The majority of the gaming community has its brains in knots trying to determine which company will emerge with the upper hand in the next generation of game consoles. The analysis isn’t set to get easier any time soon, because here comes a new challenger: The GameStop gaming tablet.
The tablet, according to GameStop president Tony Bartel, will be labeled a “GameStop certified gaming platform,” and starting next year, will sell alongside the next generation of hardware from Sony, Nintendo, Apple, and Microsoft.
The platform, which will run on Android technology, will come pre-loaded with games. GameStop also plans to stream console games to the device, and will ship a dedicated controller. ”[O]ur thought is that the tablet is a great immersive gaming device so it’s hard for us to envision how that tablet will really function as such without some sort of controller,” Bartel told GamesIndustry.biz. “So we’ve created a controller that we’re testing to really allow for immersive gameplay. It’s hard to imagine how to stream a game – let’ say Modern Warfare 3 – onto a tablet and then play it with your finger.”
A game-dedicated tablet from GameStop is a very interesting idea, especially since it’ll probably end up going head-to-head with the Wii U, which has a tablet-inspired controller of its own. It’s also nice to see that GameStop is addressing what’s arguably the biggest roadblock for seamless console game ports on touch screen-based devices: the lack of a tangible controller.
But it’s also worth wondering how Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Apple (whose iOS devices will soon appear at GameStop) will react to what is essentially direct competition to their consoles. Not that it’s anything new, as GameStop’s used games trade has been infuriating game developers for years. However, even being sold a used game in lieu of a new one isn’t as drastic as GameStop luring a potential Wii U or iPad buyer in favor of its possibly cheaper tablet. A knowledgeable gamer knows what he or she wants, but it might not be hard to woo an indecisive buyer–or, more importantly, a parent who’s looking to buy a new system for their kid, and is told, “You can spend several hundred on this brand new PlayStation…or you can spend a mere couple of hundred for our system!”
That might prove enough incentive for console engineers to scale back on the presence of their wares in GameStop stores–or it might even be what prompts a jump to an entirely digital market.
As for the consumer, it’s easy to say, “No one will be interested in a GameStop-branded tablet,” and there might be something to that. After all, the Android game market is already suffering from fragmentation problems, and a GameStop-exclusive tablet won’t cure that issue in a hurry. But once upon a time, people said, “Sony’s not a trusted name like Nintendo or Sega; the PlayStation won’t go anywhere.” A bit later, they said the same thing about Microsoft.
With its still-busy used games market, and with some decent, streamable third-party titles for its tablet, GameStop, the retailer that’s been a big ally of the game industry since nearly its conception, may wind up taking big bites out of its former friends. The next generation console race will be interesting–and more than a little fragmented.