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GameStop finally caves to pressure

Well, it looks like GameStop finally got the message. A few days ago, it was reported that the struggling video game retailer had elected to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak. Now, following a ton of backlash from concerned customers and furious employees, GameStop has announced that they will not be keeping their doors open for customers during the continuing outbreak. We've got the details here, including GameStop's statement regarding the change of heart.

According to a report from CNN, GameStop has decided to close all storefronts for the foreseeable future. The company now plans to move to strictly online sales. Though customers will not be allowed in the store proper, they will be able to order games from the company website and pick them up curbside. Presumably, customers will also still be able to ship games to their homes. This is still in opposition even Amazon's latest stance, which is to suspend all sales of nonessential items. As of right now, Amazon will only sell and ship medical supplies and household essentials.

A statement from GameStop CEO George Sherman attempts to explain that the company's previous actions were due to a lack of information concerning the virus. "This is an unprecedented time and each day brings new information about the COVID-19 pandemic," said Sherman. "Our priority has been and continues to be on the well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. We have been steadfast in our adherence to CDC-guided safety and local government orders for retailers in each of our communities." 

While this is a nice sentiment, it doesn't entirely ring true. When several states issued orders for all "non-essential" retailers to close their doors as part of the ongoing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, GameStop stayed open. Just last week, GameStop issued a memo to employees that literally read, "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." Naturally, that didn't sit well with everyone.

This would certainly seem to suggest that the main priority in this case wasn't to protect employees, but to push sales. Multiple employees, including those in leadership positions, commented to CNN that they felt as though the company didn't care about them. One employee told CNN, "I feel very much like a pawn. It doesn't matter what the staff on the ground does. They're just expendable." 

That's just an awful emotional state to be in. Even worse, more than a few of the GameStop employees who were quoted by CNN requested that they remain anonymous. Despite being afraid for their lives and the safety of their coworkers, they were equally afraid of being fired by the company as retaliation for their actions. No one should be afraid of being fired for trying to be safe during a time of crisis.

As CNN points out, this is not only an unprecedented time of economic uncertainty, but it's also a time when gamers are staying home by the millions. This is reflected in the record-breaking number of users that were on Steam earlier this month. Despite the widespread impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the gaming industry, 21 million concurrent Steam users is nothing to scoff at. It definitely makes sense that GameStop would see an opportunity to boost sales during a crisis. While the goal may not have been quite so insidious from a corporate standpoint, it's still a very bad look for the company. 

It also seems like more than just the employees agreed with this view. On Friday, a GameStop in Athens, Georgia was shut down by police officers who found them to be in violation of public health and safety ordinances. It's not a surprise to see that GameStop corporate found a need to address the situation more sensibly. At the end of the day, the hope is that GameStop understands the seriousness of the situation and will make steps to further protect its employees and customers alike.

We'll keep an eye on the situation and communicate any updates as they become available. This is a good time to hunker down with your favorite games and stay safe. And as we've mentioned before, there are plenty of titles available digitally. Might we suggest checking out some of the underappreciated gems from the Nintendo eShop? Whatever you decide to do, maybe do it from the comfort of your own home for the time being.