GameStop Has Failed to Modernize Before. This Is What Happened.

Many investors are excited about Chewy founder Ryan Cohen joining the GameStop Corp. board and helping the company transition to e-commerce. But what isn’t as widely known is that GameStop has tried this before, with abysmal results:

Wall Street and short sellers placed heavy bets against GameStop because of strategic missteps. The company, at one point, latched onto game downloads as well as another trend now gaining momentum known as cloud gaming, or the Netflix-like streaming of games. But products gained with two acquisitions made in 2011 of companies specializing in those areas were abandoned after about two years.

“A lot of the initiatives that we had brought to the table and invested in just died on the vine,” said Chris Petrovic, who joined GameStop in 2009 to spearhead the retailer’s digital ventures, in an interview this month.

The article is referring to the acquisitions of Impulse and Spawn Labs. GameStop bought them just one month a part in 2011. Impulse was a system to digitally download games, and Spawn Labs allowed people to stream games.

But rather than seize the future with these two acquisitions, GameStop wound up shuttering both within just 3 years. It replaced Impulse with its own download software and shut down Spawn Labs claiming that the customer wasn’t yet ready for cloud-based gaming.

How many millions of investor dollars did GameStop pay to buy these companies, only to shut them down shortly therafter? They also bought mobile phone retailer Spring Mobile to try to get into smartphones. That business drastically underperformed and GameStop sold it a few years later, having little but debt to show for it.

In all, each time GameStop has tried to reinvent itself, it has quickly failed and abandoned the program. Will this change under Mr. Cohen’s leadership? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t want to bet $195 a share on it.

For more on GameStop, check out these posts:

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Photo: “GameStop” by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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