I have a right hand and a left hand. For the purposes of this article, my right hand shall be called mAStaK1lla. He represents the gamer and the consumer in me. I like great deals on new titles and am delighted when games turn up early. For the sake of sanity I will pretend mAStaK1lla is semi-literate. In real life he isn't.
My left hand will assume the role of Mr Herbert. He represents me in my MCV hat. He recognises that aggressive discounting puts huge pressure on margins, and that such practices have cost hundreds of people jobs over the last two or three years. He frowns upon early selling and recognises the struggle games retailers face right now.
For reasons that shall remain unspecified, mAStaK1lla and Mr Herbert like to chat over MSN. Or Skype. Or BBM. Or whatever it is the kids and the retailers use nowadays.
This is a conversation they had just now:
mAStaK1lla: OMG! dude. did u c that deal gamestop.co.uk was doing on driver san francisco yesterday
Mr Herbert: No. What was it?
mAStaK1lla: they r selling it for like 21 quid or sumthin. mental
Mr Herbert: 21? Plus postage?
mAStaK1lla: nah thats all in delivered its the best service ive seen anywhere
Mr Herbert: 21? That must have been a mistake. My trade price is 36. There's no way they could be selling it for that.
mAStaK1lla: for real man i ordered it yesterday at lunch time and it turned up this morning. its not out til friday im so pleased. these guys at gamestop must mean business :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
Mr Herbert: It arrived today? I'm been told by my distributor that I can't sell it until Friday! Last year when I shifted a few copies of Black Ops early under the table I got a right bollocking and was denied stock of some stuff for a couple of months. Nearly sent me under.
mAStaK1lla: bad luck dude :-(
Mr Herbert: It kind of annoys me that you'd order from them in the first place to be honest, K1lla.
Mr Herbert: This sort of stuff is killing my business. I had to re-mortgage the house last year to cover the bills and the wife has cut down to three working days a week. We can't afford the childcare any more. And I had to let Jenny go from the store so now I have to cover Saturdays and Sundays.
mAStaK1lla: shit man that sucks. tell u wat ill send this back and buy it from u. how much u sellin it for? can i get it this afternoon?
Mr Herbert: 39.95. It'll be on sale from Friday morning.
mAStaK1lla: lol seriously mate how much really
Mr Herbert: 39.95.
mAStaK1lla: but i paid 21 quid from gamestop innit!!1! cut me a deal bruv <3
Mr Herbert: OK K1lla, because it's you I'll sell it at cost price as long as you pick up an accessory or something at the same time.
mAStaK1lla: 36 quid. fcuk dude thats harsh. but i can get it today right?
Mr Herbert: No, I can't give it to you until Friday morning.
mAStaK1lla: what!!!1!!! why dont you get it til friday?
Mr Herbert: No, I've got it in stock now. Arrived this morning. But if I get caught selling it to you before Friday I could get done again. If they cut me off another time it could be the end of the store.
mAStaK1lla: dude im sorry but ive got it here now and it cost me alot less i think im gonna keep it so sorry man hope u arnt mad?
Mr Herbert: :-(
mAStaK1lla: but if gamestop can sell it for 20 quid then why dont u just do that to? just tell your supplier that you need it as cheap as them innit its not fair they pay less
Mr Herbert: They're probably not paying a huge amount less. Just under 30 maybe.
mAStaK1lla: but y they sell at a loss that crazy!!!!1!
Mr Herbert: They can afford to. They want to get people using their website, to get them signed up, have them checking back regularly, win their loyalty. They can afford to make losses on key products for a few months and reap the rewards later.
mAStaK1lla: well y dont u do that dude take then on at there own game?
Mr Herbert: Because I haven't got the capital or the backing to sustain a loss making business as I build toward something bigger. It's beginning to feel like I just can't win in this market. I was doing OK for a while selling some games online on the side. Took up all my evening but kept us afloat. But I can't even compete online now.
mAStaK1lla: that suxxxxx!:-( dude y dont u join the french foreign legion this game sounds like shit for you get out now to the desert
Mr Herbert: Yes, you're right. Good idea. I'm going to pack. Tell the wife and kids I love them. Bye.