Monday, August 29, 2011

Precision (well, a little bit more of it, anyway)

Last Thursday, in the EBAD post, I was far less precise than I should have been, and I would like to add some additional clarifications.

First, when I said that Google was kicking Apple's ass, I got some lively e-mail telling me I was crazy. What I didn't do in the original post was present the data and let you guys draw your own conclusion. Let me do that now.

First off, the article that was sent to me several times was this one: Apple iOS Platform Outreaches Android by 59 Percent in U.S. When Accounting for Mobile Phones, Tablets and Other Connected Media Devices.

It is, however, more complicated than that.

That study includes iPods, which lack an equivalent device in the Android world.  If you include iPods, the numbers (according to comScore) are 37.9 millio iOS devices and 23.7 million Android devices.

If you want to look at it that way,  then Apple is still solidly in the lead.

However, if you take out the iPod and focus on the installed base of cell phones and tablets, the picture is very different. There are only 22.9 million iOS devices compared to 23.7 million Android devices, and that's with Apple having had a virtual monopoly on tablet sales until recently (which is changing quickly--we bought a 10.1" Galaxy Tab a few weeks ago and it's pretty spiffy). Also add that Android devices are being added to the installed base in much higher numbers than iOS devices.

So that's it, is it? Well, again, it depends on how you want to look at it.

From an Apple perspective, they are the only manufacturers of their devices, while there are at least five manufacturers of Android devices. If you want to look at it that way, then Apple is still dominating.

To me, though, that was Apple's business decision. They're locked down. Their choice.

So when I originally made the "kicking ass" comment, I was thinking of the OS ecosystem and the total share held by each company's OS. I didn't add any context, though, which is my fault.

That's a much more complete picture of the data, and it's the picture I should've given on Thursday.

Now, let's move on to Gamestop. I'm still not going to give them back their capital "S", but here's what they did on Friday:
GameStop is attempting to make up for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution debacle by offering a $50 gift card and a “Buy 2 Get 1 Free Pre-owned Purchase” to those who bought boxed copies of the PC version in-store.

That's absolutely fair. Actually, it's more than that--I would say that was actually generous. Not a word I've ever used in conjunction with Gamestop before, but there's a first time for everything. Well-played.

Now, three ex-Gamestop employees (two of whom said they hate the company, as well as an ex-manager who I consider an unimpeachable source) wrote in to say that gutting new games and storing the contents in baggies was, in fact, about reducing theft. Here's an excerpt from what the ex-manager sent me (and everything he's sent me in the past has been gold, so I trust him implicitly):
While I'm not defending their move to pull coupons (even though Square Enix has come out an admitted they didn't tell GameStop what they were doing and that GameStop had a contractual right to know), saying that gutting display boxes to "reduce theft" is bullshit is flat-out wrong. GameStop has crazy low levels of theft in comparison to other retailers, and I've been in the industry for 15 years. GameStop considered 0.25% loss "normal" and any result greater then 0.8% was considered serious enough that it warranted an automatic disciplinary action against the stores managers. Compare that to Walmart and other big retailers, where anything less then 2 or 3% is considered a major achievement. So gutting packaging works for GameStop.

Again, I was terribly imprecise in the original post. I totally agree that gutting new games and putting all the contents behind the counter reduces theft. Hell, it has to--there's nothing to steal.

However, and I think this is a big however, I've always thought it was entirely wrong for a retailer to treat new merchandise so cavalierly. If I buy something new, it should mean that I take the shrink-wrap off the package. I don't want any intermediate finagling with the contents. I'm buying it NEW, not just UNUSED.

That's a considerable difference to me, and it's why I haven't bought a game from Gamestop in-- hell, I don't even remember the last time I bought a game from them.

So I agree that having no merchandise on the floor reduces theft, just as killing everyone in a village reduces the incidence of disease. However, I also entirely believe that Gamestop has, at a corporate level, created procedures that make buying a new game look as much as buying a used game as possible. Product is behind the counter, it's taken out of drawers, it's reconstituted into a sellable product.

It's exactly the same thing. And if it's the same thing, then why not buy used?

I promise that's not a coincidence. And I would also promise that Gamestop corporate headquarters had people who studied operating procedures and aligned the new/used procedures until they were indistinguishable to the customer.

Of course they did--their margin on used games is 3X new games. That's Corporation 101.

I did actually go into a Gamestop on Friday night for the first time in months, and unlike that same store last year, I can distinguish between new game areas and used game areas. There was a time previous when it was even difficult to do that.

One more comment from the ex-manager:
The gutting of new game and selling resealed returns predates GameStop's move to sell used, though. It was the same thing they were doing in their Software Etc/Babbages days when you could return games you didn't like. They'd repackage those and sell them as new, after all. We even had a shrink-wrap film cutter and heat gun for the process.

That's true, and I remember it happening, so point taken.

As always, thanks to you guys for the intelligent and well-spoken e-mail.

Site Meter