GameStop CEO Paul Raines: let the console wars begin (video)

25 Sep 2013

GameStop CEO Paul Raines

GameStop CEO Paul Raines told that the impending arrival of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 in November will not only signify the biggest generational shift in console technology for several years, but will also transform the entertainment experience as we know it.

Raines was in Dublin this week to host a gathering of more than 500 senior managers from GameStop stores from across Europe in Dublin who were getting to grips with the new consoles for the first time.

Microsoft’s next-generation console the Xbox One will be released on 22 November next while the PlayStation 4 will arrive in Europe on 29 November.

“It’s massively exciting for us and we get new consoles every six to seven years, so this is an enormous move forward,” Raines said. “Think about it, the last time we got new consoles there was no iPad, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, so it’s been a long time. The innovation level on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One is a massive change and it’s bringing with it new intellectual property, new games and cool new products and services that we are excited about.

While Raines couldn’t disclose pre-purchase levels because manufacturers he said he was very pleased with the activity so far ahead of launch.

‘Our stores will be busy night and day’

“There’s been a lot of customers in-store, people are really ready to go. What’s it going to be like? It’s going to be chaos. Our stores will be busy night and day, our supply chain is moving products around the world right now with Sony, Microsoft and publishers and it’s really going to be we believe the event of the Fall season when we launch these consoles.”

With the launch of Grand Theft Auto V – netting close to US$1bn in sales in its first week – Raines said he believes that many owners of PS3 and Xbox 360 will continue to buy games for those platforms for some time yet.

“Historically we know that PS2 lasted a very long time for several years – we at GameStop are still selling PS2 games in stores. Still seeing some activity there. Certainly the fact that Grand Theft Auto V came out on the current generation says that there will be a lot of gamers holding on to those current gen cycles

“The other thing that is interesting is that we’ve never had this many people own a console before. The installed base of consoles is very, very large so it will be interesting. What we believe is this will ultimately bring more people into gaming – there will be people who may have been focused on other products like tablets and phones, this will bring a lot of people back in to explore the new innovative features. It remains to be seen but it is pretty exciting stuff.”

Raines agrees that the console has shifted from being a technology that used to be stowed away in bedrooms to now becoming a centerpiece of the livingroom, which he says points to the resilience of the console platform.

“Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One devices have significant media features, from watching sports, to catch-up TV content to online activities. Also both devices will have significant social features. You’ll be able to share game play and with the PS4 you’ll be able to ask someone to help you level up.

“These are features that are extraordinary.  What role will GameStop play? – we will be merchandising and selling those services and those consoles much as you see us do today with downloadable content. We sell physical and digital content in our stores, you’ll see us sell physical and digital as well as media content if and when it comes along. There are so many possibilities around sports events, around TV launches, movie launches. All of those activities are things that we can merchandise and sell in our stores through the physical and digital platforms.

“It remains to be seen how this will all unfold, but certainly those consoles will play a big role in people’s homes.”

Raines revealed that gearing up for the launch of the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony has involved years of planning and more recently a lot of sleepless nights for the global team.

“The supply chain delivering all of this product is an incredibly complex animal. You know, we will be renting warehouses, leasing trucks, chartering planes. There will be a variety of things going on because we are trying to match the demand and flow of product together and so we don’t want a single customer to be disappointed.

“The planning for this launch started a long time ago – so we’ve been at this for almost a couple of years getting ready for these consoles. So our supply chain, our distribution processes, in-store merchandising all of this stuff in the works for quite a while.

“Our managers are receiving very specific training in how to handle and sell these products to customers.

Raines said the games company is holding events all over the world for its staff to train them up in the unique features of the new consoles. The process started in early September in Las Vegas and will conclude in Australia in October.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years