eStarland.com: Another Alternative For Gamers
Oct 23, 2005
I ran into an interesting dilemma this week. How do I find certain rare Dreamcast games for a reasonable price? Half.com and even Ebay were selling some of these games for far more than a reasonable price. Gamestop and EB Games either had a very poor selection of preowned Dreamcast games or had them priced ridiculously high. Besides, the online portion of these stores tends to ship the games without cases or manuals. Chips and Bits was worthless as was Amazon Marketplace. Oh well, I thought as I began to accept my fate. However, to my luck and joy, I stumbled upon eStarland.com.
eStarland.com is the online site for the Starland video game and anime resaler chain. Starland currently has 3 physical stores located in the DC Metro area, although the last time I checked the site, two of those location are marked "moved". I haven't ever been to a Starland game store, but I can only guess that it resembles an EB Games or Gamestop.
Inventory and Services
eStarland.com sells new and used video games and systems ranging from the current and next generations of PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and Xbox360 to older classic games and consoles going way back to the Atari 2600. Game selection isn't as large as EB Games or Gamestop, but they tend to have rarer titles that definitely wouldn't be in stock at the other larger chain stores. eStarland also includes a modest array of imported games, though other sites like play-asia.com and lik-sang.com have much more comprehensive lists of imported games. Purchasing preowned games from non-Ebay or Half.com shops is usually pretty sketchy in that you don't know what you're getting with your order. Frequently, I've bought Xbox games from EB or Gamestop where they didn't include a case or manual, just the game in a paper sleeve. eStarland is much better in that it sorts the new, preowned complete with everything, and preowned with only certain parts into their separate items. So if the manual is missing but you don't mind or can find it online elsewhere, you can order it that way. They do price these games differently depending on what's included, but the prices are very reasonable and can be much less than the going rate on other sites including Ebay or Half.com.
You also have the option to trade in your games for instant credit. What's good about this method is that you can get a price quote in seconds directly from the site for your trade in. So if you don't think you can get that much money for the game on Ebay or Half.com, you can just trade it in for credit. The way the trade in works is you sign up to trade in a game and receive credit towards your next purchase on the site. You purchase another game and a return mailer is sent with your order. You put your old game in the mailer and send it off to complete the transaction. I'm guessing that you have to put up a credit card or extra money up front to prevent people from not going through with the trade in, but it's a pretty nice system, which offers marginal credit for used games.
Also listed in eStarland.com's inventory is Anime. What I mean by Anime is movies, comic books (or "graphic novels" as they are called now), books, and miscellaneous merchandise including stuff animals, calendars, shirts, and even snacks. I can't comment more about it because I am one of the only self-proclaimed hardcore gamers out there who havent quite caught onto the Japanese animation revolution. All I can say is that it's worth a look if you're an anime fan looking for good deals.
Shipping and Payment Methods
eStarland has 4 types of shipment options for domestic orders:
Express Delivery (1-2 day)
Priority Delivery (2-3 day)
Regular Delivery (2-7 day)
Economy Delivery (3-9 day)
The exact details of the shipping rates aren't readily available on the site, but the economic rate for me started out as a base $3.00 rate where 50 cents was added for each additional game. Regular delivery was a base $5.00 rate, and I didn't bother checking the rates for the priority or express. eStarland uses USPS for cheaper shipment options and UPS for the faster more expensive shipment options. A tracking number is supposedly provided for all orders other than the economy delivery method.
eStarland.com also claims to ship internationally. However, none of this is discussed in the order information page on the site. There's a section for it on the page for International orders, but it doesn't lead to any information currently.
Other things to pay attention to in the shipment options is that you cannot get your orders shipped to P.O. Boxes, they only process orders during the business week, and that if you have an issue with your order you should have all the information about your order handy when calling.
Paying for your orders can be done in many different ways. eStarland.com takes all major credit cards including Discover, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. eStarland also takes Paypal as well along with checks and money orders. Sales tax must be paid to the residents of Maryland and Virginia. You also have the option of using store credit (mostly for returns and trade-ins), as well as using coupons.
The return policy is pretty standard for video game retailers. They'll only accept returns of items that are incorrect, damaged, or new and still unopened games and DVDs. In most cases they'll replace the item with the same one. The return window is 90 days and for some items you'll be subjected to a 15% restocking fee.
The layout of eStarland.com looks a lot like the layout of EBgames.com and GoGamer.com. At first glance the site is populated with small frames of upcoming or newly released games. Many of the newer titles displayed on the homepage, especially sports games, are selling for a few dollars less than the suggested retail price. There are a few ways to locate the game or product you are looking for. The best way is to use the site's own internal search engine located in the upper left hand corner. You can either search throughout the entire inventory or categorize it by type (new, preowned, anime, etc.). These types are also displayed as tab across the top of the main page as well. On the main page on the leftmost pane, there's also a way to categorize your selection even further by specifying the platform you wish to browse in. These platforms are itemized specifically for newer generation consoles and systems, or categorized by company (Nintendo, Sega, Other) for older vintage platforms. The classic platforms selection do a mouse-on expansion to the different platforms offered and bring you directly to a product display page unlike when you click on the tabs. On the right side of the main page lists all the newly released, coming soon, and hot selling games and products. Along the top of the page you can log onto your account or look in your shopping cart. At the bottom of the page lists specific technical details about the site including order related information, product warranties, and site maps and info.
If you click on one of the tabs, whether it's new, preowned or anime, you're brought to another portal page similar to that of main welcome page for eStarland.com. For instance on the page that leads to all the new games, it displays as a large window with several small panes depicting deals. Clicking on the preowned games tab will present a page with fewer deals, but rather a larger portal to all the vintage gaming systems. To this end, it's easier to go to the main page and select these links from the mouse-on expansion menu.
Unfortunately, the deals offered on this site do not resemble those of EB, Gamestop, or even GoGamer.com. Most of the discounts are of the Walmart-style everyday low price variety. This isn't all that great for patient bargain hunters, but their preowned disclosure details makes up for that.
I was so impressed with the games and prices; I ordered 5 games to save on shipping:
E.G.G Elemental Gimmick Gear
Railroad Tycoon II
In all it came out to just under $50 before shipping costs. Fortunately, the shipping costs using the cheapest (3-9 day) shipping only added another $5 to the total. If I would have ordered these items separately from a combination of Ebay and Half.com, it would have come out to a little over $90.
I ordered the games late on a Friday night. In fact it probably was very early Saturday morning, so I didn't receive confirmation of the transaction until Monday evening. However, that notice was also a shipment notice as well, which also provided a tracking number which didn't work because it was USPS Priority Mail. I'm guessing that there's an automated mailer that kicks off late in the evening for all orders processed that day.
I received the package the following Friday. My wife picked it up off the front step while I was at work; promptly opened it and when she saw what I had ordered began preparing her dirty looks for me. The bad part was that I couldn't tell how the games were packaged as she rummaged through the box before I got a chance to. But from what I could piece together, there was enough bubble wrap and packing to ensure the integrity of the games. The invoice was folded up and printed on an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper. The games themselves were sealed in shrink wrap, but not the original shrink-wrap, which is obvious because I deliberately ordered 5 used games. The games worked just fine and were in the condition advertised.
Overall, my experience with eStarland.com was very positive. I would definitely order from them again, and the site had made it into my regular rotation of game sites I consult when looking for a particular game.