EB Games has announced that it has closed all of its stores across Canada in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Twitter, EB Games confirmed that all locations have been closed starting end of day March 20th. While the video game retailer didn’t provide an estimate on when it would reopen, it did direct customers to continue their shopping online via EBGames.ca.
— GameStop Canada 🎮 (@GameStopCanada) March 21, 2020
To fulfill these online orders, EB Games says its distribution team “has implemented improved distancing measures, incremental sanitation stations and equipment for enhanced stations.”
The closure of all EB Games Canada locations comes after the company has been heavily criticized for remaining open during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, many major Canadian retailers and venues have closed, including Apple, Cineplex, The Source, Telus, Rogers and Bell.
It’s important to note that EB Games isn’t legally required to close. That’s because the Public Health Agency of Canada and federal health minister only advise provinces on these matters, with each provincial jurisdiction ultimately being responsible for its own decisions regarding store closures. That said, many have agreed that video game stores are not an “essential” service like grocery stores or pharmacies that warrants staying open amid a global health crisis. Further, games can be purchased digitally without ever leaving home.
In Ontario, in particular, major attention was drawn on March 20th to EB Games’ flagship Toronto location on Yonge Street, where a launch event was held for the highly anticipated Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal. The day before, EB Games mentioned on Twitter that it would be increasing sanitation, limiting the number of people in stores at all times and allowing only those who had reserved either game to shop.
Nonetheless, dozens of people were still expected to attend the event, which raised concerns about a failure to maintain social distancing. In response, EB Games Canada came under fire from both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
“It’s unacceptable,” Ford said. “To the young people please, do not get in line, practice social distancing, it’s unacceptable — this is exactly what causes the spread.”
Meanwhile, Tory expressed “profound displeasure” with EB Games’ decision to remain open, noting this was “not an act of good corporate citizenship.” Toronto’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has also urged all non-essential businesses in the city to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Beyond EB Games Canada, parent company GameStop has drawn condemnation for how it’s been conducting business in the U.S. On March 19th, GameStop released a memo to employees wherein it argued that it’s “essential retail” because it carries products “that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home.” While GameStop locations have closed in California, the majority of stores remain open in the U.S., much to the dismay of employees. It remains to be seen if and when GameStop will close entirely in the U.S.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a new game to play during social distancing, please don’t go to a brick-and-mortar store. Instead, you can visit digital storefronts like the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, Nintendo eShop and Steam to make a purchase.