“Is there anything you want to pre-order?” Almost nobody walks in and out of a GameStop without hearing those words. Employees are measured against how many pre-orders they can rack up while GameStop rakes in the cash months ahead of a game’s actual release. But lately, the strategy has been sabotaged by a system overhaul, with copies arriving late or not at all, and some staff are worried they’ll be the ones paying the price.
Over the last few days, the GameStop subreddit has been flooded with current staff complaining about computer issues, ranging from borked inventory searches to pre-order histories that have been completely wiped out before stores received their shipments. “How do I push pre-orders when we can’t get crap in?” reads one post. “Customers are understandably upset and our regulars are even just ordering offline now because we can’t fulfill the niche stuff…”
Three GameStop employees Kotaku spoke with echoed similar issues. They trace the problem back to an SAP software conversion that began taking place over the summer. It was apparently supposed to merge multiple databases, including sales, customer service, logistics, and more. GameStop did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The inventories in our systems are unreliable right now,” one employee wrote in an email. “We are receiving shipments from the warehouse that do not even appear on our receiving lists, so they’ve got us opening the boxes, recording the inventories, and emailing them back to inventory control. It took me the better part of my day today to process just four boxes this way.”
Which games are the casualties in this current pre-order crisis? NBA 2K23, one of the biggest sports games of the year, is one. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R is another. But some of the hardest hit games are niche titles like Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. They have small but passionate fan-bases, and stores often only get a few copies specifically for the dedicated players who pre-order in advance.
“Pre-orders have been hell recently,” said another employee at a different store. “We were shorted on multiple copies of NBA 2K and collectible pre-orders never arrive on time. We can only refund pre-order cancels as store credit if it’s been longer than a month too, it doesn’t matter if you paid cash or not.”
While staff have to try to explain to frustrated customers why the copy of a game they already spent money on never showed up, the back-end issues are also seemingly messing up how stores record the very sales goals employees are measured against. “Unfortunately, pre-orders also became [a] key metric stores are being graded on and when you cancel a pre-order it actually puts stores in a negative [count],” one employee said. Theirs was negative 22. “People are actually getting in trouble over this.”
“I’ve had 6 customers cancel their preorders because they didn’t get theirs,” one person posted on the subreddit yesterday. “Boss [is] getting on me about getting preorders but I can’t help it [if] people are beginning to lose trust in us. What’s the point in pre-ordering a game if you can’t get it anyway.” Some stores have been instructed to deal with the cancellations by offering to re-order the game and having it sent directly to the customer’s house, one employee said. But they hadn’t heard of any long-term fix beyond that.
The pre-order fiasco couldn’t be coming at a worse time, either. September is the start of the busy holiday game release calendar, and while 2022 is sparser than past years, GameStop needs all the help it can get. The meme stock has been on a brutal rollercoaster ride since its split in July, and it’s not clear how much a heavily publicized pivot to NFTs and crypto will actually benefit the company.
More importantly, it’s another burden borne by burnt out staff who are working more for less. GameStop recently announced fraught stock bonuses for store managers that don’t begin to vest until next year, and measly $0.50 raises for everyone else. At the same time, however, the company’s been tightening the screws, forcing managers to cover multiple stores, while others effectively do the job of an assistant store manager for no extra pay.
“I actually told my manager the other day that I’m going to be quitting right before he takes his second store, because without our assistant manager I’m pretty much gonna have to work as the assistant manager without the pay and with the stress,” said one current employee. “I don’t even have a new job lined up yet, I just don’t want to deal with it.”