When Amazon announced today that it would offer a 20% discount on video game pre-orders to its Prime subscribers, many rightly identified it as a shot across the bow at Best Buy's Gamers Club Unlocked. But the immediate cries of this bringing about the end of Best Buy's program, or even moreso Gamestop, seem far too reactionary to me.
For many years, I had switched to buying pretty much all of my video games through Amazon. The only exceptions were really digital-only games which I would buy from their respective online storefronts. I have never really been a Gamestop shopper. There was a GameCrazy by my old apartment where I offloaded a lot of my old never gonna play again PlayStation 2 games for some ridiculously abysmal trade-in value but they closed years ago. If I ever went into the stores, it was likely a Target or (if I felt like abandoning my personal stance against them as a former put-upon employee in favor of a few bucks in savings) Wal-Mart.
But then I found about about the Gamers Club Unlocked card at Best Buy around the time I was making the decision to get a Wii U last year. For those that don't know, a $30 GCU membership gets you two years of benefits at Best Buy; chief among them is 20% all new games and a points program that can add up to the occasional $5 gift certificate. The handful of Wii U games I bought alone more than made up for the cost of membership. And every game I bought since then (including a lot of our LEGO Dimensions sets) has been purchased through Best Buy for the savings.
Let me be absolutely clear. If I didn't already have an Amazon Prime subscriptions for it's numerous other benefits, I wouldn't have suddenly bought it today. The $99 per year price of an Amazon Prime subscription is ridiculous compared to the $15 per year of the Best Buy program. And the Amazon offer is limited to pre-orders and games up through two weeks after release. The Best Buy program on the other hand is 20% off any new game regardless of release date (and 10% off used titles). Taken separately, the Best Buy offer is still the better one. So why did I jump ship back to Amazon today?
Because they had what I was looking for.
The announcement of this comparable pre-order offer got me to Amazon's site. Then I started looking at the upcoming Wave 3 of LEGO Dimensions sets that launch next week for Cat and I. Between the pre-order offer and another sale making some of the Fun Packs half price, I was able to find all five Wave 3 packs for $63.70: a 36% savings over what would have normally been $100. But even then, I thought "hey, maybe dance with the one who brought you" and stay loyal to Best Buy. So I went to search Best Buy's site for the same five packs. At the time I could only find four of them and the savings on those four brought the total to $67. So throw in the fact that I had an Amazon gift card from my company holiday party and the cost comparison won out over a sense of loyalty. As of this writing I was able to find the fifth pack but that just brought the total to $80 (true to the 20% off as advertised).
Overall, I absolutely love that this competition benefits the consumer. If anything, I'm amazed it took Amazon this long to respond to Best Buy's program. I guessing some analyst finally pointed out a dip in sales that was too big for them to ignore. As for the idea that this is a nail in Gamestop's coffin, people don't give Gamestop enough credit. They have survived when places like the Game Crazy I described above died because they've found alternate revenue opportunities. Their acquisition of Think Geek last year, for example, suggests a company who sees the digital future but will take steps necessary to avoid being a casualty of it. On top of that, the average Gamestop customer is probably not as tuned in to the video game industry to even think that digital gaming is a threat to Gamestop. If you're reading this blog, chances are you are in the top .0001% of informed gamers. The millions of people out there buying Call of Duty, Madden, or FIFA from their local Gamestop might not have any idea of these other offers. Hell, I didn't know about the Best Buy program until June of last year, 3 months after they dropped they're price from $100 for two years to $30 for two years, let alone when it launched in late 2013!
In the echo chamber of the well-informed gamer, today's announcement seems like it's ringing in Gamestop's end of days, but I imagine most of their clientele is just content swinging by their local store, maybe chatting about games with the staff for a bit, grabbing a Funko Pop! figure and a game, and going about their day, oblivious to today's news. With any luck, Amazon, Best Buy, and Gamestop will just keep trying to undercut each other by giving the consumer better and better deals.