Gamestop Has Never Been Less Essential

According to an internal memo provided to Kotaku by an anonymous inside source, Gamestop management has recommended that store employees attempt to defy municipal and state orders to cease operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that Gamestop locations are the same kind of exempt “essential retail” services as hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, and gas stations.

“Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” the memo reads. “We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification. Store Managers are approved to provide the document linked below to law enforcement as needed.” The “document linked below,” according to Kotaku, asks police officers to call Gamestop HQ if they have any questions about Gamestop’s position regarding its classification as an essential retailer during a time of plague.

Yes, the Store Manager of your local Gamestop, who makes on average $32,611 a year according to Indeed, is now expected to walk up to a fuckin’ cop with a piece of paper claiming that Gamestop HQ has the authority to defy local and state emergency declarations. And if the cop doesn’t like it, they’re invited to shove this 1-800 number as far up their b-hole as possible, all while Mr. Manager continues his attempt at running a Funko Pop-branded pawn shop like everything is fine.

Pandemic? What pandemic? Gamestop HQ doesn’t care if Mr. Manager risks exposing themselves and everyone they know to a super deadly virus, they’ve got copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to sell tomorrow. During this tumultuous period of global strife, which continues to shape the very nature of human existence for the foreseeable future, which will have lasting geopolitical ramifications for the rest of the century minimum, Gamestop isn’t afraid to remind its “associates” that all is expendable in the name of profit — even them!

While hilarious, this behavior is also reprehensible, unjustifiable, and inexcusable. The idea that Gamestop’s used iPads and back-stock of Fortnite Monopoly make it essential to the most basic framework of American society is such a stupid, bold-faced lie that I’m angry about even having to approach it on its own terms, but here we are. The truth of the matter — and Gamestop knows that this is the truth — is that Gamestop isn’t “essential” during the very best of times, let alone at the end of the world.

Above is a chart depicting the value of Gamestop’s stock over the last five years, courtesy of me typing “GME” into the New York Stock Exchange’s official website. It depicts a gradual and (roughly) steady decline in value, with a peak at around $33 per share in April of 2016, and more recently, a low of just over $3 per share. Despite its purchase of ThinkGeek and various attempts to diversify into non-gaming electronics and geeky ephemera, Gamestop’s management has proven itself incapable of keeping the retail chain relevant in an era where all games can be purchased and downloaded from the comfort of your own home.

During this period of mounting insignificance, Gamestop’s C-suite has continued to double-down on high-pressure sales techniques, point-of-sale add-ons, and membership programs. The below skit from YouTube cartoonist Berd (skip to 0:58) perfectly encapsulates the modern Gamestop experience and why so many of us avoid it at all costs. The only reason one might ever risk going to a physical Gamestop location is to make a last-minute gift purchase on the way to a family or work obligation, and even then, only as a last resort.

Gamestop’s higher-ups know this, of course, just like they know they’re likely to miss projections for fiscal Q4 if their locations aren’t open to turn those Animal Crossing pre-orders into vested funds. They’re not actually delusional enough to think that a Spyro the Dragon incense burner is as important as insulin during a time of national crisis, they’re just hoping that by leveraging the actual lives of their employees against a deadly virus and local law enforcement, they might be able to stall long enough to somewhat mitigate the damage to their already nigh-worthless stock. It is as shameful as it is flagrant and it makes me sick.

Berd is good though, y’all should watch Berd.