Target has decided that it is time to face the competition head on and get into the business of game preorders. However, as is common with Target, they have decided to put their own spin on the process. To reserve a game with them you pay one dollar for a fancy “collector’s” reservation card. When you bring the card to pay for the game, you get a new kind a card – a five dollar gift card, that is. Here is a link to all the facts at VerticalWire, as well as the Kotaku coverage of the story, which actually contains some interesting comments. Questions include “Will this actually guarantee me a copy?” and “How does $1 down and five free bucks in merch help on a product with an already tiny profit margin?”
I have a few thoughts regarding the comments and the news in general. Concerning the guarantee, it is possible for each store to track how many cards have been sold, and thus know how many copies they will need on release day, but we won’t know for sure if they will until we see this system in action. It sounds similar to the way Best Buy does preorders, keeping DVD case “reserve” boxes on the shelves, which in theory should represent the number of launch day copies they will have available. However, I have heard of stores overselling preorders, making them arguably only slightly better than Gamestop in regards to guaranteeing a copy. Target’s version could work a bit better; you would have a tangible card representing your purchase, as opposed to just a receipt, and it makes the preorder system employee independent, which is nice for anyone who has had to deal with one Gamestop employee for the reserve, another for the purchase, and finding yourself shit out of luck because neither had to communicate with each other.
As for the price of the reserve and the gift card, my limited retail experience would answer that their approach here is more traditional than Gamestop’s “we get to put your five bucks in the bank for half a year” model. The dollar is not there to collect interest (though enough of them put together might do something), nor is the five dollar gift card meant to represent a sweet discount on your game. The psychology here would be that the cheap reserve price will entice you to grab one, which will put you back in the store to pick up the game. Then the gift card will entice you to buy more merch. It is just a way to get you in the store buying things, and while it might not work on you “core” gamers, it can very easily work on moms and dads preordering for the family. This is the same approach that Walmart takes – they can afford low profits on a television, because they know it will keep you in the store buying other, more profitable merchandise.
Of course, the most glaring downside is the fact that this system will only be in place for “popular games”, meaning those that least likely need a preorder. Though if the debacle surrounding the launch of Street Fighter IV taught me anything, it is that you can never quite guarantee that a release will go as planned.
Target’s preorder system will be arriving April 19th, in time to allow reservations for Punch Out! and Ghostbusters. Considering my significant other currently works at the store, I have a bit of incentive to try it out. I’ll let everyone know how it goes if I do.