If we’re already talking about a future of streaming video games over the internet to play them, then the idea of simply buying and downloading video games over the internet has finally become the norm. Every game system now lets you purchase every game available on them without setting foot in a real store. As long as you have the hard drive space for it, it’s just more convenient than handling all sorts of physical media. It’s true this shift does introduce drawbacks like increased publisher DRM and even fewer archiving options, but it’s telling these days it’s a novelty when an indie game gets a physical release.
And naturally a retail store whose primary business is selling video games (particularly marked-up used games) is being hit hard by this ongoing shift to digital distribution. So while we can’t say we’re surprised, it is alarming to see just how much money GameStop is losing.
While reporting its 2018 fiscal year results, GameStop revealed that it lost $673 million last year, the biggest loss in the company’s history and it’s not even close. To put that number in perspective, previous “bad years” for GameStop only saw them losing $269.7 million in 2012 or just $7 million in 2000.
It’s not that the video game industry itself is shrinking. The PlayStation 4 is crushing it when it comes to sales as is the Nintendo Switch. But people aren’t just buying physical games like they used to. Also the selection of physical games isn’t as varied as it used to be. It’s pretty much just AAA with everything more interesting and mid-tier being download-only. GameStop’s own specific choices haven’t helped either. Stock took a hit after board members flip-flopped on whether to sell the company or not.
Despite its many issues, we shouldn’t want GameStop to go away if only because it’s nice for video games to have some presence in the real world. Also lots of cool folks write for Game Informer. For more on game stores read more about the new partnership between Humble and the Epic Games Store.