GameStop has been cagey about its plans to deal with the impending digital age, but the new CEO Paul Raines spoke frankly about it in a recent interview with The Street. He says he wants the GameStop Website to be a “destination for gamers, whether they are getting content via online, mobile, console or any other platform. We are also migrating our website from a purely e-commerce site to a gaming platform that users can visit to play, learn and purchase games.”
He says the company is taking a look at other online companies that have successfully started their transition to digital formats. “We have studied Netflix a lot, and most of their users still absorb physical content rather than streaming,” Raines said. “Now we are looking to see how gaming compares. We are focusing on consumer acceptance. The world won’t be all digital tomorrow, even though that’s what people are claiming. In this business, users still want physical content.”
He also remarked on the difficulty of sustaining a used game sales model, echoing recent comments made at the Develop conference. “In tough economic times the consumer doesn’t want to spend $59 for a new game,” he said. “They may not have $59, but they may have $40 and an old game under their bed that they can trade in for a new title.” He also shrugged off competition in the used games space. “Pricing buybacks and sales is complex. We have a refurbishment facility and last year recycled 100 million units. This system is difficult to replicate.”
GameStop has always seemed unconcerned about the advent of digital content, even dismissing EA’s Online Pass as an opportunity to sell downloadable content. Plans to turn the site into a gaming portal might explain their confidence, but raises new questions about online competition with existing services.