The front of eStarland. Very store like, right?
Fast forward to roughly 10 months ago, eStarland finally thought “Hey, maybe we should open a retail store!” and that’s where the magic began. eStarland has a massive inventory of games. In fact, they only have one warehouse of games. It is the retail store. As expected, this makes eStarland about 8x the size of a normal GameStop store with an inventory that’s expected to make any gamer crap themselves. So, is eStarland an awesome game store or is just another GameStop rip-off?
eStarland is located in Chantilly, Virginia. For the few that know the northern Virginia area, its right outside of Leesburg. From where I live (Western Maryland) it was about an hour and 10 minute drive. I never knew about eStarland’s store until it was featured on Retroware TV’s The Game Chasers show. In the most recent episode, the gang visited the store and gave it much praise on how awesome the place was. I was intrigued and was shocked to see how close the place was to me. Needless to say, I felt obligated to visit the place. I’ve been sad on how no places within my area barely get any retro games anymore. It always felt good on getting uncommon games locally for $5-10. In recent years, it seems that resellers have invaded my area big time and are buying out all of the pawn shops the moment that they anything that’s worth buying. Due to this, I stopped buying retro games for a few years because the selection went from decent to nearly nonexistent.
It’s easy to say that the store looks more like an office/business place on the outside. That’s because it has been for the last eight years. Walking in the store at first looks like you’re walking into the reception of some business but then to the left is the entrance store or “showroom”. At first glance, the store reminds me of a convention center’s dealer’s room. The place has massive shelves full of games on the ends of the store. In the middle of the store are smaller shelves that contain many common video games (you will see why I’m saying “common” in a minute) and a ton of video game accessories. The store also features two giant shelves full of old strategy guides. They also have about 4-6 shelves for video game and anime figures. I laugh on how half of the figures say “THIS IS NOT A TOY FOR DISPLAY ONLY”. Every new, uncommon, or rare game the store carries are usually in a glass case within a counter. The store sells games new and used from all eras, even for current/next generation consoles (360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, etc.).
The selection is amazing and it’s almost overwhelming on how many games these guys have accumulated for the past decade. If you want a game or a retro console, chances are they will more than likely have it. eStarland takes trades from anywhere in the world. Meaning American, Canadian, European, and Japanese gamers can easily sell their games to them. I personally don’t recommend trading any video game to any retail store even eStarland. If you think you have something rare, never EVER sell it to a retail store. Online will and always be your best bet.
UPDATE: Apparently, their trade-in rates are rumored to be higher than most retail stores. I’m sure they are. But again, I still stand by my point that selling games online is way more profitable than trading it to any store.
Common games... common games everywhere!
As I stated back in the beginning of this post, eStarland’s prices aren’t exactly great. The store does not price anything due to the constant market of games that constantly fluctuate in prices. For example, one month a game that originally sold for $50 could be $80 due to rarity, the next week the publisher may re-print, port (to a new console), or remake/make a newer version the game making the older version less desirable which in turn would drop the value of the game. Thankfully, the store will not force you to dump all of your games at the register just to see that you don’t want pay too much for a certain game. The store has four PCs open that let you look up games on the website before visiting the store. Keep in mind, that the website and store prices are exactly the same and that the store strictly stands by their prices (so don’t try your luck).
To wrap up these sections, I felt like I needed to note on all of the things I liked and disliked about the store. Enjoy!
- The store has the biggest selection of Sega Genesis, Saturn, 32X and Sega CD games that I’ve ever seen. The NES/SNES/N64 selection while big, was a little lacking in worthwhile titles as they seem to have either locked away or have sold all of the most noteworthy games. Atari selection (all systems) seem to be small but was decent for what they had.
- Portable games weren’t really on the floor unless they had a box. A lot of DS/3DS/PSP/Vita games are within the glass cases but are available to buy.
- PS2/Xbox/Gamecube games are on the floor or on shelves that you can check out freely. Some shelves with these are behind counters though.
- 90 day return policy for anything. For games/consoles that maybe 5-30+ years old you never know who or what was handling the games/consoles before you. This made me comfortable on buying my Sega CD from them (and yes, it works).
A great selection of sports games.
- Every game that has ever been a recognizable IP such as any Nintendo IP or popular IP in the past such as Ninja Gaiden or Resident Evil are going to be pricey or extremely overpriced.
- As I stated earlier, every uncommon or rare game is locked away. Even games that I wouldn’t even consider rare. If a game that is common but is well-known is missing on the floor, it’s likely locked away somewhere.
- Every PlayStation (PS1) game is behind the counter on a shelf. I saw even more PS1 games in front of the shelf within boxes. I found it extremely odd on how a store that’s been open for nearly a year not to have their PS1 inventory on the floor. I likely would of walked away with some PS1 games if I could of actually looked through the shelf (I can’t see from far away and I don’t have glasses yet). I asked a store clerk to see if I could actually look through the games but he refused even if he was watching me go through them. You would have to know what you wanted beforehand by either being a psychic or by digging through countless hours on the website.
- Oh, and they have shelves like this on the other side of the store that you aren't allowed go through as well (mainly containing older Gamecube/PS2 games). Make sure to bring your binoculars.
- On my previous note, the store seems to have no concern over theft as they had copies of Mega Man III and Chrono Trigger within reachable displays that could be yanked out at any time (I can even see customers taking them out so that they could buy them). Their available copies of these games were not available on the floor. The store does have cameras, but with that in mind, why was I not allowed to search through a shelf with permission when the store has a ton of cameras? Okay, I am a little upset but still I fail to see why they forbid customers to look through some games that could lead into more purchases.
- The store’s pricing on most retro video game hardware is terrible. The Sega CD I walked away with was over the double the price I paid for my first one but I only bought it due to me being desperate for another one (and that it seems no man alive can fix my old Sega CD’s laser).
- On that note, they do offer video game hardware repair. I was told by a store clerk that it was very expensive though. He even mentioned at one point that a PS3 laser cost $100 which I knew couldn’t have been true since I bought one back in the fall of last year for not even $40. Something seems off here…
- All current/next gen games cannot be browsed through. Maybe this is because they don’t gut their games like GameStop, but even GameStop lets you browse through new and used games for the current/next gen consoles. I feel they would sell newer games if they would just buy display cases and put used games on the floor and just place the discs elsewhere. This isn’t really hard to do.
- It seems that nearly every current gen game price is never updated unless the game is fairly old.
I'll make sure to come prepared with glasses and binoculars next time!
It’s sad to say that my negatives do outweigh the positives. Keep in mind, for a store that’s only been open for less than a year, I consider this to be a decent start.
Cheap Ass Gamer recently had a thread for an online sale that eStarland is having right now. I posted my positive and negative list there and one guy claimed that the store’s staff were terrible. I figured I’d throw in my two cents on this opinion. Last Sunday, the store I went to had two employees that could have been anywhere between the ages of 18 to 23. While browsing through games, I noticed a lot of people come in with their children. At one point, I even had a kid who kept bumping into me and taking out random games and running away with them. The employees didn’t seem to be very concerned to have children messing with their inventory. I spoke to their staff a few times, and they were pretty quick to answer my questions. Yeah, the PS1 thing was BS. But I’ll put that behind them. God only knows how many employees that the company actually has. I also had some random conversations such as the one guy who noticed my MAGFest shirt brought up some odd video game camp thing that had a name similar to MAGFest. I also schooled them about how Battletoads is likely one of the hardest games ever created (apparently the games they had on display were their own personal copies). Were they bad? Nah. Were they gamers? Probably not. Getting decent employees for likely minimum wage these days is a tough thing to do. None of them seemed like managers to me, but then again, it was a Sunday. Maybe I didn’t see the infamous employee(s) that were mentioned on CAG… yet. =S
A pretty good selection of Sega Saturn games
I’m not going to lie. I had a great time at eStarland. The first glance I had inside the store was like “holy crap, this place is huge!” And the first thing I see are classic games such as Mega Man III and the original Super Smash Bros. on and ready to play which added to the atmosphere of the place. Once I started checking out games, I spent 90+ minutes just going through everything they had on the floor. I had stacks at one point but I know to be careful since their prices were pretty high. I put back a lot of games. I calculated in my mind how much something could be when I picked it up. The Sega CD I got I knew unless I found something else that would absolutely blow my mind that I would be getting it. I left with probably $150 worth of games which a majority of that being for the Sega CD. I put back a lot of games that had pretty high prices such as Donkey Kong Country 3 and the original Resident Evil on Sega Saturn. These were games I would have liked but I believe RE was roughly $25+ for a disc only copy and DKC3 was $30+. I found a cool 32X game called Metal Head complete for about $10 as well as a Sega CD game known as Hemdall for around the same price. One Sega CD game I was looking forward to was The Terminator which for a licensed game was actually a really good game for its time, but they were out of stock.
My overpriced loot.
To conclude, I think anyone who has a sight interest in retro games should visit eStarland. Be wary of the high prices, but if you want to pick something up, make sure to check out the computers in the store to see what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re looking for common hardware such as a Genesis, SNES, NES, etc., I highly suggest that you look elsewhere. Other than that, check it out.