It might be time to consider a name change for this iconic staple of the gaming industry…very soon.
There’s no denying what’s blowing in the wind. We’ve seen the snowball effect of the digital age gain momentum more and more over the last several years. Now, we may have hit critical mass. Many have speculated that the day would come when your cluttered entertainment shelves would no longer be filled with plastic game cases. The expansion of the digital revolution has since seeped into virtually every aspect of our lives. The CD aisle of your local department store is practically a joke at this point, while more and more people are opting to purchase their movies from either iTunes or stream them via Netflix. It may have taken a bit longer to catch up, but the games industry is, slowly but surely, following suit.
So what does that trend mean for a brick and mortar store like GameStop?
Now, if you’ve followed my writing for this site in the past, you know there is no love lost here when it comes to a corporate conglomerate like GameStop. Frankly, I’m not all that worried about the company’s bottom line, as they have been stealing revenue from the video game industry for years. Their used-game practices (which resulted in the hard earned dollars belonging to the developers being intercepted) have been well documented, by CheatCC as well as others across the board.
However, I am sympathetic to the needs of my fellow gamers and I’ll admit that having a retail outlet that supports our hobby is an essential corner stone that many are not so eager to give up. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how a store like GameStop survives the digital age of the next five to ten years. We’re already seeing more and more games offered digitally at the same time their physical counterparts are available on store shelves. Almost 100% of DLC is obtained via Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network or Steam (gone are the days of buying the Halo Mythic Pack right off the shelf for $25 bucks).
This is not just a hypothetical conversation we’re having anymore either. If there are ANY of you out there who still cling to the idea that this isn’t going to happen, allow me to clear their air: games WILL be 100% digitally distributed at some point in the future. Period. This is NOT up for debate.
But…back to GameStop…
Once you cut out the middle-man and start bringing your product directly to the people online, obviously a retailer such as GameStop has to look ahead to its evolution. If they are not able to come up with some kind of alternative to just pushing physical media out the door, they will no doubt be run over by the wheels of progress. This week, we learned that the higher-ups at the company are at least smart enough to read the writing currently on the walls. Many may not realize this, but GameStop already has other irons in the fire. They own a sales and support service called Simply Mac (which is sanctioned by Apple). This is a venture CEO Paul Raines looks to ramp up at some point in the future, in what he calls part of the new “GameStop 3.0.” They also operate several cell-kiosks (under the Spring Mobile banner) that gives them a toe-hold into the ever exploding mobile market. Comments recently made by Raines also suggest this is a new frontier that interests them, stating that the “…wireless growth opportunity for GameStop is only beginning.”
But there is one truth that you simply can’t avoid in this equation: stores like GameStop are a dying breed. It would appear their hope is to somehow morph into a combination Apple Store and media hub. They realize that focusing on non-gaming tech devices is their only way of staying relevant, as we move further away from the need to physically ring-up a game disc at the register. I wouldn’t be surprised if gamers start seeing their local GameStop’s undergoing major facelifts as soon as the end of 2014 in preparation. With used games sales possibly being jerked out from under them, pushing their own brand of service and support for mobile may be their only ace in the hole.
GameStop (as it exists today) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The trend towards digital distribution needs a bit more time to reach its zenith. But mark my words, it's coming…and GameStop already knows it.