The customer is always right, except when the store owner is out of his mind.
For most merchants, the goal is to sell goods and services to make a profit. Video game merchants, on the other hand, create business models that can leave us scratching our heads.
Hang on to your rupees, because these salesmen are Deku Nuts.
THE MERCHANT’S MONOPOLY
’Resident Evil 4’
Usually when a creepy guy tries to show you what he’s hiding under his coat, you know it’s not going to be anything you want to see. The Merchant, however, is always a welcome sight, with his blue flame announcing that he’s ready to sell some wares. You have to question his business sense, though.
This guy randomly sets up shop in an infected mutant-infested nightmare zone where he only really has a chance of selling to one solitary, albeit frequent, customer. Does he appear to other adventurers in this world? We’ll probably never know. But even though his mutterings of “What’re ya buyin’?” will haunt our dreams, at the time we were just glad to have someone to talk to.
MALO’S ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
’The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’
If babies can be landlords, then it’s not all that unbelievable that they can also run storefronts. Malo is a tiny child who moves into a shop after the owner is killed (for free and without permission). Then he sells you weapons until he gouges enough money from you for his next phase.
He hires a decrepit, old Goron to basically run his Kickstarter campaign, to which you’re the only donor, so he can fix the bridge to Hyrule Castle Town and use your money to buy out the competition to set up shop there. Then, he’ll sell you magic armor that allows you to avoid taking damage, but also drains your rupees until you’re broke.
Here’s the thing: you’re his best customer and financial backer, so once you’re broke or stop adventuring, Malo’s exponential growth must hit a wall. If there’s ever a direct sequel to Twilight Princess, Malo will probably be the slumlord villain, monopolizing all sales in Hyrule, leaving Link a rupee-less husk of his former self.
THE SHADY MERCHANT’S BRAZEN BLACK MARKET
Outside of Basso’s place in Thief, there’s a merchant who can take care of “all of your nefarious needs.” That’s what he actually says. It’s his real sales pitch.
Usually if you’re buying something illegal, your salesman doesn’t advertise the fact that he’s dealing illicit goods for your evil purposes. A drug dealer doesn’t say, “I have drugs for you to get high.” But this guy is just standing out in the open in a shady part of town, basically saying, “Hey we both know what’s up. Here’s some illegal stuff for the illegal things you’re going to be doing.”
There are a few other shady dealers in the game who at least have the sense to stay fairly well hidden. But none of them really conceal the fact that their operation is less than legitimate. I’m not sure if there are any undercover cops in the world of Thief, but it would only take one to bring the whole business crumbling to the ground, and he wouldn’t really have to be trying too hard to do it.
THE BIKE SHOP OWNER’S COUPON COUP
’Pokemon Red’ and ‘Blue’
You need a bike in this game. It’s the only way to move faster than a Slowpoke’s pace. The problem is the maniacal Bike Shop salesman is charging more money than you can possibly carry to buy one. Even if you become the Pokemon League Champion, which is the highest position one can achieve in the game, you still won’t ever be able to have enough money to buy one of these bikes.
The other option is to get a Bike Voucher, which you can obtain for free. So essentially, this insane Bike Shop owner’s master business plan is to have two price points: one so high that no one could possibly afford his product, and the other being free. It’s a foolish plan to be sure, but maybe he’s thinking, “All I have to do is sell one of these things for full price, and I’m set for life!” Shrewd, Bike Shop owner. Very shrewd, indeed.
THE INEPT FREELOADER MERCHANT
This guy will show up when you have enough silver, which means he can hear the money calling to him. He’ll also need you to build him a house, which he will take from you for free. Then, he’ll sell you a random assortment of goods that would put most pawn shops to shame. He’ll sell you glowsticks and disco balls for all your rave needs, mining supplies, weapons, and even seasonal items like rings for Valentines Day, turkey feathers for Thanksgiving, or boots full of beer for Oktoberfest. He’s basically like Walmart for the sparsely populated world you live in. And he’s open 24-7, even during the Blood Moon. Unfortunately, if you leave the door to his house open, chances are good he won’t have the sense to close it, which leaves him open to zombie attacks. You’d think he’d be able to use some of those weapons he’s selling, but he probably just doesn’t want to risk damaging the goods. He’d rather die than lose one cent of business.
’South Park: The Stick of Truth’
Jimbo won’t sell too many weapons to a minor other than a katana or a crossbow. That would be crazy. But if you, a minor, go on a dangerous hunting quest to kill the most deadly beasts in South Park, he might be willing to get some better stuff for you. Jimbo loves guns, and he’d sell those guns to anyone if it weren’t for the “stupid Democrats.”
Instead he’ll sell you a hunting guide and provide you with the bait you need to lure monsters like the Penis Mouse, the Canadian Barking Spider of the Queefing Caverns, and the Farm Cow. If you manage to slaughter all the critters in the hunting guide, Jimbo will give you the key to his treasure chest, which holds an axe and a grenade. Perfectly safe for responsible, weapon-wielding children. Who knows? Jimbo’s tactic of getting kids hooked on armaments when they’re young might make for repeat customers in the future.
Mike Clark is a Chicago-based writer and video game/comedy/dog enthusiast. He will defend to the death the idea that blowing in a Nintendo 64 cartridge will make it work better despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Tweet your best hate @MikeClarKent.