Why not to buy PC games at a Gamestop retail store

I have never been happy with the decline of PC games at retail stores. 10 years ago I can remember going to EB Games and Babbages where there were rows and rows of PC games, new and old for the purchasing. Today you would be lucky to find any PC games at a Gamestop store; Best Buy and CompUSA have cut there stock as well. In this age of digital downloads this is no big worry. I love going to Steam, GOG.com and GamersGate to buy my games. I am wary of Impulse since Gamestop bought it, but they haven’t managed to screw it up yet. If they could just add support for Gamestop gift cards I would be happier.

Unfortunately Gamestop doesn’t support purchasing games on Impulse with Gamestop gift cards yet (they promise support in the future though). So with some gift cards in hand I had to go to a local store because my youngest son was excited about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim arriving on 11/11/11. On 11/12 we stopped at one Gamestop which had no copies of the game, but the saleslady was nice enough to call another store which still had one copy left. The store held the copy for us so we proceeded straight to the store to purchase the game. When we arrived at the new store, they had the copy ready for us. However, I immediately became wary because the copy had already been opened. For some reason Gamestop likes to open their copies of PC games, which causes controversies from time to time (such as with Deus Ex: Human Revolution).

When we arrived at home and my son tried to install the game, my cautiousness bore fruit: we received an error that the Steam code on a sticker on the box had already been used. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed, not the least of which because I would have to return to the store which probably had no more copies. I waited until Monday afternoon following the purchase in case the store happened to receive more copies. They had not. Then as I explained to the salesman my problem, he told me Steam had been hacked that week and that’s why the code didn’t work. He even admitted that another customer had reported the same problem. At first he wouldn’t even take the game back because “Gamestop doesn’t take PC games back because of problems with them being open and the code could have been used already.” I said you people are the ones who opened it; since the box was already open when I bought the game how do I know an employee didn’t steal the code. Finally he spoke to the manager and gave me store credit.

My son and I went immediately to Target and purchased two copies of Skyrim (and received a $20 gift card to boot). Lo and behold, there were no problems installing either of these versions when we went home (of course they were in a sealed box when we bought them).

So be very careful buying PC games from Gamestop. As more and more games register with services like Steam for copy protection, there will be a risk of the games not working. I admit, I have no proof of an employee taking codes, but I also have no other explanations either. But if we consider the simplest explanation to be the right one, popular new game + open box + opportunity = theft seems possible to me.

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