GameStop has had a rough few years as the current generation of consoles creeps toward its end and more players decide to either have their physical games delivered or to purchase games digitally. According to a new report, GameStop is temporarily halting all midnight release events due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which could prove to have long-term negative effects on the company.
Kotaku's Ian Walker obtained an internal memo circulated to GameStop employees announcing the immediate suspension of nighttime release events. "To maintain the health and safety of our guests and associates, it is best that we avoid situations where large numbers of guests are gathered indoors or standing in line," the memo reads. GameStop is also telling stores to shut down demo kiosks.
Just yesterday, Walker published a report on GameStop's response to coronavirus risks so far. Several GameStop employees who wished to remain anonymous told Kotaku that store locations are running low on promised cleaning and personal hygiene supplies. Sources also said that foot traffic has increased of late, as people look to purchase games to occupy their time during an extended period of self isolation or physician-ordered quarantine.
These developments surely add to the already fraught atmosphere at many GameStop locations, as described by current and former employees who spoke to Polygon for a recent report. Considering that some of the retailer's workers already fear for their livelihood and may agree with the notion that GameStop's culture has "changed drastically" for the worse over the last year, the added stressors of the coronavirus outbreak could further erode their outlook—and the move to cancel midnight launches likely comes as welcome news for many.
As GameStop experiments with other ways to increase communal activities at its stores, the temporary loss of nighttime launches (which don't require capital investment at stores the way the GameStop's new concept locations do) could lead to still-loyal customers deciding to purchase their games elsewhere in the long term.
Regardless of the coronavirus outbreak's impact, GameStop plans on closing more locations in the short term. In September, shortly after laying off 120 corporate employees, GameStop announced it would shut down up to 200 locations before the end of the company's current fiscal year.
GameStop is hopeful for a reversal of fortune, having recently announced it will appoint former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé to its board of directors in April. Fils-Aimé and his two fellow new appointees "are each highly qualified and bring significant, relevant experience to our turnaround," said GameStop CEO George Sherman at the time.
The first two games to have nighttime launches canceled at GameStop are Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, both releasing this Friday, March 20. The games' two communities came together online to celebrate the shared release dates with memes and tributes that even the developers at id Software came to enjoy. Now, at this critical moment for limiting the pandemic's severity, the best thing to do is to stay at home and save the in-person partying for when we've all gotten through this.