“GameStop: No more Midnight Madness” was not the headline that gamers would have wanted to see in April 2008. It was also, unfortunately, an apt description of the company that handles pre-orders for so many consumer electronics in its stores. The Dallas-based company reported a staggering $70 million ($20.68 per share) loss in its first quarter. While Wall Street frowned upon the company, the largest annual loss in the stock’s history, gamers commended its first decline in same-store sales since 1986.
The reversal can be traced back to one particularly clever user of /r/gaming. In the “Ask Me Anything” session subreddit, video game enthusiasts asked some pointed questions of Reddit moderator Crystal. Soon she was inundated with questions, so much so that she posted an email address and offered to “disclose them anonymously.” The user responded by using a Gmail address to answer questions directly. The end result? The 5,500-member dedicated subreddit attracted 1.6 million hits, 220,000 replies and millions of impressions.
The response to the news was immediate and, unsurprisingly, brought the company “serious blowback.” The company’s Chief Marketing Officer agreed to help “legitimize the game/marketing community.”
All of this resulted in the company partnering with two startups, Karmic Reality and Ticketleap. The fan-run company — which worked closely with an online marketing company to distribute the merchandise — also created a special message card that it passed along to every user who left a question on Reddit, in addition to facilitating a second sweepstakes where GameStop hosted 10,000 “winners” to their physical store during the company’s first big weekend sale event.