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Analysis: Amazon No Threat To GameStop
Analysis: Amazon No Threat To GameStop Exclusive
March 17, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

Now that Amazon's begun offering used game trade-ins, the industry's abuzz with the threat the online retailer poses to traditional brick-and-mortar hub GameStop. But a new report by Electronic Entertainment Design And Research says the threat's greatly exaggerated.

A comprehensive new EEDAR report on the state of the used game market analyzed trade-in values and the prices of 79 games both used and new at both Amazon and GameStop and concluded that the old guard still comes out on top.

"People are resistant to change," says EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich. "Those that wish to challenge current market leaders must offer a substantial value advantage in comparable scenarios to steal significant market share."

And EEDAR's report finds that overall, GameStop offers on average a 3 percent better value on staight trade-ins. When in-store promotions and loyalty membership programs are included, averages vary depending on the number of games traded in.

Explains Divnich: "In scenarios where a consumer either owns the GameStop Edge card and/or trade-ins more than 2 titles that takes advantage of the current GameStop trade-in promotion (trade in 2 games get 10% extra; 4 get 20% extra; 6 get 40% extra), GameStop provides a considerably higher value than Amazon."

Not only are GameStop customers loyal, the online element works against Amazon for once -- consumers must use postal services to trade in games, and then must wait on the mail again to receive the ultimate value of their trade-ins. This lack of instant gratification makes Amazon a less compelling alternative to GameStop, EEDAR finds.

This doesn't mean that Amazon's entry into the second-hand game market is a failure, however -- far from it. Not only can both services "co-exist in the used business with little overlap between their target demographics," according to Divnich, Amazon's venture is likely to expand the used game market to its betterment.

"Amazonís entry into the used gaming market will expand the used market into new territories and make available to new consumers rather than steal share away from GameStopís core business," says Divnich.

Rather than steal GameStop customers, Amazon's service can reach new areas that the traditional retailers can't. These include rural areas without GameStop locations, more privacy-inclined consumers who don't like doing trade-ins in person, consumers more acclimated to the online service time lapse, and current eBay users who would like a simpler method.

Notably, consumers who trade in games via Amazon can use their credits toward any product that the retailer offers, not only games -- a feature expected to appeal to wider audiences.

This means Amazon's offering will broaden consumer trade-in behavior alongside, rather than in competition with, GameStop, according to EEDAR.

According to EEDAR's analysis, few other retailers will be willing or able to enter the used game market in the way that GameStop and Amazon have -- Toys R Us is unlikely to be a considerable threat to either, says Divnich, as its market gains are offset by declines in marketshare for Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.

As for Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target, EEDAR says that none look ready to enter the used game market any time soon -- "In Wal-Mart and Targetís case, we do not expect them to ever enter that market," says Divnich.

"With the economy in a recession, sales and profit margins are continuing to shrink at retailers," Divnich says. "It is during these tough times that retailers begin to re-examine their current strategies and look for other methods to not only increase their market reach, but also sales and profits as well."

"With profit margins in mind, it is clear why so many retailers are beginning to look at the used business to save them from declining sales and profits," he adds. "While many publishers and developers have commented negatively on Amazonís new trade-in program, we must keep in mind that this is not Amazonís fault-- retailers will travel the path that produces the most profit."

"Publishers have been competing against used media sales of all types (games, music, books, movies, etc.) for years," he concludes. "If not Amazon, it would have been someone else."

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Dave Endresak
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Aside from these arguments and others that have come out since Amazon made their official announcement, it amazes me that I have not heard anyone state something a bit more obvious: Amazon was already in the used games business, albeit indirectly, and has been for many years. Specifically, Amazon's sellers' program has offered used games and other merchandise for many years and is backed by Amazon's guarantee of quality (no piracted products). This fact has always set them apart from eBay, Yahoo, and many other auction sites (where pirated products being sold seems to be the norm rather than the exception).

I would think the people who would be primarily concerned about Amazon becoming directly involved would be the Amazon sellers because they are now competing directly with their sponsor for the same market.

Hayden Dawson
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Yes, but it has always seemed that many amazon resellers are more of the indie shop types selling the older gen products and more collectable stuff that is not quite so likely to be a part of games for trade-in to a reseller.

It is not quite correct to say neither Target or WalMart have ever been in the used game market. Back in the cartidge days both them and other non-traditional outlets carried preowned stuff branded with the name of the company (can't remember who) who had taken care of the cleaning and testing of the carts. As that is the type of wholesale operation likely to be amazons '3rd party buyer' it will be interesting to see where in say 3-6 months time the amazon product starts to show up.