Digital entertainment, like many forms of entertainment and retail, are undergoing a paradigm shift. When physical stores and rented media were once common place, the internet has replaced both with a myriad of options and freedoms to get what we want, when we want. Retail gaming stores are not immune to this, and most have simply gone under. A few however, have smelled the winds of change before they came and adapted to a future before it was here. They have survived for the time being. GameStop, though they are currently getting by, may need to keep evolving if they wish to endure.
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As the gaming industry gradually shifts towards digital content, you can see reason behind GameStop’s eagerness to expand their current business model. In recent years, they opened 70+ SimplyMac stores, where used phones are bought and resold. They acquired the Flash gaming portal, Kongregate as well (2010), and now they turn their focus towards building an even closer relationship with game developers.
From Retailer to Publisher
GameStop has signed a deal with Insomniac Games to publish their next project, Song of the Deep. It is a side-scrolling platform set in the depths below the sea, where you take control of a young girl – Merryn, who is in search of her father, a fisherman that’s been lost at sea. It is developed by a minor group of people within Insomniac games. The developers have not yet given an age rating on the game. However, there is a book to be released at the same time as the game. It is targeted towards an audience between the ages of 8-12.
In their announcement, GameStop states several factors worth mentioning. The agreement with Insomniac Games does not give them any creative control over the production of the game. Hence, the intellectual property is still completely owned by Insomniac Games. Also, Song of the Deep will have its digital release on all mentioned platforms (PS4, Xbox One, PC) in the second quarter of 2016. Subsequently, physical copies of Song of the Deep will be available exclusively in GameStop locations. Game-related merchandise will also be sold, such as toys, Pop-vinyl figures, and clothing.
With GameStop in control of the marketing and visibility of the game, it will be both fascinating, and unusual, to see how they manage their in-store space.
From the simple question of “shelf space” to the more complicated issues of marketing and whether or not the physical copy is simply a box with a digital code inside it. After all, this game is being developed by a small team of 15 people within Insomniac Games.
How dramatically, and efficiently, will GameStop push this smaller title?
Either way, it’s an intelligent decision on GameStop’s behalf. Dipping their toes into the publishing side of this industry, on a minor title (instead of spending a large sum on a bigger AAA game), will allow GS to broaden their company, if this deal ends up profitable. If not, they can shift their finances elsewhere. Time will tell if publishing games adds to the relevancy of the company in an ever-increasing digital world.