GameStop Will Sell Digital Downloads. Writing on Wall Spotted?

By  |  Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm

gamestopsignGameStop’s tentacles are wrapped pretty tightly around most of the games industry, the exception being downloadable content that’s sold after a game is released.

That’ll change early next year, when the retailer will begin selling digital game downloads through its stores. A report from Reuters doesn’t explain in detail how this will work, but my understanding is that you pay at the store and supply GameStop with your Xbox Live Gamertag or your Playstation Network user name, and the content will be ready for download when you get home.

Boxed retail games aren’t dead yet, so you’ll still have reason to visit GameStop in the first place. The retailer hopes that by visiting the store, you’ll learn about new content that might’ve flown under your radar — say, additional multiplayer maps for Modern Warfare 2 — and instead of reminding yourself to buy it once you’re home, you can just make the transaction right there.

The problem is that GameStop’s plan doesn’t add value for the buyer. It’s nice to be reminded that map packs are available, but that doesn’t make the store any less of a middleman. This is an issue the retailer will increasingly have to deal with as more people get their gaming content online instead of at the store.

For now, I’d suggest that GameStop get creative with how it sells downloadable content. Maybe it can work with publishers¬†on selling all-you-can-eat passes, entitling you to all a game’s extra content in exchange for one up-front payment. Everyone wins: GameStop gets the extra revenue, the publishers feel safe knowing you won’t immediately trade the game back, and you get a discount. Or maybe the retailer can simply lure people into the store by with launch parties for the new content. That’s at least a service that isn’t being duplicated at home, and avoiding redundancy is GameStop’s best bet, now and in the long haul.

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