GameStop has been coughing up blood since long before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Over the past few years, video games—like most other forms of media—have largely transitioned from physical to digital. Considering GameStop's whole "buy-sell-trade" shtick only applies to physical discs and cartridges, it's easy to see why their business model is falling apart. Moreover, even people who still prefer to buy physical copies of games tend to avoid GameStop due to their corporate insistence on annoying upsell pushes for preorders and membership subscriptions.
In short, GameStop is dying, and the lost profits from an indefinite shutdown of brick and mortar locations during the coronavirus outbreak will almost certainly lead to them going bankrupt. But maybe that's for the best.
GameStop has always been notorious for treating their employees poorly, but in trying to salvage their already failing company in the midst of COVID-19, they've shown utter disregard for the actual safety of their employees and their customers.
Like most companies, GameStop recently launched a COVID-19 e-mail marketing campaign informing their customers about all the ways in which they're monitoring, prepping, and cleaning their stores for maximum safety. Precautions, guided by GameStop's "internal COVID-19 taskforce dedicated solely to this issue," include encouraging sick employees to stay home and "providing all our stores with the necessary supply of disinfectant materials and hand sanitizer to frequently clean high-touch surfaces."
One would think that not forcing knowingly sick employees to come into work and providing hand sanitizer would be the bare minimum for a non-essential store choosing to stay open during a pandemic that requires intensive social distancing, but as it turns out, GameStop has been lying about even that.
In a recent Reddit thread on r/GameStop titled "To those concerned," an employee aired major concerns over GameStop's handling of the situation, most notably the fact that corporate offices never even sent the majority of stores any disinfectants or hand sanitizers:
The top-rated response in the thread is from a GameStop district manager who blows the whistle even harder: "Our regional call today was about taking more tech trades and 'taking advantage' of the situation. This phrase was sincerely said on our call."
From there, more and more accounts have emerged highlighting GameStop's abhorrent disregard for the lives of their employees.
In an internal GameStop memo obtained by Kotaku, GameStop management explains to employees that they are classified as "essential retail," putting themselves in the same category as pharmacies and grocery stores that need to stay open no matter what. They also urge employees to keep stores open even if police attempt to enforce mandatory shutdowns:
"Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers' experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time...We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification. Store Managers are approved to provide the document linked below to law enforcement as needed."
Up until a few days prior, GameStop was even still planning to hold massive midnight release events for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and DOOM Eternal, only shutting those down last-minute after receiving significant backlash. In another concession to safety, GameStop agreed to take down game demo stations, which are high-traffic in-store areas for physical contact. Of course, multiple employees reported that GameStop was only paying lip-service and that they were instructed to keep the demo-stations active after all.
Some employees were also told that if anyone actually did come into work with coronavirus, they would simply need to quarantine themselves and bring in a replacement staff to run the store.
All of this goes to show that GameStop is unfit to be in business anymore. A company that refuses to ensure the safety of their employees and customers and, more egregiously, actively values profits over their employees' very lives, does not deserve to exist. This is doubly true for a store that sells entertainment media, as opposed to literally anything essential to human survival. This is quadruply true during a global pandemic.
The owners of GameStop aren't just failing as business people. They're failing as human beings. Employees' lives are more valuable than profits, and no gamer should ever support GameStop again after this debacle.
It's time for GameStop to hurry up and die.