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.
But for others, the sheer effort put into all those limited-edition Oreos and $100 T-shirts and Las Vegas fountain displays and Urban Decay makeup palettes and secret Valyrian Shake Shack menus starts to take on a particular aroma: flop sweat, the anxious stench of companies aware that this season presents their final opportunity to milk the Game of Thrones cash cow.
“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.
These games have always been accused of being button-mashers—games where you can just hit the attack button over and over again and win most encounters—but Kingdom Hearts III , being balanced primarily for new players in all of its difficulty settings, was a particularly glaring example for the vast majority of the game.
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.WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic . Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox.
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