Die-hard gamers chuckling at the mainstream masses playing Angry Birds on their smartphones and iPads may soon have a device of their own.
GameStop (NYSE: GME ) is eyeing the booming tablet space as a market ripe for gamers.
If last week's move to acquire streaming technology specialist Spawn Labs and the company behind the Impulse digital delivery service didn't signal a shift away from physical retail for the leading video game store chain, how does a GameStop tablet grab you?
It doesn't necessarily have to happen.
In an interview with gaming news site Gamasutra this week, GameStop President Tony Bartel is hoping to work with the retailer's partners and original equipment manufacturers to see if they can crank out a Bluetooth-friendly device that hard-core gamers can rally behind.
"If we can't find one that's great for gaming, then we will create our own," he says.
It's easy to see why GameStop is thinking outside of its small box. Comps may have been positive during its most recent holiday shopping season, but they weren't strong enough to offset the 8.6% dive during the 2009 holiday season.
Retail isn't dead. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) has sold millions of its Kinect motion-based sensors at $150 a pop. Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) Call of Duty: Black Ops set a new initial sales record in November. However, the digital migration is inevitable, and GameStop wants to make sure that it has some skin in this game even as it continues to cash in on the still-attractive retail model economics.
A gaming tablet may not be the answer, though. When folks are buzzing about brisk tablet sales, they're really only talking about Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad. Name another hot tablet? Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI ) Xoom hit the market with plenty of buzz, but reality has been a chilly place. Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) PlayBook has a good chance to shake up the market when it arrives in two weeks, but it's not going to be a winner with gamers despite the moniker. RIM's target audience is far more corporate.
GameStop has ambitious digital dreams. It expects the company's digital revenue to grow from $290 million this year to $1.5 billion by 2014. It's made a few digital acquisitions along the way.
However, Bartel is dismayed by the proliferation of $0.99 games that occupy the best-seller lists on Android and Apple iOS tablets. If GameStop follows through with its goal of tablet gaming, it also hopes to arm software developers with beefier prices for digital diversions.
We'll see how well that flies. An unproven tablet with costly apps doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
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