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GameStop looks to the past with vintage game sales online

When life starts to get strange, when you seem to be at your wits end, that’s when you start to look to your roots. You may not be able to go home again, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. GameStop’s joints are creaking. Video game retail sales in the US have plummeted from $22 billion in 2008 to $17 billion last year. August 2012 sales alone were down 20 percent year-on-year. GameStop’s tried to build itself up as a digital distribution giant like Valve’s Steam, but digital sales have failed to equal lost physical goods revenue. The future is hazy for GameStop. Time to look backward.

GameStop is going back to its past. Chief executive officer Paul Raines has hinted in recent interviews that GameStop is interested in getting into vintage game sales. Just think of the incentives! Someone comes in to the store to pre-order Resident Evil 6, and they end up dropping an extra $50 on a beat up copy of Resident Evil 2 for PlayStation 1. “We think there’s a vintage sales opportunity, so we’re accumulating some inventory,” Raines told Polygon in August, “It’s a big idea, and there’s a few problems with it. The first one is sourcing the product, the condition, the refurbishment, all that stuff. But there’s a customer for it. If you go to eBay and look at all the gaming stuff that’s on there, it’s unbelievable. We’ve got to be in that business. We will be.”

Seeing people drop $1000 on a shrink-wrapped copy of Chrono Trigger has got to make the company salivate. If it can capitalize on an existing, lucrative niche market to bolster back up its struggling stores, it’s time to start buying up the old stuff!

Vintage sales won’t be helping out GameStop’s brick and mortar operation though. Raines elaborated on GameStop’s vintage plans in a new interview with Joystiq on Friday. “We’ve thought about this vintage thing as an online initiative, and that’s where we’re doing most of our work.”

“[If] you’re a collector of Call of Duty, and there’s an old Call of Duty original, Call of Duty 2, floating around, it has a lot of value for you. Right now you don’t have an easy way to find it, because it might not be available on our website, but it might be in 300 out of our 4,600 stores in the US and you don’t have a way of finding it. So if we can put that collector’s type product on a really cool site that allows you to see what we have available and so forth, then think it’s interesting.”

It’s not just the games that represent GameStop’s past. One of the first retail chains absorbed by GameStop in its great expansion more than a decade ago was FuncoLand, a retail outlet that specialized in selling all games, not just the latest and greatest.