For many years now, the writing has been on the wall for GameStop. Year after year there are ever dwindling profits, an industry shifting further into digital, and the inaction—or perhaps, inability—of GameStop to adjust to the times. This has left GameStop in a particularly poor position that seems almost inescapable for the company. How does a company who after inaction and poor decisions work its way out of the grave it has (at least partially) dug for itself?
Well, I believe there are a few avenues that GameStop could take to survive, should it wish to go down any of these routes that would keep the company afloat. Now whether these ideas are truly possible, I personally cannot say as I don’t have GameStop’s financials in front of me. However, all of my ideas below will be kept within reason and are certainly possible from the company’s current position in the market.
Here are three realistic options GameStop could take to survive:
3Limited or Exclusive Physical Games
One immediate step I could foresee GameStop diving into is the physical publishing business. At the moment, GameStop already has physical exclusive titles at their store; such games as Tales of Heart R, Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, and Xenoblade Chronicles are and were, only available at GameStop when new. Expanding this business to be more than simply exclusive rights to physical titles, but also getting out there and procuring and creating physical versions of digitally only titles seems like a simple vertical integration of an already existing business line.
Companies like Limited Run Games and Special Reserve Games (both of which I highly recommend buying from) have already found great success in publishing physical versions of titles, albeit in a much more controlled and smaller scale. But GameStop has more sway that both of those companies combined, even with its lacking performance as of late. This could potentially enable GameStop to have more influence when it comes to creating these physical versions of games and could give the company the ability to produces titles that these smaller companies couldn’t. Take for example some of EA’s recent digital-only initiatives through their smaller studios like Unraveled or Fe; both are smaller games produced by smaller studios, but because they are published by EA, the likelihood of companies like Limited Run Games to get a crack at developing a physical edition is extremely unlikely. GameStop, on the other hand, is a much more well-known brand and a larger company that may be able to take on such a task to not only turn a profit for the company but to meet the needs or demands of EA in this case.
Of course, even GameStop might not be able to sway some of these larger companies that produce digital-only releases, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t just approach other indie titles and create their own limited runs. In this case, they would be finding a way to appeal to collectors, the ones who are looking and wanting physical titles for their collections, GameStop’s bread and butter.
GameStop has already dipped its toes into this arena already, now carrying games from past consoles as a new line of products to sell—unfortunately, it seems like the concept stopped there when there is so much opportunity to be had here. Building off the last idea of trying to appeal to collectors, GameStop should go a step further and try to complete the route they have already begun heading down by expanding their retro selection through parts and pieces. GameStop sells refurbished consoles, so why not offer to sell parts for collectors of past consoles? It’s not the biggest business out there, but if the pieces are there, it’s leaving easy money on the table. The same could be same for the games themselves, selling complete cases and manuals, another item collectors have a hard time finding (as they are mostly only available via eBay online), can make for some quick cash for someone who is looking to complete a somewhat rare game. Even just selling their used retro games based on quality and guarantees of certain things like cases and manuals would go a long way in attempting to better serve the retro gaming market.
In this same vein, GameStop could also offer a repair service. As mentioned before, GameStop does refurbish items, so why not extend that to repairing older consoles? There are tons of old consoles out there looking for a new home that many smaller businesses have begun offering as a service; GameStop should do the same. Again this all comes back to building off of what GameStop already does well, sell physical games in a retail setting. So by building the services offered that do well in a physical setting but not offered by other chains, it sets GameStop up to be in a much better position as they are not competing with everything those chains offer. It also attempts to bring collectors into the GameStop ecosystem which is important for physical game copy sales as digital becomes a larger and larger market share as collectors will likely stick with physical copies as long as they can.
Which brings one other possible aspect when it comes to physical retro games that could be pursued, reproduction. Perhaps this might be a bit of a pipe dream, but if GameStop was able to gain reproduction rights to some of the more popular games of yesteryear, there would be a strong demand for rare or popular titles if they were packaged in an interesting way or at a price point that many would be interesting in purchasing it. Xenoblade Chronicles, a long sought after Wii game that was originally a GameStop exclusive, has maintained high prices for several years now due to its rarity and quality. If a second production run was created at a lower price point, GameStop could expect an influx of sales even if it wasn’t the original, just to have a physical copy of the game. Getting the rights to do this may prove challenging, but being able to reproduce some of the most expensive games in history legally as essentially second runs would be an easy sale on GameStop’s part if it could pull it off.
1Building an Online Market Place
Out of all the ideas, this is the furthest out from reality. Both due to the situation GameStop is currently in and what GameStop is fundamentally, and that’s not even including the amount of work it would take to formalize such an idea—but—it is a necessity. As much as I personally hate to admit it, we are moving towards a digital future, and accepting that is going to be key for GameStop success. However, how GameStop would opt to go that route is truly up for debate.
On one hand, you have the expected route, one that involves building an online digital store in hopes of competing with Steam, Greenman Gaming, Humble Bundle, and all the other stores that exist across consoles. As one might imagine (like myself) this is actually a far more complicated task than it appears, corralling all these digital storefronts together in some fashion that allows GameStop to sell directly to them, it’s just not going to happen easily. Even online storefronts that have begun to go this route such as Greenman Gaming have certain restrictions in where and what they can sell for various console storefronts. That makes this option difficult, and perhaps, a little too far out of reach in the near future, but, there is another option: a digital storefront for trading physical games.
There are places like eBay that deal with buying and selling of used products, but that doesn’t exactly help GameStop, and trying to create something that competes with eBay is a non-starter at this point. However, there is a potential need for creating a place to trade games that has the backing of a company that will protect potential participants should an issue arrive. At the moment, there are places like LeapTrade that exist (and forums) that focus on trading, but they are much lesser known entities when compared to GameStop. This is where GameStop has an opportunity to both create a trading market place that users could feel safe enjoying and extend their current focus on procuring and selling used games. It would both push GameStop partially into the digital sphere but also keep what Gamestop knows best: physical titles.
In the end, GameStop has multiple different avenues—and even more outside of this article—to pursue that still keeps the spirit of the companies original goal of selling games. However, whether that should or will happen is another discussion entirely. What is true though, is that GameStop continues to do what it is doing without changing in some meaningful way, it most likely will go the same route as stores such as Blockbuster; relics of the past that couldn’t adapt fast enough.