Videogame Stores Risk Staying Open for Huge Animal Crossing Weekend

Brossman was planning for a “huge” weekend, and says he’s had more preorders for Animal Crossing: New Horizons than for any game in the last two or three years. That enthusiasm is still alive even under the broad mandate to “socially distance”; customers walk up every day, knock, and ask if he has the game they’re looking for. He’s letting people call ahead and pick up at the door or arrange a home delivery anywhere within a 15-mile radius. “We felt that although doing business this way for two weeks will be very difficult (especially with Animal Crossing and Doom), that it was for the best.” (Doom Eternal will be on sale in stores today, a day ahead of schedule, to keep crowds more manageable.) Brossman noticed that, despite his own adjustments, local GameStops are still conducting business as usual.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked all nonessential businesses to send half their employees home. Dan Mastin, who manages Videogamesnewyork, is going to work every day. When he returns home, he has a small quarantine room where he removes his shoes and jacket. He washes his arms and hands before reuniting with his family. Business has been booming, he says; everyone needs games right now as they prepare for indefinite time stapled to their couches. While juggling demand, Mastin says he’s practicing careful hygiene and keeping in touch with his suppliers who, as time goes on, might crack under the pressure.
USPS says they’ve only experienced "minor operational impacts,” but Amazon has suspended all “nonessential” shipments to warehouses. On Wednesday, Square Enix warned Final Fantasy 7 Remake fans that they might not receive the hugely anticipated role-playing game on its April 10 release day because of “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding Covid-19. And while CD Projekt Red has said that Cyberpunk 2077 is still scheduled for an on-time delivery, it’s possible that this weekend’s releases may be some of the last to go off as originally planned.Supply chains will be tested in the coming weeks and months, yet game distributors interviewed by WIRED said they’ve already received their shipments of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal and are sending them out to stores. Only one game distributor WIRED talked to said it was closed, which could lead to delays.
“To our knowledge most of the distributors keep their business as usual. The warehouse staff is provided with masks, gloves, and disinfecting liquids,” says Alex Schmidt, head of Wholesale Video Game Marketplace, an information platform for game distributors and wholesalers. Schmidt adds that warehouse workers aren’t super close to each other anyway, and can “more or less protect themselves from the virus spread.”Distributors are disinfecting packages containing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal as thoroughly as they can when they enter and exit the premises. They can only account for their own vigilance, though. The warehouse staff has to often trust that the incoming products are packed by staff like themselves in the sending company, who took the necessary precautions.
Mario Rocchi, the president of Nintendo distributor Vast Inc., is still at work in his Pennsylvania warehouse along with his five-person staff. His business falls under the category of “distributor,” so he’s allowed to stay open. It’s a big warehouse and mostly automated, so his staff has kept a safe distance from each other as workers processed Animal Crossing: New Horizons orders, which all left Wednesday. “If there’s any risk of us being in jeopardy, I’ll shut this thing down in two seconds,” he says.

After years of hand-wringing over whether brick and mortar game stores are endangered, customers’ and employees’ resilience in the face of a mass pandemic says something about the appeal of these nostalgic businesses—indie and publicly traded alike. It could be that customer service and reliability are great for maintaining a clientele. Or it could be that big corporations, who don’t give a choice to their employees, are prioritizing finances over public health.

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