GameStop's Concept Stores Of The Future Are Very Sad

Photo: GI.biz

GameStop, once the centre of the video game retail universe, is in serious trouble. As physical game sales decline (and with them trade-ins, the company’s bread and butter), they’re desperate to find new ways to get people in the door and spend money.

A little too desperate, maybe. While the company’s efforts over the last few years have been centred on flooding stores with merch and Funko Pops, some concept stores GameStop are currently trying for the future move away from this into more social approaches.

As GI.biz detailed in their trip out to see some of them, there are three different store types all being trialled in Oklahoma (primarily Tulsa), all with one thing in common: they’ve drastically scaled back the amount of floor space devoted to selling stuff, and have instead turned them into social hubs, with spaces for tabletop gaming, long tables housing online gaming PCs and TV areas full of retro games.

The different types of stores all have variants on this theme—some are more focused on retro games, others on “pop culture”—but the overall design goal is the same. Turn GameStop into a place where people can hang out around video games, instead of a place you walk into and are subjected to preorder hell.

While using all this stuff would be free, customers would need a PowerUp Rewards membership to play, with staff trained to check IDs for age-rated games. Note that these are concept stores, where GameStop is just trying stuff out, and there’s no guarantee that anything like this will ever be rolled out worldwide. Which...might be for the best.

I get that the company needs to try new stuff, but this ain’t it, chief. You can install all the free gaming PCs and tabletop areas you want, but at the end of the day nobody is going to want to hang out in a GameStop.

In the interview explaining the design of these concept stores, chief customer officer Frank Hamlin says “I came back [from E3] in 2014 and went to the then-regime and I said, ‘We are missing out on an enormous opportunity...And I said, and I use this incredibly politically incorrectly, ‘If E3 is the Vatican, why is GameStop not the local church?’”

Sadly fitting that a retailer on its last legs would cite as its main inspiration a trade show that has also seen better days.


Comments

    This will never work in Australia, as most EBs are located in shopping centres as opposed to strip malls. The rent in shopping centres is absolutely ludicrous and retail stores need to maximize every m2 to generate income, free play areas will not do this

      Give it 10 years or so and Shopping Centres will all be dying and trying to do the same thing.

      People buy stuff online now, and it's getting harder to lure customers into brick and mortar retail outlets. Maybe it won't work, but I feel like the rent they have to pay is the least of their concerns, at least in my local shopping centre - the whole place is slowly dying and the stores that seemingly aren't affected are the grocers and supermarkets and the ones that offer some kind of experience or social element (cinemas etc. - though mind you cinemas are feeling the pinch from other angles).

        If my nearest large regional centre is anything to go by the future is nail salons, Thai massages, $10 hairdressers and 'pop-up' stores.

        A proposed $500 million expansion that went through planning in 2016 still hasn't resulted in a single turned sod.

        Australia hasn't yet seen the ghost mall phenomenon more familiar to Americans, but it's not far off.

    Are gaming internet cafes still a thing? That might be something they'd want to look into before copying them.

    After reading the title of the article I assumed this was written by Luke Plunkett. It's an informative read, sure, but golly you can tell the guy has it out for EB/Gamestop.

    As someone who enjoys collecting and having a library of physical media, the slow death march of retail is very worrisome.

    Movie distributors are already prioritising digital releases over Blu ray and DVD (and they're already abandoning 4K Blu ray), and its getting harder to find anything outside of the major releases on disc in Australia.

    I certainly don't look forward to the day you find out about some 20 year old game you'd never heard of (which I still do for PS1 and PS2) but you can no longer play it because it was only released digitally. The scant PS1 classics library was a cautionary tale.

      Surely that day is right now? Many physical boxes just ship a serial key, and those that do include a disc often omit chunks of code to be downloaded as a day one patch in order to deter piracy.

        Deter piracy, lol that's a good one.

        The day isn't right now, but it is approaching. Physical releases are still the norm, but the number of boxed serials and piecemeal games is growing.

    Just hurry up and die already, Gamestop. Your continued existence artificially inflates digital store game prices and makes everyone sad.

    So I'm the only one who thinks this would be great? I'd love to drop into a lan place without having to lug all my stuff in.

    2hrs to chill, then back to the real world. I would love this!

    This could work extremely well for something like sim racing where most don’t have the required peripheral. And given sim racing is on the up and up.....

    The author doesn't give you any reason why this would be a bad idea other than "eewww Gamestop". I think it's an innovative and customer-friendly approach that is worth to try and much better than most of the better-known ways these sorts of retail companies have of making an overhead.

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