The swift rise of mobile gaming, the growing popularity of digital distribution, and streaming services like OnLive will spell certain doom for many smaller game shops. GameStop, America's largest brick-and-mortar game retailer, on the other hand, is using its considerable resources to try to hop aboard these new ships.
Earlier this year GameStop purchased Impulse, a successful online game distribution platform developed by Stardock. The service was integrated with GameStop.com over the summer, allowing American gamers to download select PC titles straight from its site.
Then GameStop picked up Spawn Labs, a company specializing in video game streaming technology. The idea here, presumably, is that GameStop will eventually sell users games with the promise that they can stream them from one device to another – perhaps from a PC to a tablet.
Hence, the next piece of the puzzle: Becoming a vendor of Android-powered slates. Gamestop revealed in September that it would jump into the tablet sector by selling a GameStop-branded Android device with the capacity to receive streaming content from computers. It also mentioned it would begin selling a range of popular non-branded tablets.
The company made good on part of that announcement this week, launching Android tablets both online and in 200 of its American stores. The hardware hails from Acer, Asus, and Samsung, and ranges in price from $329.99 to $499.99. All models come with six pre-installed games, including Dead Space, Re-Load, Sonic CD, Monster Madness, RipTide GP, and Cordy. The tablets also come with a desktop launcher for GameStop's Kongregate app store (yet another digital acquisition, made in 2010). Buyers can bundle their tablets with GameStop's own wireless controller for an extra $39.99.
It doesn't look like any of these tablets have been modified beyond pre-loaded games, which means a GameStop-branded slate with Spawn Labs integration is likely still in the pipe.
Time will tell whether this new ecosystem will help GameStop weather the threats it's currently facing, but embracing emerging and disruptive technologies generally proves a better strategy than struggling against them.
A call to the company's Canadian division – which operates under both the GameStop and EB Games banners – requesting information on the availability of tablets in stores north of the border wasn't returned prior to post.