GameStop and other games retailers are right to be concerned about the growing popularity of downloadable games direct to a console’s hard drive. It cuts them out of the sale completely, and there’s no profit in that. The flip side of this being physical copies of games are extremely lucrative to retailers, not only because of the initial new copy sale, but the continued buying and reselling of games as used.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover GameStop has decided not to sell games consoles that bundle digital copies of games.
We’ve all witnessed this practice of bundling digital copies, and it’s especially prevalent on handheld devices such as the 3DS and PS Vita. You go to a retailer and purchase your hardware knowing there are 1-3 free games included in the box. However, rather than getting actual discs or carts you get a piece of paper with codes on. Entering the codes online unlocks the game downloads.
If you visit GameStop to purchase your console of choice, this won’t happen. As of last month GameStop switched to only offering bundled games packs if they contained physical discs. The first of these was Madden NFL 16, which was bundled as a digital copy at other retailers, but not at GameStop.
Apparently GameStop has included console manufacturers in the process of making this switch, and with GameStop being as big as it is they have listened, for now. GameStop has also said that if it can’t get physical copy bundles, it will look for an alternative. To me that means a return to the days of the PS2 and PSOne where games were bundled at a discount, but you got a full retail copy off the shelf.
As someone who still prefers physical copies of games, I see this as a positive. If I knew a retailer was guaranteed to provide me with physical copies of games on a hardware purchase I’d visit that store first. Even if the price was slightly higher, I’d probably still choose to buy from them.
If thousands of gamers feel the same way, then other retailers won’t fail to take notice and start offering the same physical copy promise. However, it could also backfire for GameStop and stop them from offering some key bundles, or at least not at the same price point as the competition.
Interestingly, GameStop made no mention of Nintendo during the conference call confirming this switch to physical only, only Sony and Microsoft. But surely they must be thinking the same for the Wii U and 3DS. No physical means no bundles, or no official ones anyway.