The competition for your video game dollar is fierce and getting fiercer, as online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores fight it out for your pre-orders and your $60. You’d think Amazon, which has made some pretty strong bids to be the games retailer of choice, would make it easier to buy games from them directly. And that makes the retailer’s latest move rather baffling, and the broader implications worrying.
Video game news outlets are noting that certain video games are now being marked as “exclusive for Prime members.” In other words, unless you give Amazon $100 a year, you can’t buy directly from them and have to go through a third-party seller to buy those games from the site. It doesn’t apply to every game, and the application seems limited to games that sell large quantities well after they come out, like Grand Theft Auto V and FIFA 16. Recent high profile video games, like Dark Souls III, don’t have that language, although Amazon does note Prime members can save on the game.
Some poking around the site seems to indicate that this is, so far, limited to a handful of popular video games [NOTE: Our commenters are pointing out this also seems to apply to some CDs, such as Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.] But it’s a worrying experiment. Unlike buying from Amazon directly, third-party sellers pack and ship their own products and Amazon serves as the middle-man. Customers buying through third parties on Amazon have fewer options to deal with broken products, scams, and other issues, fewer quality guarantees, and might shell out more for shipping. It’s also concerning in light of the fact that Prime is worth less to some consumers than others. For example, if you live in a majority Black neighborhood, your zip code likely mysteriously does not qualify for the site’s highly touted Same-Day Shipping in the major cities the site is offering the service.
Amazon has been subtly pushing Prime in many ways over the last few years, recently by making the video streaming part of the service available separately and even creating buttons to automatically buy more household essentials. This is likely little more than an experiment at the moment to see if it can drive up Prime subscriptions, but it’s one Amazon shoppers should keep an eye on, especially if it spreads beyond games.