One of the biggest retail controversies, with something like Manhunt, is the ESRB rating system. Do you feel that it is effective for the consumers, and being executed well from the ESRB level?
BM: It's a good question. I think it's very worthy that the ESA has taken this on. We definitely have undergone a campaign this fall, all the way up to our executive management, that we are part of the Respect the Ratings initiative.
Being a parent myself, and having kids now that are coming of the age, I believe that it is the responsibility of the consumer. But I believe that it is our responsibility as an industry and as a retailer to educate the consumer that there are choices. That these things do mean something; for every game that is rated M, there is a reason that it is. We have put systems in place for any consumers who purchase M rated games, it prompts for an ID.
You do that at point of sale?
BM: Yes, we do. We initiated that several years ago. We take that very seriously, and communicate it very often to our associates.
There was a point where Manhunt 2 was considered an AO game. Is an AO game something that you would consider selling if it came out? Is it something that you would consider carrying in your stores?
BM: I think that it is an opportunity that we would have to look at on a case-by-case. In this situation, I'm glad that they went back, reworked it, and it will be M rated. I can't say that we would have supported it at AO, and I can't say that we won't.
In the past, when there was an AO game such as Leisure Suit Larry from a couple of years ago, GameStop wouldn't support that game in our retail stores. However, that was before the merger with Electronics Boutique, and EB did take the title into their retail stores. So, again, it is a situation that we have to take on a case-by-case. But I have to say that we prefer that the AO games are not anything that we are out there in the market looking for.
What we are talking about is on the fringe. Console manufacturers won't manufacture an AO game anyway, so it is on the fringe. But moving forward, we can't really predict what will happen.
BM: That's right. We see the opportunity, and we like it. Again, for me, I am glad that it's there. You don't know all of the games, and their reasons, whether it's language or violence or nudity within the game, they all have their points for being. And again, as a parent, that is where the consumer needs to know. 'OK, here are the choices, and do I really want my son or my daughter playing it. Is that OK?' Obviously it is if the parent buys it for them in the store. We won't sell it to anyone under 17.
Some of your stores in malls have been there for years before GameStop, versus stores in strip malls, some of which used to be FuncoLand -- is there any difference in these stores? Do they perform differently and have different character?
BM: I think there was a point in time several years back, where they did perform differently. It's really not that way any more. As I mentioned, we are closing in on rebranding those stores, and really that is a sign that we don't see them as differentiated anymore.
I would say that the stores within the malls are typically smaller format than the other stores: on average a twelve-hundred square foot location, where the average strip location would be a little bit larger: maybe fifteen, sixteen hundred square feet. That's really the only differentiation between any of our stores. A lot of our mall stores are in very good malls. We have good real-estate, and there are some high-volume malls that are around the country.
When you open a new store, some of them come from the previous stock of FuncoLand or Babbages -- moving forward, you'll have a unified look and stock?
BM: Oh, yeah. We've spent a lot of money over the course of this year to go in and not only have the name of the front of the stores to look the same, but also get some of the picturing within our store interior, as well, to give it a unified experience. Whether the consumer is in a strip store or a mall store, they'll have the same experience.
The years of guessing whether it used to be an EB or a FuncoLand are over.
BM: Yeah, they are. Now the only thing remaining is the saw-toothed walls within the old Babbages. [laughs]
With the PC productivity software! [laughs]
BM: And educational. They were big into educational.