GameStop, both a brick-and-mortar game-seller as well as a company with digital ambitions, is adding one more goal to its near-future plate: its very own game-focused tablet. With the 3DS flagging and your average tablet already plenty capable of running games, one has to wonder: why?
To hear GameStop president Tony Bartel tell it, the GameStop-branded offering — which was teased months ago — will be a "GameStop-certified gaming platform" with "benefits that you're not going to get elsewhere." What could that mean? Well, on the least appealing end, GameStop will simply come out with what's basically an app store of its own to push titles to its tablet, maybe offering Amazon-like deals to sweet the pot. At the most radical? The company is taking its first step toward a console-agnostic platform that would be able to stream games from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and so on. Yeah, it sounds a little conspiracy theory and all, but let's break this down.
Right now, it's a pretty complex time to be a company looking to sell video games. Digital distribution services such as Valve's Steam platform cuts out stores such as GameStop, letting publishers sell directly to the player. It's something that spurred game publishers themselves to offer direct digital sale options, in turn cutting out Steam: EA and Capcom both of their own digital portals, for instance. The next step after that? Trying to find a way to cut out the dependence on hardware.
One company is already fighting that fight — OnLive. OnLive allows you to buy games and then stream them as you play, no download necessary, and the catalogue includes titles from across the spectrum of consoles. OnLive's ultimate goal is to allow you to stream to your phone, tablet and PC, meaning it won't really matter which console the game was made for.
OnLive and GameStop recently got into a tizzy. The one sentence version: OnLive included free digital copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution in every box, and, with a digital store of its own in Impulse, GameStop removed those codes as they were conflicting business (GameStop gave the folks impacted by this decisions some free GameStop credit).
So, it's possible that with this "GameStop-certified gaming platform," the company is looking to do what OnLive does, essentially, and get in the console-free, streaming game business early. Is that the actual plan? Only time will tell. GameStop doesn't make its own games, so it relies on other companies for its content. With large publishers such as, say, Sony, looking to enter the same field, GameStop may find what it can offer limited indeed.