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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

GameStop, Gaming Cultural Hubs, and Love

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - That headline is strictly hypothetical. (For now.)

Physical gaming retailer GameStop has been in big trouble. Their stock price is a disaster—it's fallen over 70% in the past year. They've cancelled their famously-generous dividend. Sales are declining year-over-year, as the gaming industry is embracing trends like streaming and digital purchases, which leaves GameStop, which derives most of their profit from selling (used) physical games, out. (Their collectibles business is doing well and I'm helping to contribute, and more on the importance of that in a moment.)

GameStop, looking to reverse their downturn, is seeking alternatives. Their GameTrust publishing unit is obviously a disaster. They haven't published anything since 2017, and the one remaining game they have, Star Child, hasn't had an update from their developer, Playful Studios, since 2018 where they apologised for accidentally cancelling people's pre-orders but promised the game is still being worked on. Not a good sign.

GameStop has presented these strategic pillars in their recent investors call, and I'd like to focus on the second one for the rest of this article:
“Our strategic plan is anchored on 4 key tenets: one, optimize core business by improving efficiency and effectiveness in everything we do; two, create a social and cultural hub of gaming within each GameStop store and online; three, build compelling digital capability to reach our customers wherever they want to do business and give them the full spectrum of content and access to the products they're looking for; and four, transform our vendor and partner relationships, unlocking additional high-margin revenue streams and optimizing the lifetime value of every customer.” [Emphasis added]

What does a social and cultural hub look like? Their test case is in the Pryor Plaza of Oklahoma. They released a Facebook video hyping this up.

GameStop Pryor Plaza Oklahoma retro cultural hub GameCube Nintendo 64
Look! A Nintendo GameCube and Nintendo 64!
...Back in my day, these were cutting-edge consoles. Now they're retro.

Yes, GameStop probably should've never stopped promoting retro stuff. Oh well, they can't go back and undo that (bad) decision, so better late than never. Perhaps. Who knows if it'll work.

Quite frankly, I kind of hope it works. Digital distribution has killed the gaming social scene. Back in the day, when you had to go to GameStop to buy games, you'd see all kinds of people there. You could... talk to them, maybe. Other customers. Trying to talk to employees would just get them to sell you things you don't want.

(By the way, if you actually want to play the GameCube in the picture or anything else in the retro station or couch co-op, you need to buy a GameStop PowerUp Rewards Pro annual membership. Members only.)

I've received a suggestion from someone that book stores or libraries are a good place to find like-minded people of the opposite sex for them, and a game store might be a good place for someone like me. (I have a contradictory history with books.)

But obviously the trends are going way against people even shopping at game stores. The last time I was at Best Buy, obviously in the game section, it was just teenage dudes or moms shopping with their young boys. I can't do anything with that without getting banned like I'm Roy Moore. But if they make game stores a place where gamers want to hang out, combined with cute plushies that girls like being present, I may have a chance...

Here's hoping GameStop succeeds, actually. This industry can't just remove all physical locations... how will gamers find one another in a physical space?! Relying on often non-local conventions? I think not.


Ludwig wonders if it's a bad idea to actually root for GameStop. In all likelihood, he wouldn't go there anyway even if it was the ideal place to find fellow like-minded gamers, though he wonders if it'd be an excellent advertising opportunity for KoopaTV. What do you think, and do you have any tips? ...For GameStop or for Ludwig?

6 comments :

  1. The thing is that most of the places where social gaming happens(local competitive tourneys, LAN play, etc.) are at more generalized gaming stores that often focus more on TCGs/tabletop stuff as opposed to vidya/merch in terms of what they sell, which is a bit of an odd fit, especially when you consider how big the vidya market is. The main conflict between the needs of such events and a chain like Gamestop is store space, as you need space for consoles, PCs, etc. as well as enough room to accommodate the attendees. Unfortunately Gamestop went all-in on trying to cram a location into every single mall at the expense of store space at each location, but the concept of a store that primarily sells video games/merchandise to also serve as a venue for those kinds of events makes a lot of sense, and it would be pretty convenient to be able to pick up a physical copy of a wide selection of old and new games at the same place where your Smash locals are held. Most of the venues I've been to carry some gaming stuff, but don't always have a wide selection that a larger chain could provide more reliably. The question is if Gamestop could actually pull off this kind of shift in its business model.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GameStop won't be able to have a wide selection if they need to give up floor space for retro clubs and stuff.
      (They have a tabletop section in that newly-redesigned GameStop that IS free for the public and not just GameStop Pro people.)

      Perhaps as part of GameStop's new digital approach and them wanting to compete on the basis of an eCommerce experience, they'll just put their inventory in a warehouse and not in the retail location, unless brought there by in-store pick-up activated online. That'll leave space for the gamer meet-ups.

      Delete
  2. The new layout sort of reminded me of my old Hasting's store shortly before it closed down. Hasting's was not just a bookstore, but it was really the only place where gaming enthusiasts could gather and even participate in competitions. I even remember seeing a flyer once promoting Super Smash Bros. 4 and Splatoon events during the summer. I only wish that I was able to participate in them but sadly I was not able to attend. If the two GameStops in my area could somehow replicate the same atmosphere, I could see myself visiting them more often than I do now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Something I didn't mention in this article, but as part of key tenet #1 of GameStop's plans, they're closing down stores that are too close to one another (something about having less density of GameStops in given areas since it's redundant). So you may have... one GameStop in your area soon.

      Delete
    2. I wouldn't mind that tbh. Right now my area has two of them less than 5 miles from each other. It...doesn't strike me as necessary.

      Delete
    3. Well, RIP additional GameStop.

      Maybe they can pool resources and lease more store space.

      Delete

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