updated 12:25 pm EDT, Sat April 2, 2011
GameStop to use Spawn for tablet gaming, own model
GameStop during its Investor's Day event on Friday outlined major plans to get into remote gaming and the tablet field. Its purchase of Spawn Labs, which provided remote console streaming for developers, will let it offer an OnLive-like streaming service to play many games, including console titles, on a tablet, a notebook, or other devices with large screens. The Dallas Morning News was told that GameStop would still try to protect its retail business by limiting the streaming to buyers who register their games with the Power Up Rewards program and may take on an additional subscription fee.
Free access, however, might come as a way of luring buyers. A demo showed the GameStop website having an option to trial a game through the browser before committing money.
To make tablets work, the game retailer is reportedly getting involved in tablet development. Desktop operating systems can use PS3 and Xbox 360 gamepads to play a title properly, GameStop has been talking to tablet designers about what hardware controls they include. It has also been looking into Bluetooth pairing to let a gamepad, keyboard or other controller steer a game when the touchscreen wasn't enough.
Company president Tony Bartel even suggested possible cooperation with a hardware builder to make a tablet that would be optimized for Spawn Labs' technology. "If we feel like we could do a better job of making a tablet, we'll do that," he said.
GameStop explained many of its moves as plans to its dependence on traditional retail game sales. Although not directly stated, it hopes to avoid the fate of companies like Blockbuster and Tower Records, whose inability to properly move away from retail software sales in the face of Internet competition led them to either go bankrupt or close their physical shops under less than controlled conditions. GameStop plans to sell a handful of tablets that work with its streaming service in its retail stores. It also this week bought out Stardock's Impulse, a direct-download gaming system roughly equivalent to Steam.
The moves may be welcome by Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, all of whom have felt increasingly chained to GameStop. All three have online game stores but have often had to deliberately limit the quality and size of games available to avoid angering GameStop and cutting off what remains an important source of income. Apple may have gained ground in mobile gaming since it didn't have this burden and could carry major titles as online-only titles.