Thursday, July 15, 2010

Import Game Shopping - A Challenger Appears

Time for a little consumer reporting.  The laws of supply and demand hold fast, if not always efficiently, worldwide, and I recently got an email from a new import game retailer called Game of Japan.  So I decided to give them a try for my next round of import gaming... or game importing, actually.

I usually satisfy my Japanese import appetite through Play-Asia, located in Hong Kong, and was interested in comparing pricing, selection and service from the new kid on the globe.  Here are my initial, strictly anecdotal conclusions:

-- Pricing varies dramatically; it's good to shop around if you're looking for a particular title, or even if you aren't and are just trying to get the most bang for your buck.  There seems to be more variation on the higher-priced, rarer end of the scale, but there's quite a bit of variation for common, cheaper games too.

-- Selection also varies by region -- games that rarely turn up at Play-Asia seem to be easier to find at Game of Japan, and vice-versa.

-- Shipping is faster from Hong Kong than from Japan, or at least it's faster from Play-Asia than Game of Japan.  But it's only a difference of a few days at the receiving end here in the US, and as most of the games I buy came out in the late 80's and early 90's, I really shouldn't be in any kind of rush to get them.  Normally I am shocked at how quickly games arrive from Hong Kong; from Japan, it took a few days for the package to get out of the country, and reached me a few days after that, adding up to a 5 business day turnaround, compared to 2 or 3 from Hong Kong.  The biggest nuisance was that the Game of Japan packages arrived by registered mail, so I had to go to the post office and sign for them; Play-Asia ships by UPS courier and the box just shows up at my door.  Shipping cost is comparable -- international shipping is always expensive, so I tend to buy a handful of games at once to spread the extra expense out.

-- Shipping "in-stock" products in a timely fashion occasionally seems to be a challenge in this business, though I haven't run into any unfulfilled promises.  My last order from Play Asia was split into two orders, but to my pleasant surprise, the back-ordered title was eventually found and shipped at no additional charge.  Game of Japan failed initially to ship a title I was really looking forward to, but the company communicated that it would follow in 3 days, and did indeed ship it as promised.

-- Communication was not a problem with either company; Play-Asia's English is more professional and consistent, but Game of Japan manages to get the message across.  And I find the phrasing rather charming:

The item you bought will be sent into two packs.
First one will be sent to you within today except Valis.
SCD Valis will follow them after in 3 days.
Thank you so much !

-- Game condition is generally better from Play-Asia, like new in many cases, but prices are generally higher there as well.  The titles I ordered from Game of Japan are more obviously used -- they exhibit some manual and spine card creasing and wear, though all games were complete and in good shape overall.  Play-Asia re-shrinks their games or puts them in a cellophane envelope to keep them in the best possible condition; they also stock brand-new vintage games on occasion.  Game of Japan ships their used games as-is, with the spine cards inserted into the CD cases or missing altogether.  Since I have to open these games to play them anyway, both approaches work for me, but collectors may find the pricier option is worth it.

-- Both companies package everything with liberal amounts of bubble wrap, and I've had no problems with shipping damage.  Our cat Kiki seems to prefer Game of Japan, as they pad their boxes with big, impressive-looking bundles of bubble wrap, taped into neat bundles that she can carry around the house, loudly announcing her feats of strength when she's in mighty huntress mode.

I no doubt will continue to patronize both Play-Asia and Game of Japan in the future, depending on my mood and who has what in stock -- it's always good to have alternatives, and competition benefits the consumer in the end.

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