Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Video game retailer and memestock darling GameStop is making a big bet on NFTs and cryptocurrency technology. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the company has built up an over 20-person strong team working on an online marketplace for the virtual items, which could include cosmetic skins and in-game items.
The company is said to be courting game developers and publishers to list NFTs on its marketplace, and hopes to ink deals with crypto companies to develop the underlying technology and help invest in games featuring NFT and blockchain tech. In total, the WSJ reports that GameStop’s investments in crypto could stretch into the tens of millions, and involve agreements made with over a dozen other companies.
A spokesperson for GameStop did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
The plans are thought to be part of GameStop’s attempt to turnaround its business, which has been rocked in recent years as consumers turn away from physical releases in favor of buying games digitally online. In December the company’s chief executive Matt Furlong (who joined the company from Amazon last year) said the company was exploring the emerging technologies, and job listings relating to Web3 and NFTs previously emerged in October.
The WSJ notes that gamers are seen as potential early adopters for NFTs in particular, because they’re already comfortable with spending money on virtual goods like cosmetic outfits and weapon skins. Square Enix and EA have publicly expressed interest in exploring the technology, and Ubisoft launched an NFT platform late last year.
But so far much of the response from gamers to in-game NFTs has been downright hostile, with many seeing them as being of little value to the overall gameplay experience, and representing a marketing exercise by companies that have for years been happy to sell virtual items without the need for blockchain technology. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl developer GSC Game World quickly walked back its NFT plans after they were widely criticised, while Valve has said it won’t allow games using the technology on its game store Steam.
The WSJ’s report comes roughly a year after GameStop found itself at the center of a trading frenzy, as some day traders attempted to boost its share price and punish short sellers. But despite the investment and attempts at a turnaround, the company continues to be in poor financial shape. Last month it reported that its losses were widening, despite some revenue growth. The company’s share price has been falling throughout the past month and a half, although CNBC reports that its share price rose by over 22 percent following the WSJ’s report on its NFT plans.