It seems that even the capitalists on the bridge of the S.S. Gamestop are willing to concede the dangers of cramming 50 or more people into tiny strip mall suites, as cities nationwide continue shutting down non-essential businesses and/or instituting shelter-in-place orders amid the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has upended daily life across the globe. (Save for Antarctica, on Big Brother Germany, and at Jared Leto’s silent meditation facility.)
Gamestop has cancelled this week’s midnight launch events for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal, in addition to all other future midnight events in the foreseeable future, according to a report published earlier today on Kotaku, which was subsequently confirmed in a statement to VICE Games.
An internal Gamestop memo provided to Kotaku by an anonymous source within the company outlines the new policy:
“Until further notice, late night launch events are suspended,” the memo says, according to Kotaku’s report. “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.”
In a statement to VICE, an unnamed Gamestop Senior VP said that “like many businesses, we are taking action to institute multiple social distancing practices in our stores, such as only allowing 10 customers in our stores at any given time, cancelling all gaming events and midnight launch activities until further notice, [and] disabling temporarily all interactive gaming stations in our stores.” Neither the internal memo, nor Gamestop’s statement to VICE made mention of refunds for customers who no longer wish to risk exposure by picking up a physical copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Doom Eternal.
Reports have also emerged this week that Gamestop is doing a dangerously poor job of providing its workers (and by extension, its customers) with a safe, sterile environment during the pandemic. “My colleagues and I are sharing a small bottle of hand sanitizer that was purchased through our own pockets as well as making as much usage out of a depleting bottle of All Purpose Cleaner,” a Gamestop supervisor speaking on condition of anonymity told Kotaku. “We were only just given permission to turn off console demos yesterday and my cleaning supplies have been back ordered for two months. As far as more immediate measures go, the stores in my area have received nothing.”
“No stores in my area have received cleaning supplies or hand sanitizer,” said another anonymous employee speaking to VICE Games. “On two different conference calls we were told we had to ‘think about the longevity of the business’ and that GameStop would have to close stores permanently if we closed for health reasons. So they’ve basically guilted us into working or we will lose our jobs anyway.” Other employees told VICE Games that those who decide to stay home, either because they’re showing symptoms or simply our of fear for their safety, must use their existing allotments of time off, vacation time, or sick leave to do so.
“It’s been laid bare that the company values money more than its associates and I have personally debated leaving over concerns around their core morals as well as to protect myself and others by not participating in willingly spreading this epidemic,” another employee told VICE.