As more water continues to rush into the retailer’s boat, it might be a good idea to know exactly where the life jackets are.
Some people simply refuse to read the writing on the wall. In fact, even if I were to forgo all subtly and spray paint “GAMESTOP IS DOOMED” in big black letters, some will still turn a blind eye. I realize it’s human nature to stick our heads in the sand rather than face the harsh and painful truths this world heaps upon us, but sometimes we just have to face reality. The gaming world recently received news that further galvanizes a claim I’ve been making for the better part of a year now. While some may have found it slightly annoying at first, others may be realizing I was ahead of the curve in my predictions.
GameStop just took yet another step closer to occupying its inevitable place as an obsolete entity, all because of Electronic Arts.
We’ve seen a lot from the likes of both Sony and Microsoft on the digital download and content streaming side of things lately. During the weeks leading up to the next-gen console launches, Games with Gold showcased how smoothly non-physical media could work (and helped buy some good will at the holiday register in the process). Sony followed suit shortly thereafter with their own program. This would have seemed like a foreign concept just a few short years ago, digital distribution is gaining ground more and more these days. Proving that fact is EA, who is the latest heavy hitter in the industry to back such a play. Via their blog, the studio recently announced its partnership with Xbox on a very Netflix-esque service that will be coming to the console sometime soon. “We have partnered with Microsoft to deliver EA Access, an all-new monthly (or annual) membership for gamers exclusively on Xbox One that starts at just $4.99 a month. The service is being rolled out in beta to a limited number of players today, but it will launch for everyone on Xbox One soon. At EA, we are always looking for new ways to make it easier for gamers to play more EA games across all platforms, and we are excited about what EA Access will offer to players on Xbox One.” It reads.
And even though they may keep their poker faces on, now is not a happy time for GameStop execs.
Once the news of EA’s upcoming venture went live (a service that will only expand over time), you could almost hear the wheels of GameStop’s damage-control department beginning to turn. Simply click through the first few pages of any search engine on the subject and you’ll find one constant x-factor. It’s all “Too Early to Tell” this and “Retailer Not Worried” that. No one is willing to come right out and say what I’ve been preaching for months now; this is a sign of things to come.
We live in a world where every facet of our lives (including entertainment, literature and even work) has been shoved violently into the digital realm. Book shelves are replaced by Kindles, CD racks have been thrown out in favor of iPods, I could go on and on. For those who still cling to this idea that brick and mortar stores like GameStop have a future in the changing climate of our industry, you need a serious reality check. It was reported that their stock dipped by about 5% upon EA’s announcement. Of course, that means nothing in the short term (as it did the same with Sony’s PS Now reveal but later recovered). To me, the stock dip represents more of a blip on their fluttering heart monitor. Insignificant taken on its own yes, but eventually will add up to the death of 1,000 cuts.
Just to be clear, I have no intention of becoming the little boy who cried wolf. The comments section is likely to fill with people’s protests, stating how I’m jumping the gun and blowing this way out of proportion. So allow me to tamp that down right now. GameStop isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’re still making money and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I know that, as I’m sure most of you do as well. The point is, it’s little nudges like these that only allow the digital ball (which is already rolling down the hill pretty fast) to gain further momentum. EA’s move is just another brick along the path to compete digital distribution (and the redundancy that a place like GameStop will inevitably become). Don’t be surprised when other companies jump on a similar bandwagon with their own exclusive streaming deals (FYI: EA’s service is not streaming based).
It’s just this notion that we’re destined to forever keep one foot on either side of the fence which I find to be a bit naïve. Some might tout the symbiotic relationship between EA and GameStop as the subscription cards for the new service can be purchased within the retailer’s locations.
I say the Joker had it pegged pretty accurately in Dark Knight. When the digital vs. physical chips are down…these “partners” will eat each other.