GameStop: Casual gamers spurring hardcore holiday sales

Executives say game megaretailer is targeting nontraditional game consumers with in-store initiatives this year.

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Between now and the end of the year, the gaming industry is poised to release a once-in-a-decade deluge of high-profile action adventures, shooters, and role-playing games that cater toward the enthusiast crowd. And while these titles will most certainly dent, if not bankrupt, the pocketbooks of many to the glee of publishers everywhere, they aren't what major retailers such as GameStop see as spurring growth for the estimated $13 billion industry.

Speaking to the New York Times, Daniel A. DeMatteo, vice chairman and chief operating officer of GameStop, and Bob McKenzie, GameStop's senior vice president for merchandising, indicated that the exponentially growing nontraditional gamer demographic is playing a far more significant role in the company's holiday strategy. Says DeMatteo, that's because "it is no longer only the hardcore gamer walking in who knows exactly what he wants."

Because of this, GameStop plans to devote several sections of its nearly 5,000 stores to the casual gamer crowd. The first of these sections will be devoted to rhythm games, anchored by Activision and RedOctane's Guitar Hero III and Electronic Arts and Harmonix's Rock Band. The other section foreign to frequenters of GameStop's retail outlets will be devoted to children's and family-friendly titles.

The GameStop execs also addressed how the individual consoles will fare during this holiday season. Unsurprisingly, the two expected Nintendo's Wii to quickly sell out due to the console's broad appeal. The two also projected strong sales of the Nintendo DS, which attracts a similarly wide range of audiences.

GameStop also expects the PlayStation 2 to continue to sell strongly through the holiday season. The reason for this, noted DeMatteo, is that the PS2 is the only "real value video game machine…especially since Microsoft gave up on the original Xbox and Nintendo gave up on the GameCube." Further, the exec predicted sales of the PS2 will remain robust, "if and when Sony lowers the price to $99."

McKenzie painted a rosy portrait of Microsoft's Xbox 360, as well. According to McKenzie the Xbox 360 has experienced anything but a backlash from the console's highly publicized hardware malfunctions. "We track our returns, and returns have actually gone down since they made that announcement," he noted. "We haven't seen any effect on enthusiasm for the 360."

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