I want GameStop to exist. I want GameStop to matter. My go-to place for the not-the-hottest titles and sports games, I have many fond memories of Saturday afternoons there. But disruption of the horse-buggy console oligopoly is here, and GameStop is holding a hammer with a crap load of soon-to-be useless horseshoes. Unlike Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble, they’ve started the transition when they still can. They are closing 120-130 stores. They’ll still have 6000+ but it’s a slow death, and as long as Microsoft and Sony are still cranking out plastic discs, there will still be stores. But the entire system has been zombie-bit, and soon it will die, and then wake-up, walk around a bit, eat some people, but the ultimate end is a bullet in the noggin.
GameStop’s game plan seems to be to move away from games and into wireless and tech. They’ve got Spring Mobile and Simply Mac, and sells a lot of things not games. CEO Paul Raines cited VF Corporation as a model to study. I’ve never heard of VF Corporation before but apparently they started out as an underwear company, acquired brands like Lee and Timberland before moving out of underwear altogether. So is he indicating that GameStop will stop its games? Will they cease to be relevant in the gaming industry? I don’t think they have to be.
Raines should not be looking at underwear companies. He should be looking at companies like Oracle. Oracle’s product was their service. They made money from the installation and consultation of the database you “bought”. So how does this translate to a company that sells used games? Well, GameStop also sell digital content, and most of those sales happen inside their stores. According to a recent article, the reason people go to the stores is because they need consultation on the digital content. They don’t know what to buy or where to find it online, and so they take a trip to the mall to ask the game guru. Develop this service and call it a product, and they’ll refill a few hearts of their gaming life.
In a few years, their display of console games will be relegated to the back corner of their store, similar to the VHS corner at the local video store in the 90s. No matter how many cell phones they sell, no matter how many other brands they acquire, GameStop can still be a force in gaming. It can still be that go-to place for the teen without a lot of cash. It can still be the oasis for the shopping-hating husband who gets dragged to the mall. Disruption will happen, but my hope is that GameStop will still be called GameStop.