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For fans of Iron Man, it is effectively games retail’s answer to Stark Industries: the R&D department of the world’s biggest games retailer. Christopher Dring speaks to its equivalent to Iron Man, Jeff Donaldson, to gain a sneak peek at the future of selling games


ou take one step through the door at GameStop and your phone goes off.

It’s a message that reads: “Hello, welcome back! I hope you’re enjoying your new Xbox One. Just to let you know, we have 50 per cent off pre-owned Xbox One games today.” Perfect. You stroll over to the

pre-owned section and instantly spot Dead Rising 3. You’ve heard it’s good, but you’re not entirely sure what the game is about. So you scan the box with your GameStop app and instantly a trailer appears. “Looks good doesn’t it?” asks the GameStop employee that has wandered over to you, tablet in hand. “Hello, my name is John. I’m your concierge for your visit today. How have you found Titanfall?” “Oh, I’ve only played it a bit, but

it’s okay so far.” “Great. Well we have a Titanfall

expert on staff, so if you need any advice, just give us a shout. Also, if you are interested in any of the games or hardware in store today, you have $7 in trade-in credit. Let me know if I can help at all.” This is the future of retail. Or

at least, one possible future. It’s part of a number of experiments being trialled in a few stores by the GameStop Technology Institute – a division of the retailer that’s trying to advance how games are sold. The way the above scenario works is that as a customer walks through the door at GameStop, they will automatically log in to the store’s WiFi (as long as they’ve signed up to the service). This

June 6th 2014

will trigger a specific marketing message sent to the phone, and will also alert store staff to his or her presence – complete with recent purchases, trade-in credit, Wish List information and so on. “You have to be careful, right, because you don’t want to seem creepy,” acknowledges Jeff Donaldson, senior vice president of GameStop’s new R&D division. “You have to do it in a way that is helpful to the customer. But we are working on a Concierge App so that our store associates will know who is in the store and be able to better help them.” He continues: “Another cool

idea we have is that you can be watching a trailer on your smartphone, and you can walk up to any display in the store and just flick the video onto that display and it just comes alive on this beautiful, crisp, colourful, huge 4K display. I actually saw this work just a couple of weeks ago.”

TESTING TIMES This may all sound like a vanity project from a retailer with a bit of money to spend. Yet this is a rapidly changing digital world, a world where gamers can access their content faster and easier from Xbox Live, Steam, PSN or whatever. It’s initiatives like the GameStop Technology Institute that will ensure shops are offering something that is worth going to the High Street for. “Our CEO talks to us a lot about

how the rate of internal change at GameStop – and in the industry – is very rapid,” says Donaldson.

42 “And we need to make sure we

are driving, pursuing and deploying a rate of change that is a faster than that in the market place. We created GTI to get ahead of the curve. “Our president also has a saying – ‘Stores must morph to the customer, not the other way around.’ His vision is when customers walk into our stores, they get a personalised experience. “The initial focus is what we

We need to make sure we are driving at a rate of change faster than the market place. We created GTI to get ahead of that curve. Jeff Donaldson. GameStop

call the digitalisation of physical space. Essentially you merge the online and physical world. Browse behavior on GameStop. com is merged with the in-store behavior.” GTI is made up of three parts.

The first is its research function. The retailer has teamed up with Texas A&M University to help the firm study retail, technology and consumer trends. The second function is the

Innovation Lab (its experimental area). The company will have 100 live stores to play with here. The first of these can be found in its own backyard in Austin Texas, but there will also be test stores across America. And Donaldson says there will be some international testing in Europe, too. “We can get some great consumer feedback there, and in certain ways expectations are higher in international markets than they are here in the US.” The final

function is a

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