GameStop Faces Its Future, and It Looks a Lot Like ... Mom

Grapevine-based GameStop, branded damned near recession-proof only last month, gets a lengthy looking-over from Fortune this week in a piece not online. And while the joint's making money thumb over fist -- it's expected to move one out of every five copies of Grand Theft Auto IV sold in the U.S. and A. -- there's still a future to consider. And it's one in which games are distributed via download, not disc.

That's a touchy subject for GameStop: You can't sell used downloads. GameStop says the disc era is far from over. Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, there's a more pressing challenge for GameStop. Remember those new customers brought in by the Wii? This summer Nintendo unveils Wii Fit, an aerobics and yoga game. It'll probably be a hit, but it's targeted at moms and you don't see many of those in a GameStop unless their kids drag them in. So this is a chance for Wal-Mart and Target to erode GameStop's market share.

Or is it? [GameStop's CEO Dan] DeMatteo says his company is trying to change its image from the "village pool hall" to the "Starbucks of videogame stores." Now GameStop people will just have learn to talk about yoga positions on Wii Fit with the same passion they display discussing Uzi tactics on GTA4. Hey, it could happen. Ken Pescatore, manager of a GameStop in Springfield, N.J., says he's already made some adjustments to his pitch. He doesn't use the term "controller" when he's talking to moms about the Wii; he uses the more familiar-sounding "remote." He talks about health and hobbies a lot. "With the release of Wii Fit, you can do your exercises in the living room," Pescatore says, lighting up. "If horseback riding is your hobby, there's even a game that will simulate that!"

Which is much better than this. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky