Over the past year or so, retailer Best Buy has been trying to establish a presence in the used game market. The transition has not been immediate. Over time, it has established a small pre-owned section, dedicated game trade-in kiosks in the store, and a subscription-based game magazine. Best Buy has done a relatively decent job getting itself up to speed on the table stakes needed to compete, but now it needs refocus its brand if it ever wants to get an edge over the 800-pound gorilla, GameStop.
I say this primarily because of something I noticed this week. On Sunday, I was in a Best Buy and noticed a big advertisement that, for one week only, it was offering 50% additional trade-in credit for games. On Monday, I was on the other side of town and noticed, plastered on the window of a GameStop, that, wouldn’t you know it, GameStop was offering 50% trade-in credit for game trades for one week only.
A word to Best Buy, GameStop is watching and has the ability to match whatever great offer you create to get game trades through the door. The impetus for traders must come from something other then a percentage of credit. It has to also be in tandem with a brand that says why you are offering the discount and why it should be important to customers.
Best Buy’s “Thousands of Possibilities. Get Yours.” brand position had a bit of that potential, but it’s not nearly emotional enough.
The difficult part of entering into the used game business is not location, customers, or even prices. Those are problems that arise down the road. The problem before you even get on the road is inventory. You can’t sell pre-owned games if you have no stock to sell, and inventory is something GameStop has plenty of. Best Buy’s pre-owned section is small. BestBuy’s used section could fill a small single row of shelves while GameStop can fill a store.
Best Buy’s game trade effort is a lesson in confusing table stakes with a reason to choose. If price is the only deciding factor (and inventory), then GameStop will win every time. Best Buy is in desperate need of a rebrand. It needs to uncover a meaningful idea within the market and claim it. That’s the way it can beat GameStop at its own game.
GameStop’s success certainly proves there is a market for pre-owned games, but not if the switching triggers are category table stakes. Then again, my belief is that, regardless of deals, inventory, and customer loyalty, both GameStop and Best Buy will both face future challenges when the industry transitions to digital distribution.
It’s only a matter of time until that happens and only a meaningful and different brand can create preference during the transition.