It’s not been a good year for GameStop, and that’s putting it mildly. After reporting a drop in fiscal year sales, management reshuffling, and it’s biggest drop in stock price ever, you’d be forgiven for counting the gaming retailer down and out. But even as analysts predict imminent doom for the company, GameStop seems to believe that it can still save itself by becoming a community hub for gamers.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, GameStop’s VP of Merchandising Eric Bright seemed optimistic about the company’s ability to leverage its brick-and-mortar stores as a place for gamers to gather IRL, saying,
But part of the future for us overall is the value in GameStop being the only gaming specialist store in the world in which it’s really a community hub for gamers. We see that, our partners see that and our consumers see that. We know through our PowerUp Rewards membership that we have, GameStop’s role in the future is how do we expand to become that center point for the community where gamers can come and congregate and learn and be educated about all of the items that are out there, and how does GameStop turn that into a revenue stream for us. I think you’ll see some big changes in the upcoming future for GameStop that will double down on that very thought.
It’s a curious strategy in an age where gaming communities have no shortage of online places to gather. Amidst places like Reddit, Tumblr, 4chan, and ResetEra—not to mention game developer and news sites’ forums and the plethora of Youtube communities—the idea of going to a physical store to learn about the latest games and products from sales staff seems more than a little antiquated. But it’s an idea that GameStop appears willing to run with. In June, GameStop axed the website for gaming merchandise store ThinkGeek, opting to basically absorb the online store’s product lineup into GameStop’s more physical-oriented stores. Earlier this year, the company also opened up its first GameStop Performance Center in Frisco, Texas, a physical esports venue where players can go to receive coaching on games like Overwatch, Fortnite, and Call of Duty from professional players.
Bright talked about the Performance Center as if it were the first step in making GameStop the place for gamers to go to watch gameplay streams and learn how to improve their play.
The Performance Center is a hub for esports players to come in, talk about all of the games and gameplay and we can take that content and then stream it into any store. Now instead of just going in and purchasing Overwatch, gamers can come on a given day and be taught how to play Overwatch by some of the top people in the world.
Catering towards competitive players and trying to push itself as a physical community hub is a bold strategy, and one that will need to pay off quickly if GameStop is to survive in an increasingly digital industry. With game publishers pushing subscription-based models like Xbox Game Pass, Uplay+, and EA Access, as well as streaming services like Google Stadia and Project XCloud just over the horizon, one can’t help but wonder how much time the gaming retailer has left to carve itself a new place in this industry.