GameStop president Tony Bartel was interviewed by Gamasutra this week, and unveiled plans to enter the digital distribution market, as well as creating a tablet specifically for gaming. His remarks came after the surprise purchase of two companies, Stardock’s Impulse digital distribution service, and Spawn Labs streaming technology.
GameStop hopes to offer digital downloads of games, in a similar fashion to Valve’s Steam service, but also plans to offer streaming console games to other screens. On that front, Bartel says the company is also considering making its own tablet for gaming. “If we can work with our partners and the OEMs and they come up with a great tablet that is enabled with a great gaming experience and coupled with a bluetooth controller, then there’s no need to go out and develop our own,” he says. ”But if we can’t find one that’s great for gaming, then we will create our own.”
GameStop’s move into digital distribution is a natural progression for the company, which was built around the brick and mortar retail experience. Offering physical media and a healthy trade in program, Bartel doesn’t see that side of the business going away any time soon. ”Our customers are beginning to consume games in a hybrid manner, both physical and digital, so we are becoming a hybrid company to meet their needs,” he told Gamasutra. “Both of these programs are designed to sell more of the games we sell today.”
Bartel also made some remarks about the pricing of games, hoping to aim for something in between $0.99 and the $60 you commonly pay for console games. “Our whole premise is there are a lot of people caught up in the 99 cent fray and a lot of people are frustrated by that,” he says. “Just like people create [lower-priced, immersive] games for the PC, we think people will begin to create immersive games for a higher price for the tablets. Someone needs to offer those games, and that’s something GameStop will be the leader in doing.”
The “99 cent fray” is a clear shot at Apple’s App Store, where a multitude of games are offered $0.99. There’s a fault in his argument, though. There’s nothing preventing developers from charging more than $0.99 for their games on iOS if they want to. In fact, recent games for the iPad have shown a rise in prices. Capcom just released Final Fantasy III for $15.99, and the Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP indie hit is $4.99. Real Racing 2 HD is selling for $9.99. All of these games are highly polished, creative, immersive games. None of them are $0.99, so if GameStop wants to be the leader, they had better hurry up.