GameStop's 'game slinging' service ramps up
Streaming console games to connected devices - anywhere in the world - will be additional service sold at point of sale
GameStop's ambitious plans to offer console games on other connected devices via its new streaming service - which will operate in much the same way as TV service Slingbox - are on track for a 2012 launch.
Customers that own an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console and buy a new game from the retailer will be offered an additional service, allowing them to play their game anywhere in the world on devices such as tablets, internet enabled TVs and mobile devices.
"In terms of a service, the consumer has to have bought the game," explained Mike Mauler, senior vice president of GameStop, to GamesIndustry.biz.
"So we're not looking at a service where you can just play games in the cloud, you would buy the game through our loyalty programme and through a partnership with the publishers we would give them an opportunity to possibly - this is still something we're working out - to be able to play their game when they're not at home with their Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3."
The technology behind the service comes from Spawn Labs, which the retailer bought earlier this year. A closed beta is already up and running, with an open beta expected before the end of the year.
GameStop describes the services as "pro console" as it gives the user the opportunity to play high-end games when away from home - and the publishing community an extra opportunity to sell on top of the initial game purchase.
The retailer has proven it has good form on pre-selling additional DLC for games before release, with 600,000 Call of Duty Elite subscriptions sold within a week of launch. It plans to offer the slinging service to its PowerUp rewards programme, which currently stands at over 12 million customers.
"You would have to actually own a console and buy the game," detailed Mauler. "And in this case we're making very closely with the console manufacturers. It would be an additional service that you would be able to purchase as you buy a copy of the game to play on your Xbox. So it's a win-win for everybody."
The company revealed early plans for the game slinging service in August, and it forms part of a renewed push in digital and hardware. While digital sales of the company have grown almost 60 per cent in the last quarter, it is also increasing trade of second hand smartphone and tablet devices, as a way for consumers to unlock "tremendous value" in unused hardware.
As well as the ambitious slinging plans, GameStop also hopes to offer demos for console games via a cloud service and an almost instant download service for PC titles which would allow users to play a game as soon as it begins to download.
"The biggest opportunity is that it doesn't require any work on the developer part to do something to the game like they do for OnLive or some of the other services," claimed Mauler. "We're working very closely with the publishers on figuring out the best way for this to add value to our business model.
"Clearly try-before-you-buy adds value for everybody - the consumer, the publishers, the retailer. Click a button and not have to download a demo but just begin playing the game. Then there's opportunities such as digitally downloading and not having to wait eight hours but play within 30 seconds."
But Mauler also admitted that the company is taking a flexible approach to technology and services in such a fast-developing and changing environment.
"Every time we think of something new at five other things pop up," he added. "I don't think anyone at this point knows what the next 3-5 years are going to throw up. It's exciting."