GameStop Refuses to Sell Console Bundles That Include Digital Copies of Games

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austin_walker

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Edited By austin_walker
The one thing I'll miss about physical discs are the rad fake covers that GameStop employees make when they're bored.
The one thing I'll miss about physical discs are the rad fake covers that GameStop employees make when they're bored.

Over the last few years, we've seen the return of the classic "pack-in" console bundle, featuring both a game system and a game to play once you get it home. If you check major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop or Target, not only will you find a wide selection of bundles, you'll actually have a hard time finding a brand new console that doesn't have a game packed in with it. And in almost all of these cases, the game promised on the front of the box is actually a card with a download code printed on it. Almost.

During a recent earnings report conference call, GameStop executives outlined their decision to move away from "digital" bundles and highlighted their recent effort to provide "physical" bundles instead. This new strategy went into effect just last month, with the release of Madden NFL 16. While other stores sold Xbox One and Playstation 4 bundles featuring digital copies of the football game, GameStop "worked with Sony, Microsoft, and EA" to reach an arrangement for the retailer to provide a physical copy with any new console purchased. This isn't just a little experiment either. GameStop COO Tony Bartel explained that if Sony and Microsoft continue to release digital bundles, GameStop will turn to "third party" physical-bundles. This could mean that they'll work out a deal with a major publisher like EA or Ubisoft to include a free physical copy of a recent release.

Why do this? Well, the gut reaction is to point out that GameStop wants people buying physical discs because you can't buy digital games directly from them. But it's actually a little more complicated than that. It’s not just that GameStop's executives want you to come into the store to buy new games—the profit margins on new games haven’t ever been the driving force for the retailer's business model. Instead, it’s about making sure that there are used, physical copies remaining in circulation. As Sam Materra points out over on The Motley Fool:

It's ... not possible to trade in or resell digital games, which poses a big challenge to GameStop's used games business. Last quarter, used games generated about one-third of GameStop's revenue and nearly 45% of its gross profit. Digital bundles reduce the number of available game discs in circulation, limiting GameStop's ability to resell them.

GameStop's business model has always been about selling a game to a consumer for $60, buying it back from them for a pittance, and then selling it to a second consumer for $50 (and then repeating that process over and over again). This worked for years, but now GameStop is facing a digital world, one where publishers (including EA) report that around 20% of all console games sold are done so digitally.

While this might be the logical move for GameStop, it really just makes me feel like they're flailing in the face of inevitability. It's a bad look. This strategy might keep some key physical discs in circulation for a bit, but the company needs to figure out a better way to remain relevant as more and more buy their games without ever leaving the house.

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cornbredx

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I stopped caring about Gamestop about 10 years ago, so who cares. Just go to Amazon for all your video game needs. Or use Steam if you're PC only or go to a local game store if you have one. Don't go to Gamestop.

Let Gamestop die the slow painful death it needs (not because they sell used games, btw, but because they screw you over in order to make profits).

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ravingham91

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Good read Austin :)

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Noah_n_Bridger

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It's weird to me we haven't gone all digital yet. I can order toilet paper and food to my door but you want me to go pick up a physical game?

I'm just saying.

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wibby

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Worst business decision ever....

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hassun

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I agree it really seems like postponing the inevitable rather than adapting to a changing market.

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jstaunton

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It's weird to me we haven't gone all digital yet. I can order toilet paper and food to my door but you want me to go pick up a physical game?

I'm just saying.

all digital doesn't fit the rest of your post, joke or not

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CaptainKamikaze

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@noah_n_bridger: With the download speeds I get on PS4 I'm delighted we haven't gone full digital yet. It's bad enough I need to download huge patches that sometimes take hours before I can start.

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SleepingLesson

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I hope this is the beginning of GS's death throws.

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kirkdouglas

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Devil240Z

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So they just want people to have a physical copy of a game they don't want so they can trade it in later rather than a digital copy of a game they don't want that they cant get rid of?

Thats almost noble even though they're doing it for really shitty reasons(their profit). Either way if I buy a console that comes with a shitty game I don't want I know what I'm getting into and accept the consequences.

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Honkalot

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I'm all for all-digital when the PSN store is up more than 50% of the time, and the download speeds are equivalent to those of Steam.

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Sergio

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Makes sense - to them - considering the couple of times I've sold a console to them, they didn't give me credit for the system I was giving them, but each individual piece that came with my system originally.

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mcmax3000

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#14  Edited By mcmax3000

It's worth noting as well, I've seen some people say that if you buy that Madden Xbox One bundle at Gamestop, not only do you get a physical copy of the game instead of digital, but you also don't get the EA Access subscription code that you get everywhere else.

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Plasticpals

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#15  Edited By Plasticpals

What a stupid, anti-consumer slant you put on this Austin. As someone who owns a large collection of games, I almost never trade stuff in. But I like owning a physical copy because I can lend a game to a friend, and if I ever decide to sell it, I can recoup some of my investment (or even make money down the road, as several games I own are now worth more than I paid for them). I can't do that with a digital download. And what happens when a service ends, or a game download is tied to a specific console like Nintendo has been doing?

I hope more retailers push back against digital code pack-ins. I feel like most of us would prefer having a physical copy for the reasons I stated, and this notion that all-digital is an inevitability is nauseating to me. (By the way, I can buy physical copies of games without ever leaving the house, often with free delivery, through Amazon thank you very much -- there is very little reason to go digital)

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cornfed40

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It's weird to me we haven't gone all digital yet. I can order toilet paper and food to my door but you want me to go pick up a physical game?

I'm just saying.

That's not what all digital means at all. Unless you found a way to get digital toilet paper and food. I haven't gone to pick up a game in probably 3 years, that's what the internet and delivery is for.

And personally, I WANT the physical disc most of the time unless its a bite sized indie game or something. Of all the shit taking up too much room in my house, a few Blu-Ray cases aren't causing me too much stress

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JJWeatherman

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GameStop is the worst. I pretty exclusively buy digital these days, It makes me happy now knowing I'm contributing to driving their businessmen just a little crazier.

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Cybexx

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For some reason I'm reminded of the promotion they did for The Godfather game. Basically the deal was that to encourage people to trade in that game as fast as possible they made it so that the trade-in value for that game started at full price on the day of release and reduced by one dollar each day. Normally the trade-in value for a new $60 game in Canada at the time was $40, so basically they were encouraging people to finish the game and trade it back in before 20 days were up.

Of course this is crazy because if you are only going to keep a game for a week or so it was much more sensible to just rent games, since video stores were still a thing at the time. This was just the most extreme case of the cycle that some people would get stuck in constantly buying and trading-in games to try and stretch their dollar but being stuck in the EB Games / Gamestop ecosystem.

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AuthenticM

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I'm glad they are doing this because fuck digital copies on consoles. I want my goddamn disc.

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austin_walker

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@plasticpals: Hey! I grew up pretty broke, which means that I grew up buying and trading in games non-stop. I wound up playing a lot more games than I ever would've otherwise (and I also don't really have a game collection because of it). I also understand the business model that GameStop uses, and I'm critical of it. So, I get both the benefits and the downsides of both physical copies and of trade-in systems.

Which is why I don't think I took an "anti-consumer" slant here. This isn't a piece that advocates for an "all digital" future, but it is one that says "Hey, if we're heading that way--and I think we are--then GameStop is going to need to address that in a more dramatic and innovative way than this." And it's worth noting that GameStop hasn't clothed this decision in "pro-consumer" advocacy either. No one is saying "we provide a value for the consumer, so we're refusing to sell digital pack-ins." They're saying "Our business model needs physical games and last year was filled with digital bundles." If their messaging was more like yours, I would've represented that, but it wasn't.

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porjos

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#21  Edited By porjos

@captainkamikaze said:

@noah_n_bridger: With the download speeds I get on PS4 I'm delighted we haven't gone full digital yet. It's bad enough I need to download huge patches that sometimes take hours before I can start.

Same. I'm a proponent of a predominately digital market, but certain aspects of technology hinder that from ever happening...even beyond the PS4 hardware (data caps, piss poor ISPs, etc).

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mcmax3000

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@noah_n_bridger said:

It's weird to me we haven't gone all digital yet. I can order toilet paper and food to my door but you want me to go pick up a physical game?

I'm just saying.

A lot of people don't have the speed to be downloading files the size of current generation games, not to mention that for a lot of people, bandwidth caps are a very real thing.

We've since upgraded to get rid of it (an option not everyone has), but when I got the Xbox One at launch, I had a 60GB/month bandwidth cap. My Forza 6 download yesterday (and today, because it was still going this morning when I went to work, because again, speed is an issue for a lot of people as well) was 48GB.

If I still had that bandwidth cap, all digital would never have happened for me.

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recroulette

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Pretty smart. I was thinking they were only going to carry stock PS4 systems, but having a physical copy of the game instead of a digital one (like in this Uncharted bundle) will appeal to people who aren't interested in the pack-in game.

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BigD145

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@cornbredx: Sometimes gamestop is actually cheaperthan online retailers. Last time I went looking for a used copy of Zelda 3ds it was cheaper at gamestop. I just had to snipe a copy at the right time when one appeared in my area.

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devise22

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@noah_n_bridger said:

It's weird to me we haven't gone all digital yet. I can order toilet paper and food to my door but you want me to go pick up a physical game?

I'm just saying.

That's not what all digital means at all. Unless you found a way to get digital toilet paper and food. I haven't gone to pick up a game in probably 3 years, that's what the internet and delivery is for.

And personally, I WANT the physical disc most of the time unless its a bite sized indie game or something. Of all the shit taking up too much room in my house, a few Blu-Ray cases aren't causing me too much stress

It starts that way, simple a few cases. But when I finally sold my 360 and PS3 last summer both with like 30 games each and their cases, plus their game boxes? I was actually quite happy with how much space I actually saved. Since I've gone all digital on PS4 and plan on doing so when I get a XboxOne.

To me the issue with the all digital future is the people saying they want that for everything. But when it comes to games, the only reason people don't want all digital is because of ownership rights. We don't have a clear indication yet of what "ownership" in a digital sense means. I owned tons of games on PS3, but I have zero access to them even on Sonys own PS4 streaming service for those games.

They do this for just reasons to be fair. If I just had to prove I had a disc to unlock the digital version of a game I own, I could then sell said physical version. If we go all digital we avoid this issue, as re-selling doesn't exist. But again that bugs some people, who may want to resell.

As far as downloading games goes, that is already happening whether people like it or not. Not just with patches, even when you buy a disc game you have to wait for things to download and install in so many cases. A lot of games now are coming with stuff left off the disc left in patches/downloads for the actual game. The disc just acts like an MMO client in some of those cases, giving you access to be able to download the actual game content that you purchased.

Expect that to continue as well. Game worlds are getting bigger, discs and physical media are less relevant. Developers will make games bigger than what can fit on a disc and simply say you need to download the rest of the game off the disc. The disc would simply save you download time.

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MrQuizmo

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Really, the only part of this that might be truly anti consumer is the part where you might be unable to get a Microsoft or Sony bundle at GameStop because they only release a digital version and refuse to reimburse GameStop if they give out free digital copies. Even then, you can go to a competitor.

The odd part is, there are large parts of this industry that are already all digital. Many smaller games never see a (legitimate, not pirated) disc release. Also PC is pretty digital as is, with only major releases being available on disc, and even then only from digital retailers. I used to work at a used/new game store, and the only PC games we got in were Blizzard releases. And even then, they only sent in like two copies, of which we might sell one. I worked there for over two years, and we had a copy of Cataclysm the entire time I was there.

Back on point, this isn't that shocking. Anyone who is truly flabbergasted by this move isn't thinking from their perspective. They want to preserve their current business model for as long as possible, while looking for alternate revenue streams. The moment they start losing too much money on this plan, they'll switch to another. Even if that loss comes 50 years from now when we all have VR devices implanted in our heads and everything is one massive moba/mmo with free-to-play hooks.

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The_Eddie_G

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I wouldn't read a single letter on Motley Fool if you paid me. One of the worst Click Bait offenders of recent memory.

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ChrisTaran

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I buy all my games physically, but exclusively from Amazon. Would never give GameStop a cent of my money.

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Wraithtek

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#29  Edited By Wraithtek

Didn't think I'd be saying this, but: Thank you, Gamestop.

I've been thinking about the prevalence of console/digital game bundles recently. The sad fact is that a lot of these bundled games (Halo MCC, Forza 6, Halo 5, Destiny) are 40+ GB downloads, meaning a fair number of customers won't be able to hook up their console and play their bundled game the same day. The worse your bandwidth, the larger issue this becomes. Then there's the issue of monthly data caps.

So there will always be some customers that will prefer physical copies of games, at least for "big" games like those commonly found in console bundles. Sure, they can just buy a console that's not part of a bundle (no free game). Or maybe trade the included code online and put the money towards a physical game. But it would be a lot easier if console bundles just came with a game on disc.

Myself, I'm considering getting an Xbox One. There are a lot of bundles out there. The Forza 6 bundle would be great, but I don't want to download 46 GB on my lousy DSL connection to play the game.

Sure, this move is more about Gamestop's bottom line than it is about serving their customer base. But in this case, it does actually meet the needs of some customers. (I also wonder how often they see poorly-informed customers returning consoles because they didn't know the included game had to be downloaded.)

*Edit*: This Thank You is conditional on GameStop actually pricing their console+game bundles in line with competing digital bundles.

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mr_creeper

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As a former employee of this shit company, I can also see this happening - at least, from a customer interaction point of view - because of the fact that so many customers are ignorant of how digital games work and GameStop might not want to deal with that hassle anymore.

Yeah...it's mostly about the money, though.

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drakesfortune

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I guess the Sega Master System won't be allowed there then.

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ThaddeusBandido

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#32  Edited By ThaddeusBandido

When it comes down to choosing between having a bad look by inconveniencing their customer base or becoming complicit in proving the obsolescence of their own retail model, they're going to choose the former, every time. To cop a line, it's what's Best For Business.

An anecdote: the Gamestop stores around me have been picking up side deals, like selling Pop Vinyls (little action figurines from various pop culture series, not just video games) and even one mall branch selling used electronics (older generation MP3 players, used iPhones, etc.). I can't remember when exactly these stores pulled these Not Video Games into their Video Game Store, and there's not anything necessarily wrong with that, but it's a weird thing I've noted and could probably be tied directly to counteract sales lost to digital services.

(Full disclosure: I totally bought one of the Fallout vinyl figurines the last time I was in a Gamestop, so I'm complicit in all this.)

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mikemcn

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Gamestop better evolve or it is dead in the water.

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Madara117

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#34  Edited By Madara117

Gamestop is being shit again? Well. I never thought this would happen ever.

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@noah_n_bridger:

I will never go digital unless they force me to. If you can't sell something, you don't own it.

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AMyggen

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#36  Edited By AMyggen

I can see how this makes business sense, but Gamestop knows its core business is dying. All other big entertainment mediums have gone largely digital (music, movies, books) and (console) games is the last one standing. Gamestop as a big business is not something that can be sustained for 10 years, so they're doing what they can to try to survive for as long as they can. It's also pretty clear by recent moves that Gamestop as a company is trying to diversify its business away from being reliant on selling physical copies of games.

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BradBrains

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this is pretty dumb.

I mean I barely buy phsyical games anymore but when i do its not at gamestop because its a negative environment. its all about selling and subscriptions and I can just pick up a game and go.

and sometimes the game is opened.

@mikemcn said it best. they better adapt or perish

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Homelessbird

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This seems like the obvious move from Gamestop's perspective. The used games thing is their whole jam. It's their jam, their jelly, and their peanut butter.

I am a bit torn on the digital versus physical debate, though. On the one hand, I'm theoretically ready for the dark cyberpunk all digital future where our games come straight from our robot overlords and we absorb them into our mass of pure energy, having shed our physical shells. On the other hand, I'm one of those mythical people with a monthly bandwith cap, and downloading whole games is massively inconvenient for me - not to mention it just feels easier to stop by a store on my way home from work. I guess we're just not quite there yet.

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Counterclockwork87

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This is actually a GOOD thing, I hate it when a console is bundled with a digital code, it's like you're not really getting anything for your money.

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coolarman

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I have not entered a gamestop once this console generation. Digital copies ftw.

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cornfed40

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Am I just missing something here? How is having a disc instead of a download code being inconvenient. I know there is still crap to download these days even with a disc, but in my experience the difference is about 15-20 minutes versus around 8 hours. Seems to me that the inconvenience is the other way around in my experience.

I'm with most of the rest of the world in saying Fuck GameStop, but in no way is that because of this. I just don't like downloading games, Ide rather play them and trade them with a buddy for one that they aren't playing anymore. And even if I want to get a game, 9 times out of 10 its been cheaper to buy physical than a download. (Wolfenstien: The New Order for 19.99 at Target yesterday, took a look at the PSN store, and it was 34.99)

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YOUNGLINK

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#42  Edited By YOUNGLINK

Remember folks, you play the game, not the disk. Disks are good for frisbees at work though.

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BulletConcerto

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Speaking as a person who enjoys video games and collecting. Digital games, for me, are a last resort. I only buy digital if that's the only way you can buy it and even then, I still think twice before buying or wait for a sale. There is no long term value in digital. I can't lend or trade a digital game to a friend and digital games don't hold onto or go up in value like a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga does, for example. And every time a digital service goes down or they "Sunset" a service, I can't just walk over to my shelf and take the physical copy off and play it forever, they are now lost. So, as long a physical copies of games exist, I'll keep buying them. And if we ever get to a point where digital is the only option, I'll probably stop buying new games, for the most part, and go back and collect and play physical games I don't have, yet. lol

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tiffanytryhard

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This makes sense for them, even if it does seem a bit like a panic move. I'll bet they also get plenty of complaints from parents about getting a print-out code rather than a boxed copy.

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vampire_chibi

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Blockbuster all over again... GOOD.

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Shindig

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From a consumer this is great as it means you don't have to chicken out of a bundle purchase because the game it's packed in with is not up to snuff. I remember buying my 360 Elite with a Harry Potter game and just telling the cashier to treat it as a return. I wasn't going home with that. I get money off the purchase (or replace it with another game) and the retailer gets the sale.

You might be able to do this with digital copies but the avenues you go down are a little more sketchy. And, as I've learned with all of my Day One MGS V content, those codes are about as secure as Germany's borders. CURRENT EVENTS!

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DedBeet

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I really can't imagine a future that has Gamestop in it. And that picture of the Saints Row 2 cover? Magic, pure magic.

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cavemancolton

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On one hand, this looks really desperate. On the other hand, when I buy a bundle I want a physical game.

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Dinosaurs

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Seems to be a smart move in favour of the customer and Gamestop. What kid on Christmas wants to rip open a PS4, turn it on and have nothing to play because of how shit PSN is. Modern video games murder data limits if one is restricted by them. The people with great internet won't be affected at all, other than having something to play right away. If the space of a physical game case is just too much for you and you want to live an all digital life, just leave the disc in the system and forget about it. I think this is a good move for Gamestop.

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SomeJerk

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New game: $60

Used game with a scratched disk and missing manual, also the case has gone through mud that happens to smell like poop and coconut: $50

Staying away from GS and improving your life: Priceless

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