GameStop To Test Digital Distribution Game Strategy

Some may say that the physical disc still has a place in this world for years to come, and they're probably right. But to say that digital downloads aren't taking out a serious chunk of sales would be denying reality. iTunes alone has proven that digital downloads are capable of catching on, as Apple has already taken over Walmart as the world's largest seller of music. That said, music has been tied to downloading for a long, long time. Napster was booming years and years ago, but people haven't had the same kind of opportunity to grow used to downloading games. Of course, Steam has provided avid PC gamers with the ability to download titles to their hard drive, but console gamers haven't enjoyed that same luxury.

All that could be changing. If you'll recall, GameStop hired an executive to handle digital media back in August, and it seems as if the new hire has yet to take a day off. Just a few months after getting his new label from his new company, the famed game seller has now confirmed that customers who visit retail locations will "soon be able to purchase digital upgrades to their favorite video games." The shift towards digital distribution will begin in full early next year, with a test in conjunction with Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network expected to give GameStop shoppers a new opportunity to enjoy more of their purchases (and spend more via a digital route).

This is also a move that makes a lot of sense for a company that has been built around a physical disc/B&M store model. Blockbuster failed to innovate while Netflix was gaining ground, and now Blockbuster is being forced to shut down stores as the competition from by-mail services eats up its market share. This is probably just the beginning for GameStop; we're guessing that it will attempt to get in even deeper with console makers in order to slowly see more profits come in through digital. Here's a glimpse at what exactly shoppers can expect starting in early 2010:

Under the program, a GameStop shopper who learns about a new level available for, say, a war or sports game could immediately purchase that upgrade. When the shopper arrives home, the add-on will be available to download and play.

"A large market for full game downloads is not imminent, (but) the add-on downloadable market will grow," GameStop Chief Operating Officer Paul Raines said at the BMO Capital Management Digital Entertainment conference.