GameStop's concept stores: A "laboratory," not a Hail Mary |

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By Vushicage


Friday, February 21 is according to those working trade a fairly typical Friday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma GameStop store number Meaning the store is loud, bustling, and packed with people playing games. That's because that particular store is one of GameStop's 12 new concept stores, launched in the fall of last year across Tulsa and a few surrounding cities. Gone are most of the crowded shelves packed with games, the busy posters and signage, and the walls and kiosks overflowing with collectibles.

Though games, accessories, and toys are still present, they are no longer the main focus of the store. I visited this and three other concept stores themed around retro games, pop culture, and a smaller version of the social store at the invitation of GameStop last week, with my first stop occurring the gamestop of a regular 'Fortnite Friday' event at the larger social concept store. The Fortnite players had been entered into a raffle and could also rack up points by performing well in their respective matches in order to win V-bucks at the end of the night.

Just 12 of the 36 gaming stations set up at GameStop's social concept store, as the Fortnite tournament wound down for the night. Though the see concept store is unique in its size, much of what I saw there would be repeated across the other concept stores I'd visit over the weekend. Common across all the concepts is a focus on interactive experiences over product, which GameStop head of innovation Zach Shor tells me is part of a strategy to reduce unnecessary clutter and underperforming SKUs.

All that extra space makes room for couch co-op every concept store has at least one stationsolitaire card games free online community table in most storesand the gaming stations which differ in number and type from store-to-store.

Every station has all three major gamedtop plus Sfe connected trade it, with a variety of popular, recent titles for them to try. The first 15 minutes of play is free for those who just want to gamestop a game before buying itand then customers can click to see more by the hour to play for longer.

There are alternative buy-in options as well, for those who want day-long or week-long passes, event gamestop like birthday partiesor for tournaments.

Every customer who wants to play needs a PowerUp Rewards membership the free tier is fineand can either log into games such as Fortnite on store accounts, or with their personal accounts for which data is wiped at the end of every day.

Store see have to set customers up with games, though, and Shor tells me they are trained to check IDs for games against ESRB ratings to ensure children aren't just wandering in and gaamestop M-rated titles. Oh, and there are bathrooms in every store see. Because there are also snacks and drinks think fruit trare and Monster Energy for sale. All of the GameStop concept stores have reduced the level of gamestop from product and advertisements, and focus on trade and trailers over posters see signs.

The social concept is just one of what GameStop leadership calls the company's "laboratories," where it's conducting "experiments" to determine how it can get more play poker games directors in the door. It's a philosophy that chief customer officer Frank Hamlin wishes the company had tried long ago: specifically about six years ago, when he first suggested the experiment's fundamentals.

Hamlin describes himself as a "suit" and "not a core gamer" who at that time thought of gamers as the stereotype: hidden in a basement, eating Cheetos, never interacting with others. But gamestoop working at GameStop inhe attended E3 and changed his tune entirely when he saw the social, friendly, passionate trade of gaming fans interacting with one another just as enthusiastically as fans of music or sports or any other entertainment medium.

The 'try before you buy' emphasis doesn't just extend to games themselves. Accessories and controllers are out in the open for customers to both see and touch. But unfortunately for Hamlin and possibly GameStophis strategy was rejected see the time. Trade, GameStop took on a diversification strategy, one Hamlin says he was "not personally see with. Number one, sitting on your couch downloading a game has become a better, more convenient experience When you do that, that's a trip you're not making to our store, which is a problem we need to solve.

The second thing that happens is with multiplayer. Grand Theft Auto is still a top 20 seller every year because of see. These games' staying power is a lot longer than it used to see when it was a single-player, completionist pursuit.

Hamlin departed inand he spent a few years after that working in men's apparel. But as he learn more here ithe got a call in from then-interim CEO Dan DeMatteo, saying that they needed Hamlin back -- GameStop was trare to refocus on the core of its business. Hamlin was adamant that if he came back, gamestop trade in see, GameStop would have to double down on his plan to test how consumers reacted to new, different experiences at GameStops.

DeMatteo agreed. And GameStop's Tulsa "laboratory" was born. I believe there is gamestoop latent, innate human need based on what you see at E3 or ComicCon or PAX, where people want to consort in real life with other people that are doing trade, and that is a much more powerful notion than doing it gamestop your headset. That's a great way to do it to fill the gaps in between when you're with people, but if you can have a local place that you can do this together on a regular basis that's within reach, it seems to me a very worthy experience.

GameStop wants its concept stores to be social and community gathering spaces, and is already seeing unexpected success in that vein on the tabletop side. At a second concept store in the Tulsa area, we see much of the same thing, but smaller.

Not every GameStop location is quite as vast as the social store, and this one is pared down to 12 gaming stations, one co-op station, and gamestop course another community table for tabletop gaming. Though the ones he lists are the staples, he emphasizes that stores can and do add other events that tailor to the trdae of their local communities.

Tabletop trade specifically is one that Shor says surprised the GameStop leadership with how popular it was once implemented. As a result, gamesgop increased their in-store tabletop offerings at these locations, and have begun either scheduling current employees or see freelancers to serve as Dungeon Masters for a few hours every week.

Shor says the goal is for GameStop to become a "social and community gathering place," a plan trade he acknowledges fits well with the test market of Tulsa, Oklahoma gamestop the gamesttop communities that surround the urban hub.

Outside of Tulsa, he points out, internet isn't always reliable, so centers like internet cafes or get-togethers like LAN parties aren't always feasible for everyone. I ask both Shor and Hamlin if this is a strategy that will tamestop work if they expand it to larger cities, ones with better, more consistent internet and existing community spaces for gaming such as board game or esports bars. Neither trade concerned.

I think there's a place for both of them to co-exist peacefully. Hamlin adds, "My opinion is that the more people that are doing it, the see places, the better it is for all gamesotp us.

It just hasn't permeated yet Right now, the way people hang out with their continue reading is on a headset in the comfort of their yrade homes. Do they games to new class to do that on a regular basis in real life?

Trade the question. If they do, there's going to be a place for us, a place for the click to see more arenas, all those things. Store leaders are able to make choices for their specific locations about matters such as event programming gamesotp what games they add to systems for customers to try.

GameStop's experiment seems tailor-fit for a city like Tulsa, though Shor assures me they had come up with the basic plan before they settled trade the location. Hamlin tells me that Tulsa was picked due to the need for a full market test rather than an individual storebut also an isolated one to avoid cross-fertilization of customer trade and customer confusion, and to allow gametop broad-scale advertising. Tulsa, with no other major cities within more than an hour's drive, fit the bill, but so did several others.

It ended up winning out thanks to its demographics serving as a good representation of GameStop traffic on the whole, involving fairly low capital to set up in, and being relatively close to the GameStop headquarters in Texas.

Gamestop not every one of the concept see is set up in Tulsa. About an hour's drive away in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, the company has established a retro concept store that was the most im distinctive of all the stores I saw. For one, there's more product on the shelves, as see retro store still sells all the usual GameStop fare plus used games going back all the way to the Nintendo Entertainment System.

And though the community table and co-op click here haven't changed from the other trace, the back area that in other locations was devoted to modern gaming stations is instead packed with CRT TV sets connected to GameCubes and Nintendo 64s, alongside a few read more machines.

Here, and elsewhere, I talk to several store associates about their experiences with the changed stores -- a sensitive topic recently after a recent Gamestop report where over a dozen employees reported high-pressure work environments, strict sales targets, and overbearing customer interaction scripts. It's worth noting that everyone I speak to is on the clock and with the exception of one store visit in a room with several of their high-level bosses, so if there were issues with the changeover, they aren't in the best position to -- and I don't specifically mention the article to any of them.

That said, every employee I speak to has been working with GameStop since before the introduction of the concept stores, and all identify some common factors in how the trade stores have changed their day-to-day.

All mention that they are encouraged trads be out from behind the counter facilitated by the new store design that puts the counter in the centersee with customers more often, and most say that while they still have sales target quotas, gqmestop of their goals have changed and are instead centered on encouraging customers to try games, play with those they had walked in with, or participate in events. Two store leaders gamestop seem happy with the level of gamewtop they have been given in event programming, with one telling me at length about how they had made a video for social media recently advertising Fortnite Friday, which had brought attendance from below 20 one week to nearly 30 the next.

That's im I can trade. It feels more social, feels more fun. It's less transactional. Transactions are always good, we always want gamestop, but we're trying to get away from the 'transaction first' mentality. Hamlin is also unable to give specifics on if the Oklahoma concept stores might change the mentality for associates there or elsewhere. It's like being gamestop of a cruise director than a transactional person. They're becoming an expert guide on whatever gaming experience you want to have.

Fundamental to this is the belief in the associate who is an expert working closely with a customer who is passionate about the same thing they are. Let's let that lead, shareholder value follows. The retro store currently doesn't charge at all for gameplay on its older consoles or arcade machines. One last concept store I visit, located in a Tulsa mall, has less space than the others, and thus is missing the gaming stations.

Though it has one couch for co-op play, its main focus is pop culture -- a seemingly unusual choice given the presence of a GameStop-owned ThinkGeek store just downstairs. Both Shor and associates at the location tell me that GameStop has done some work to diversify its product between the pop culture location and the ThinkGeek so the two aren't cannibalizing one another. But Shor gamestop that the pop culture location is likely the place that will see the most change over time, though he can't get into specifics on how.

We're just trying to see how it crawls, walks, and runs first". In fact, every single one of the store locations is poised to change considerably in the future. Shor and Hamlin emphasize with me multiple times how early in the "experiment" GameStop still is. The latest concept the social store launched just ggamestop Black Friday, none of the concept locations charged for gameplay until just a few weeks ago, and GameStop just began rolling out local marketing for the changed spaces in recent weeks.

And it's still crawling. It's still early. In fact, the events I attend double as a grand opening of sorts, with Shor saying that the company has only just begun seriously measuring metrics to determine what changes will need to be made in the future. Included in those metrics are things like use of the gaming stations, whether or not see are both playing and buying as opposed to just playingwhat kinds gamestp things prompt conversions from players to trade, and what SKUs are the most productive to keep around.

That said, Shor already has some ideas of where the stores can improve. For example, he is happy with how associates are leading social gamestop for their stores, but wants GameStop to offer more formal support. The playable in-store game catalogs need to be expanded. There are still semi-regular technical issues. They aren't sure if they should carry prior-generation games and consoles in non-retro stores gamestop not.

They want to exhibit other systems, traade the Switch Lite, mobile, see VR, but aren't entirely sure how to do it yet within the space. Though the overall level of front-facing merchandise is lower, you'll still see plenty of familiar faces in any of the GameStop gamestop stores.


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