Like, totally super cool shopping recommendations

It’s becoming somewhat of a rarity to find a video game store that actually knows what they’re doing. Most of the time, you go into a store and get hounded to death by a caveman who just got hired off the streets. And no, they’re not even the cool Geico cavemen, either. Other times, a store has a complete lack of selection, believing Madden is the only game ever made, and proudly advertising their ignorance.

With two new consoles being released this year, videolamer is here to survey the battle field by detailing many stores that sell video games. We’ll break them up into categories of stores, and work from there.

Specialty Retailers
These are your EB Games, GameStop’s, GameCrazy’s, and what have you. These stores are the absolute best for selection. They always have what’s new, be it obscure RPG’s or the latest GTA-spinoff. They also have a wide selection of used games, nearly tripling the amount of games for the consumer. Additionally, they have a good supply of game guides for all you lazy gamers.

Gamestop? More like Lamestop.

Considering the clerks, however, these stores may not be as good as you’d hope. Not to say that every store is run by complete idiots. You may be lucky and find a guy that knows his shit, but more often than not, the guy behind the counter is just there to pay the bills. The answer to many of your questions will be a bewildered look. You may even get a response like, “Yes, the Playstation 360 will be backwards compatible with GameCube games.” Trust me, you’re going to get very upset with these people. Just know you’re better than them and move on.

Another problem I come into when going to these stores is the small size of them. Most of them can only fit like 20 people in at any one time. Less if you have a fat guy in the store. The Fire Department would go nuts if they saw these places. They usually max out their space with too many used games/DVD bins on the floor. It gets to be a hassle to just walk around.

Best advice is to scout out each location. I have four stores in a 10 mile radius, but only one has anyone worth talking to. And yes, every store you go to will undoubtedly ask you if you want to put a warranty on that GBA game you just bought. Yeah, because GBA carts are so easily destroyed. My copy of Golden Sun still works, even after going through the rinse cycle in my dog’s mouth.

Discount Department Stores
Or in other words, Wal-Mart – the giant of retail. Wal-Mart is accountable for nearly 20% of video game revenue that is reported each year. Hate them or not, they hold a lot sway in the business. Wal-Mart is essentially the first place most parents go to get little Billy that new copy of Grand Theft Auto.

In terms of selection, they do a pretty good job of representing all the genres in our lovable little medium. You may not find that extremely rare copy of Hello Kitty Island Adventure, but you should have no problem in finding anything else.

Kmart? More like Lamemart.

As for customer service, I wouldn’t recommend asking questions. These people are merely cashiers, and are only trained for their daily cashier duties. The only thing you can expect to hear is “Let me check if we have any in the back…”

One good thing you will find at Wal-Mart, as well as Target, are some weekly deals they have. I remember finding Burnout 3 for $17 when everyone was still selling it for $30. So be on the look out.

K-Mart, however, is horrible in every sense of the word. They have no selection, their prices are astronomical, and there is rarely anyone in the video game department. Do not, under any circumstances, go to K-Mart. Hitting yourself in the head with that old cartridge of E.T. for Atari would be better than going to K-Mart.

Electronics Department Stores
Best Buy and Circuit City are actually some pretty decent places to go for your gaming needs, especially Best Buy. The selection is pretty varied, with a few stores starting to employ a Used Games section. There are also numerous sales each week on games. Both stores are also good at reducing prices for newly released games, just like what they do with DVD’s. I remember a Best Buy selling GTA: Vice City for only $40 the day it was released. Similar sales have occurred for Final Fantasy XII, as well.

The layout of each store is bit of hit-and-miss, however. Circuit City is notoriously disorganized, with games all over the place. Best Buy is a little better, but a lot of their plastics cases are so old you can’t tell what game you’re looking at.

Customer service is about the same as Wal-Mart, but you tend to have people that you can relate to, seeing as how they sell only electronics. But this is in no way a guarantee. You’re still bound to get that guy that only works there because his toothless old uncle happens to be the store manager.

Company Stores
Sony and Nintendo actually have stores of their own for the buying public. Sony has several, while Nintendo only has the Nintendo World Store in NYC. I’m pretty sure Microsoft doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store of their own, but feel free to prove me wrong.

Nintendo World Store? More like Nintendo Lame Store.

The Nintendo World Store is any Nintendo-fanboy’s wet dream. Nintendo paraphernalia is all over the place. You can waste half a day there just looking at the wonderful toys they have. The selection is also top-notch. And, because it’s Nintendo-owned, all titles are priced as they should be, so don’t worry about finding Wind Waker still at $50, like K-Mart.

Clerks are still a problem, though. It’s definitely not as bad as the other stores, but it’s not exactly the Holy Grail, either. And remember, it’s New York. No one likes anyone. But, I have had many times where I got into some great conversations with the clerks, so don’t be hesitant on asking questions.

Sony stores are pretty cool, too, but don’t have the flash that the NWS has. There won’t be any PS1’s on display that were nearly destroyed from a napalm bomb, I’m afraid. The closest thing would probably be a Blu-Ray player.

Store clerks are just like Nintendo’s: some are awesome while others suck, but the good experiences far outweigh the bad. Prices are also set in stone, so don’t expect any sales.

You should probably only go to these stores if A) you’re looking for something specific, B) want to check out the Nintendo goodies, or C) live near one. I live 10 minutes away from a Sony store, but two hours from the Nintendo World Store. Suffice it to say I rarely go to the NWS.

Toy Stores
Remember when Toys R’ US was the shit? Going down to Toys R’ US was like going to a carnival. Sadly, they’re not that great anymore. Oh, they’re great if you want the Tickle Me Elmo Extreme doll (lord knows I do), but there are far better places to go to buy a video game. Selection is decent, but nothing great. The best thing that Toys R’ US has going for them are the sales they tend to have certain months. A lot of times they have sales where you can buy two games and get one free.

I’ve actually never run into an R-Zone attendant at a Toys R’ US that knew about video games. When I worked at one, I was the only one who knew anything. And I mean anything. I remember telling someone that Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness was delayed, and that we should take away those preorder slips out and switch the dates. Yeah, no one understood a word I said and never changed the slips.

Kay-Bee, I believe, has stopped selling games entirely. Some may still have their final inventory that they’re trying to unload, so be on the look out for some cheap games.

There are definitely some crazy places to find video games, so always keep an eye out for any suspicious looking PS2 game at your local convenient store. I’ve actually found PS2 and GBA games at Shop-Rite, my local supermarket. They have like no selection, but their prices are pretty good. I remember finding a copy of Final Fantasy I&II for GBA for only $20 when the game was new. I’ve even found that CVS, a convenient store/pharmacy, has some games. Nothing noteworthy, of course, but it’s better than nothing.

CVS? More like…uhh…CVLAME.

You also have your Mom and Pop stores trying to get in on the video game action. You should always give them a shot, because who knows what you might find? You could be one of the few to find that rare copy of Star Fox 2 or Chrono Trigger.

Final Conclusions
Essentially, you’re never going to find a chain store that has a knowledgeable staff. It’s just not in the cards anymore. Best plan of attack would be to go to each store and rate your experiences, sticking to where you found the best service. EB/GameStop are probably the best choice for a better overall experience, especially when considering their selection, but it still depends on how close you live near them. If you have a lot of variety in your area, you’re also going to have the best options when finding a better price somewhere. You just have to be patient and call ahead. Good luck, soldier.

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golden jew
17 years ago

Awesome assessment.  A few quick things– before the drugs set in… must pass on knowledge to the team…Another set of misc stores– office depot and staples.  Found a copy of RCT3 there the fastest.  Go figure.  They have a lot of the family genre games, but I remember back in the days even the ocassional MOO2.Lastly, a warning to those seeking a game the day it’s out without a pre-order.  Stay away from the big electronics stores, and head to a Gamestop or EB.  Every clerk in Gamestop will be ripping open boxes and labeling it for the masses to purchase.  You will get your game.  Even if it’s "pre order only," I’ve negotiated getting the game and pre-ordering something else I wanted anyway.  Work it.  You’re up against lazy teens or geeks.  Firmess trumps all, like a pissed off parent.Conversely, on the day of a new software launch, the big electronics stores won’t do shit until the big truck unloads it, it gets processed, the proper display is put up… then it appears.  In practical terms, I’ve seen 1-3 day release lag defended by a pack of idiot clerks who aren’t worthy of licking my boots or cleaning my car.  Now… I die… but do not let my knowledge die with me! <snoooooor>