for a system with missing parts - but it's better than nothing.
Now it seems that GameStop is ready to get back into classic consoles and games for real. The company announced to IGN that on April 25 it will launch a pilot sales and trade-in program for older consoles and games. The pilot program will begin in 250 store locations in its New York City and Birmingham, NY markets. If the program is successful in these markets, GameStop is looking to expand it nationwide.
How far back are we talking? All the way to the Nintendo Entertainment System, according to a GameStop spokesperson. The list currently includes the NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, and Nintendo 64. Every game and system will be run through GameStop refurbishing system and the company expects to offer around 5000 old titles for purchase. Unfortunately for collectors, the refurbishing process means a slight two-month delay between offering trade-ins and stores actually selling older games and hardware.
"We will bring all of the product back through the Refurbishment Operations Center for inspection, testing and repair," GameStop told IGN.
Video game preservation has been a huge issue as we've marched towards a digital future. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One aren't backwards compatible with their older counterparts at all, instead offering select titles for re-purchase. Nintendo's Wii U and 3DS stand as two of the last dedicated console to actually enjoy full backwards compatibility with their immediate predecessors. It's a growing problem that we've covered at USgamer a few times.
Who would've ever thought that GameStop would be additional fix for the issue? Depending on the scope of the company's refurbishing program, collectors have the ability to pick up newly refreshed PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast systems to replace their older consoles, without having to resort to self-repair on their aging systems.
On the games side, Amazon and Ebay have long offered ways to pick up older games and fill holes in your collection - which also carry the potential of having boxes and manuals, something I doubt GameStop will offer - but I can't see anyone having problems with another option. A number of people shop for older titles at local stores and pawn shops, but the stock there is sporadic and for many in rural areas, a GameStop is their only nearby game-selling location. This program allows those consumers the potential to simply browse old titles again.
The largest problem I'm seeing is GameStop has rarely been competitive on its pricing structure, outside of the aforementioned clearance periods. Older titles lack the immediate need that brand-new retail games have, meaning its easier to wait for an Ebay or Amazon seller to ship a game your way. It's not like everyone at your office is going to be talking about Zone of the Enders, King's Field, or Power Stone tomorrow. GameStop has been bad about charging too much for pre-owned titles. I did a quick look for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for Nintendo DS for example: GameStop sells a pre-owned copy for $19.99, but you can pick up a brand-new copy on Amazon for a few dollars more. If GameStop really wants to cater to customers hunting for old games, it needs to start by adjusting prices accordingly.
Alas, this is in the early stages. There's no way of knowing if the pilot program will prove profitable for them in their initial test markets. If it doesn't, the entire proghram is dead in the water. The lack of original Xbox is also perplexing, but it's possible that GameStop doesn't see any profitablity in offering Microsoft's first console. If the program does expand, I'm sure collectors will be excited to have the chance to pick up some older accesories and titles again.