Retailer-specific exclusives are nothing new to the world of gaming, but these are usually trifling bonuses like an extra costume, weapon, or DLC that can be purchased elsewhere. But according to investment company R.W. Baird's analyst Colin Sebastian, who recently met with GameStop, the popular retailer is looking to work with publishers to partially fund titles in exchange for entirely exclusive chunks of gameplay.
"[GamesStop] indicated that software publishers are more enthusiastic about partnering with it," Sebastian wrote in a note to investors acquired by VentureBeat. "For example, by offering exclusive content on each major game release, and longer term, future models may include GameStop offering exclusive gameplay."
When VentureBeat requested clarification on the matter, Sebastion said GameStop is looking into "getting involved at the time of game development where there could be some content exclusive to [the retailer] included in the game."
Naturally, this caused a lot of concerns. But before getting ahead of ourselves on what this might mean, we decided to confirm with the retailer that this report is accurate.
When asked if GameStop is really pushing for developers to create gameplay content exclusive to the retailer - and whether some of that content will be pre-order exclusive - a spokesperson for the retailer told Eurogamer, "Yes! We've been in the exclusive content business for a while. We're always seeking exclusive gameplay items, levels, weapons and so forth - exclusivity is attractive to us and also to publishers."
Okay then. But one chief worry is that retailer-exclusive sections of gameplay would harm a game's artistic integrity as there would be different versions of it around. It would be like releasing two cuts of a movie in theaters at once. People would wonder "Which one is the 'Director's Cut?' Does the extra content add anything, or does it just bloat an otherwise lean piece of art?"
"We will not be involved in the creative process - the artistic design and development - that's not our domain!" the retailer stated.
While money would exchange hands, GameStop would sit out on exactly how a publisher and developer would choose to offer bonuses. "We think there's an opportunity to offer capital and our distribution skill-set to publishers and developers in exchange for exclusive content that would be distributed through our online platforms, in stores, our download business, and so on," the GameStop spokesperson explained.
It sounds like it will be up to developers and publishers to decide what kinds of retailer-exclusive goodies to bake into their projects. While a dev team could offer a vital piece of narrative content, that seems pretty unlikely. Chances are we'll get more trinkets such as costumes, guns and maybe insubstantial pieces of gameplay like extra challenge maps or mini-games. But who knows?
What do you make of this partially retailer-funded potential future?