GameStop Sparks Outrage For Labeling Itself 'Essential Retail' To Remain Open

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a "statewide order" for nearly 40 million residents to "stay at home" amid the coronavirus pandemic, and in other states, school closings are common. Same goes for various retail businesses—many restaurants are now only offering delivery of pickup. Meanwhile, GameStop stirred up a bit of controversy when it reportedly instructed its employees to keep its stores open based on the notion that it is an "essential retail" chain.

Say what, now? Hey, I love video games as much as the next person, and during this time of "social distancing" and self-quarantining, they are a welcome distraction, both from what is going on in the world and from going stir crazy. But are they essential? Most people would argue otherwise (especially in this age of digital downloads), and indeed GameStop's decision has been met with quite a bit of negative backlash on Twitter.

GameStop has since issued a statement clarifying its position, and also told Entertainment Weekly that news headlines regarding its "essential retail" memo have been taken out of context. Here's the full statement...
"While GameStop is best known as a provider of gaming and home entertainment systems, we also offer a wide array of products and devices that are important to facilitate remote work, distance learning, and virtual connectivity," the statement reads. "As millions of Americans face unprecedented challenges adapting to virtual learning, working, and interaction, there is significant need for technology solutions and we are one of many providers of these products that are remaining open at this time. Schools, businesses and families are now suddenly dependent on being able to connect through technology."

"While there are many businesses and organizations far more critical than ours, we believe we can have a positive impact during this very challenging time," GameStop adds. "The health and safety of our employees and customers is of utmost importance and we have and will continue to take extensive precautions consistent with CDC guidelines. We are complying with all state, county, city, and local ordinances and we will continue to adjust to any future developments."
Make of that what you will. GameStop's stance seems to be that, beyond video games, it offers a variety of products that are essential to working from home, as many people find themselves now doing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Not everyone is buying it. Gary Whitta, a prominent screenwriter and author who wrote "The Book of Eli" and co-developed the story for "Rogue One," has been particularly outspoken against GameStop's decision to keep its doors open to the public.

"Your daily reminder that GameStop , a toy store that will be out of business in a year anyway, is trying to remain open in defiance of public health orders, endangering its staff and customers and people everywhere, by claiming that it supplies goods essential to sustaining life," Whitta stated on Twitter.

As criticism mounted, GameStop announced new store hours and policies that restrict the number of people in a single store at the same time to 10, including associates, while maintaining "a 6-foot parameter between customers in checkout lines." It's also suspending trade-ins and making other changes aimed at limiting exposure to COVID-19.

The controversy with GameStop comes during a busy week in gaming. Two highly anticipated games, Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released today. GameStop had announced on Thursday that it was releasing Doom Eternal a day early to spread out the inevitable crowds.

Top Image Source: Mike Mozart (via Flickr)