Thursday, November 14, 2013

Games Industry Store Policy Concept: "Treating Game Cards Like Lotto Scratch Off's At Retail"

Hello All,

Today's concept is more so a common sense retail store policy that is long over due. For nearly a decade now game publishers first introduced on retail store shelves like in "Walmart or Best Buy" game cards as a product. Basically a Game Card is a highly decorated piece of card board with a very much lauded crucial hidden code. The code is layered under that latex like silvery substance you see on Lotto game scratch cards. What the game card code buys is either proprietary currency from the game publisher. Or a month's worth subscription to any particular MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game they may offer. 

Here below is a picture from "Sony Online Entertainment" (SOE) game card as how it would sorta appear on a retail store shelf.

Such game cards appear in a card board deck as a promotional display usually within the video game sales department. For years this is how they have been presented and sold at retail spaces. The danger is either unattended minors or professional shop lifters just scratching off the game cards and thus stealing the highly prized codes. When I first learned about such a product within stores I was astonished that these game cards weren't placed under the sales counter. Now years later when I venture into the video games department I see littered scratched off game cards. Plundered like booty by young or older devious gamers that literally game the system (pun intended) by stealing such retail codes. What can be far worse is potentially criminal thieves stealing dozens of these unattended retail game cards and grabbing the codes. Where like a ticket scalper they hawk the codes at a lower price point reselling them creating a cottage "Black Market" before they've ever been sold!

What this denotes is a game publisher and the retailer not fully comprehending the jeopardy they're in with legitimate sales. This can drive up incidents of stores returning damaged or in this case tampered merchandise back to their wholesale distributors. Not to mention putting your customers through the ringer by having them explain at your store what happened upon returning the product.

Case in point I heard of a testimonial from a community guild mate of mine within our forum site. He went to his local "Walmart" store here in the States and purchased several SOE Game Cards like the one shown above. When he arrived home and began to input the codes he received errors that the codes have already been claimed. I'm sure his frustration only grew from there when he called the SOE customer service department in California. (note they do not have a toll-free phone number) He was told his only recourse is to return the tampered game cards to the retailer. In part as a first time buyer of these tampered game cards he certainly feels jilted which his only fault wasn't being careful. However sincerely this wasn't the customers fault it was both the retailer "Walmart" and that of SOE. Consider how many non-gamers buy these game cards as a gift for children or other adults to enjoy. Only to hand them a tampered used game card without knowing any better. A major insult to injury I say.

Thus this Store Policy Concept is born where hopefully those industry insiders or Venture Capitalists that may happen to read my unique blog site take notice. Opportunity is afoot. Below I'll explain three potential solutions that game publishers that can provide guidance to their retail partners.

First, train your sales cashiers that ring up your customer transactions to spot a tampered game card. If it's been scratched off by a thief its no good to your customer. This one step alone will save the store a drama with your customer by having to return a tampered game card. A customer service situation averted is a customer service incident saved from ever needing to occur.

Second, if game publishers or retailers insist that product placement within a video game department has to stay the same. Then train your store management, stocking employees, and electronic department attendants to keep on the look out of any tampered game cards on store shelves. To immediately remove them as encountered before a hapless customer purchases one. Also, to keep very vigilant of any store thieves stealing codes in that department. They may also take the product into the store bath room and lift potentially dozens of game card codes. Then subsequently dumping the tampered game cards into a random store shelf hallway. To be replaced by staff on its proper shelf not realizing that it was tampered. Or the code thief could just not even care by being that sneaky in effort and leave countless game cards in the bathroom area itself.

Third, this is the most Ideal Method to place the game cards behind a sales counter display or secure area shelf. Much like a Lotto game Scratch-Off that are prominently displayed next to the cigarette cartoons and porn magazines. (ie convenience stores like "7-Eleven") This way the game cards aren't a temptation for unattended minors or thieves from stealing the codes. If this means paying retailers extra to place such merchandise behind the secure sales counter it will be worth it. Saving yourselves the headache and your customers as well for being the point man in dealing with such cases of unnoticed code theft in regards to customer service incidents.

Basically this is a clear case of a lack of understanding of the gamer sub-culture in popular society. Where game publishers offering a convenience to their customers in a store retail environment. Just having them placed in an unsecured location on a store shelf. This sort of retail store neglect and free for all by thieves has been ongoing for numerous years now. Game publishers are partly to blame for not providing their retail partners clear guidance on product placement. I suppose game publishers have lacked this fore sight since they sell their game currency and game subscriptions in a secure E-Commerce outlet.

I hope this games industry store policy concept is of help to major big box retailers and game publishers. Since your small business hobby store owners probably already have the better common sense by avoiding the mistakes your committing at point of sale opportunities.

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