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Black Friday: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Black Friday: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
November 28, 2011 | By Chris Morris

Forget televisions and laptops. Judging by the fervor and numbers, Black Friday 2011 was all about video games. Unfortunately, thanks to a few boneheaded bargain hunters, it was a shopping day that would do nothing to help the industry's image among mainstream shoppers.

Video game violence was all over the news this weekend, but it had nothing to do with Modern Warfare 3 or GTA. This time, it was the people buying games that were going postal.

And while they fought just as ferociously over Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmos in years past, I'm fearful that some talking heads may find a way to point the finger of blame at the video game industry once again.

Let's recap, for those of you who wisely spent time with family or playing Skyrim this weekend instead…

In Southern California, a woman was so desperate to get her hands on a discounted Xbox 360 at Walmart that she pepper sprayed others in the store. Ten people were hit by the spray and another 10 suffered minor bumps and bruises in the ensuing chaos. (The woman turned herself in to police 24 hours later, but has not yet been charged with any crime.)

Meanwhile, in Mesquite, Texas, a woman was almost crushed (again at Walmart) as people went into a feeding frenzy over $10 games and movies. (Note how the people who do manage to grab something don't bother to check what it is until after they've walked away.)

Over in Phoenix, a 54-year old man who allegedly tried to shoplift a video game was thrown face-first to the ground by police, suffering a head wound that caused him to bleed profusely. (Some witnesses say he was simply putting the games in his pants to pick his grandson up above the raucous crowd. Oh… and would you care to guess where he was shopping? Yep.)

So, we've got two important takeaways here: 1.) Never, ever risk going to Walmart on Black Friday and 2.) People are definitely responding to video game deals this year.

Among games, the winners were pretty obvious choices. Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz estimates the top selling games at Amazon during the Black Friday sales and the following two days included Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and Madden NFL 12.

That should help boost publisher stock prices -- although that's hardly guaranteed. BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward Williams notes that over the past five years, there has been extreme volatility among gaming stocks between Black Friday and the end of the year. Last year, he says, interactive entertainment stock price increases outnumbered stock price decreases by more than 2:1.

Overall, the National Retail Federation on Monday reported that the average holiday shopper over the weekend spent $398.62, up from $365.34 last year, and video games and electronics helped drive that increase.

Among the console makers, this year, the big winners appear to be Microsoft and Sony.

"We believe both [the Xbox 360 and PS3] are benefiting from a migration of consumers up the video game curve -- in other words, from the Wii to either of the HD systems," says Williams.

That's good news (well, unless you're Nintendo), but I'm still worried about the potential blowback from those shopper incidents. The Examiner is already dubbing last Friday as "The most violent Black Friday ever." There's some hyperbole there, but it's not too far off base. And with games at the heart of some of the most notable confrontations, that's all the trigger some mass media outlets need to start beating a familiar drum.

The saving grace could be that blaming games just isn't in vogue right now, following this year's Supreme Court ruling. And, let's face it, complaining about the general insanity of holiday shopping is a much easier way to get ratings these days.

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Daniel Boutros
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LOL. Lovely piece. Gave me a good laugh this morn. Though I've personally found Target to be far more vile than Walmart.

Keith Thomson
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Gamestop, by contrast, was very pleasant to shop at for black friday. Nice orderly line to the door, everyone was friendly and worked together to count the number of people in line looking for certain consoles against the number the store had.

james sadler
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This was my first year doing a store opener black friday. Normally my wife and I will avoid the stores as much as possible during the holidays and just order everything we plan on gifting through amazon. Going this year was more out of curiosity than an immense desire to get a killer deal. I went with some friends to a super target near my parent's house (no I don't live at home). We got there about 10pm and the line wasn't too long. We talked, drank hot chocolate, and spent some good time with the others in line with us while we waited for the doors to open. Once we got inside (maybe 10-15 minutes after the doors opened) one could feel the "rush" type of mood in the place. I will admit that the impulse buy/grab effect was high and I picked up a few more things then I had planned. The biggest area of chaos was electronics which isn't surprising. An annoying bit was the Kinect bundle they advertised. The actual Kinect pallets were over in the men's clothing section, but the bonus Wipeout 2 game was in the normal games section. By the time we were able to get over to the games section there was only a single copy left (we had two kinects). Price was still better then most places had it, and I am sure the added game isn't stellar, so we still got both Kinects. Checkout was pretty painless. I even grabbed a new xbox 360 for my office which wasn't really on my list, but for the price it wasn't a hard sell. All in all we spent a total of 1.5 hours in the store, got almost everything we went in there for and people were pretty well mannered. I might even go next year. Probably the most important part was not trying to get one of those big ticket items, but also being in a mindset that I might not get item X, but I know I can get it off of amazon later if need be.

@Daniel: In the area I am at the Walmarts are much worse then Targets. I know the Walmart down the road from the Target I was at had a few incidents as well as the other one in the same city.

Eric Geer
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I'm not sure how these incidents could be blamed on the video game industry--but rather the poorly mannered people and more consistently occurring police brutality. Luckily my family and I spent the day meandering around Tyler Arboretum and hiking in the woods in PA--it was quite busy there--but mostly with kids running around enjoying the beautiful day.

Cody Scott
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I went to Walmart thanksgiving night at 8 to get in line for a $200 PS3 (was third in line) and at 9:30 that place went berserk, there were fights over towels and other relatively low priced items. lucky for me i did not have to use my pepper spray or pocket knife on the way out, but it was rather scary.

Philip Daay
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Latest news reports state the pepper spray lady may have acted in self-defence. We'll see.

Not all stores were crazy on Black Friday. Target, Wal-mart, Best Buy and Frys were relatively orderly, at least where I live. People in crowds act out how you treat them. When you set a crowd of shoppers on one end of the store and a pile of shiny Xboxes on the other, then blow a whistle to kick everything off...the message you're sending is that Black Friday is a deathmatch where every person is a team playing for themselves.

Fiore Iantosca
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downfall of society

Harry Fields
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Everyone bemoans how bad the economy is, but you put things under a more reasonable price and people are willing to shiv eachother to buy various luxury items. This should tell larger companies that maybe, just maybe, their goods and services are too high priced the other 364 days of the year.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Harry Fields
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The 360 4GB kinect bundle for 200 with a 50$ credit was pure win.

Eric Ruck
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Being done shopping by Halloween... #winninger

Lyon Medina
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I have gone to five black friday shopping sessions now. I never shop at Wal-Mart, Never, ever, ever, everrrrrrr shop at Wal-Mart.

As for ramifications I think the pattern here is Wal-Mart and simalar shopping centers not properly taking the human element into their deals. Wal-Mart has always been that low end market alot of people avoid at all costs, and creating this frenzy of having 300+ people standing in lines for maybe ten products of which they have maybe 20 in stock is a mixture for disaster. Something needs to be done. People need to be held accountable, On both sides.

Harry Fields
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One things certain... it's always fun to watch the videos on TV in the following week. You end up with some rather large individuals running their jiggly butt through the store to save 10 dollars on some fleece. In fact, when they open the door, the people vaguely resemble cattle being led off a cattle car and being rustled into the slaughterhouse.

Adam Whitmore
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My coworker went to a Wal-Mart in Okemos, and he said that they let the people line up next to the items that they wanted. No mad dash or stampede.