There is a crisis in the video game universe. At least for GameStop.
“The theory is that GameStop over time is going to struggle because games being sold through boxes are just not going to be as popular,” says Ian Sherr, executive editor at CNET News. “I mean, if you look at the industry, selling over the internet is clearly the future.”
“It’s just becoming a more and more popular way to do things, it makes a lot of sense. It’s easier for me to get my games, and it’s also easier for me to manage all my stuff – I don’t have spools of discs everywhere.”
But, he says, the transition is not as fast as a simple download. The video game industry has yet to go the way of the movie industry where consumers are happy to store their collections on their hard drives, or rent, via Netflix, Amazon Prime and Itunes. Notes Evan Narcisse, a reporter with the popular video game website Kotaku, “people are still buying games in boxes.“
And one way brick and mortar retailers are fighting back is by making sure what’s in the box is special. Getting game publishers to create “seriously outlandish collector’s editions,” Narcisse says. These can include collectible statues, fake foam ninja swords or even accessories for the digital characters themselves, like a skin for Batman to make him look like Adam West.
“These are the kinds of things that hardcore fans get all excited about,” Narcisse says.
“If you’re invested in a game series, where you know, you’re pre-ordering, you’re following every bit of news that comes down the pipe,” he says, “chances are that you will plunk down an extra $40 on top of the $60 kind of baseline asking price to get these things.”
Then there’s the customer. GameStop runs a thriving secondhand market for games bought and sold in boxes.
“The fact that that economy exists now is to enticing to resist,” says Narcisse. “People are like, all right, if I beat this game in a month — I can sell it back to GameStop.”
But brick-and-mortar retailers know that’s not enough, says Brian Blau, a research director of the personal technology group with Gartner. They’re expanding the merchandise on their shelves to include gaming accessories.
“Keyboards and mice. You have headphones, you have speakers,” he says.
The video game industry is worth $80 billion a year globally, Blau says, and if brick-and-mortar stores like GameStop are going to remain relevant, they’ll need to continue to find additional ways to play the retail game.