Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Gamestop buy impulse. what does it mean?

So the big news in online games selling circles is that US retail giant gamestop have bought out impulse, the online games portal owned by Stardock. What does this mean for gamers, game developers, and indie devs like me?

Disclaimer: I sell my games through Impulse right now.

There are some possible good points in this, and some possible bad ones. The good ones, as I see it, are these:

1) A sign that retail gets that PC games are big business. I don’t bother going into retail stores for a PC game, because they hardly bother stocking any. This could be a sign that they have finally worked out that PC gamers didn’t die out, they just spent their money online. Could this be a sign of a turnaround for stocking pc games?

2) This is a big investment in a competitor to steam. I love steam, and have to admit it’s probably the most user-friendly games portal, if buying from a third party is what you want :D. However, monopoly is never a good thing. Monopolies can be very dangerous, and anything that helps balance out the market has to be good in the long term

Possible bad news…?

1) Impulse used to be a nice developer-friendly portal owned and run by some guys who were basically indie devs themselves. I’ve always found the guys at stardock really great to work with, and easy to get hold of. Will that remain the case  when the company bloats out with gamestops money, staff and working practices? Hard to say.

2) This is another case of big money coming in and showing how you cannot really sell games online unless you have ten trillion dollars to spend on building up your site. It makes my feeble effort (, in it’s own way) look even more feeble.

3) This could spark a price war, meaning games prices will drop. I am not confident that this can happen without developers losing out. Games take time to play, and gamers time is finite. If all games get cheaper, there is a limit (maybe we are at it now) where no more games get bought, and total revenue could fall. Some indie devs won’t survive that.

On balance, I think it’s probably no real change, positive or negative. I can see the active competition could be great for the industry, maybe even for develoeprs (after all, we are the guys who theoretically control the supply of games. Developers can exist without publishers but not vice versa). The flipside is, I can see a short-run price war (bah) and possibly it getting harder to deal with one of the big portals. I’m happy to be proven wrong about that.
We live in interesting times

12 thoughts on Gamestop buy impulse. what does it mean?

  1. I think it’s time I download all the games I own from Impulse before Gamestop tries to sell me the right to download them as much as I want for a year.

  2. regarding point #3… if games get cheap enough, people will buy them and barely (or never) play them… im really bad about this… ive got 220 games on steam and i bet i havent even downloaded half of them. its stupid but… they were just so damn CHEAP when i bought them. and i might play them someday when im bored. maybe?

  3. I am in the same boat as radio_babylon: I have a huge collection of Steam Sale Priced Games and XBox Indie Games with absolutely no time to play. This has lead to me skipping quite a few games that I would otherwise acquired without a second though. Two random internet posters don’t make a trend, but I have heard the same from others.

  4. @john… my problem is i DONT pass up the games. its a sickness. i see a game for $5 and i like, instabuy before i even realize ive done it. id buy damn near ANY game for $5. i mean, my damn lunch every day at the deli costs that, and i dont bat an eye paying for that… so buying a game for a fiver causes me literally zero “pain of purchase”

  5. Gamestop also bought Kongregate, the huge Flash game portal, last year. It hasn’t seemed to change at all, so maybe Impulse will stay pretty much the same? Still some real danger there though.

  6. +1 on the point of impulse-buying cheap games and never playing them afterwards, so that definitely is a trend.

    Cliff, you really are out of touch with your audience.

    It’s not meant as an insult, it’s just… Paying attention is usually worth it.

  7. I’m well aware of the phenomena. I’m also aware of the fact that > 90% of people who buy games never comment online on anything.
    People never post on forums that they bought 8 games and played them all, because it’s not noteworthy.

  8. GameStop’s money alone is not going to be enough if the aim is to use Impulse as a true competitor to Steam. To achieve that, GameStop are going to have to throw out Impulse’s current stance of only selling AAA titles in North America. All the while they continue with their regional restrictions they’ll never get anywhere.

    It doesn’t matter if they do continue to be friendlier to indies compared to Steam, as many would-be international customers simply avoid Impulse now to the restrictions on the big name games.

    If anything, this move by GameStop presents a wonderful opportunity to the other already established players in the market to step up their activities in not only attracting indie devs, but in further promoting their games to their customers.

    Simply selling the games isn’t enough if customers don’t know they are being sold…

    Whatever happens, Impulse is not likely to become any more of a major player than it is currently struggling to be. The damage (in an international sense) has long since already been done and GameStop’s reputation isn’t going to help.

  9. What’s to be aware of is that about half of what Impulse sells isn’t available worldwide. For example, pver 60% of first-person shooters are not available in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia.

    There’s none of such problems with Steam.

  10. “There’s none of such problems with Steam”

    Well, that’s only true to an extent. While on the whole regional restrictions on Steam aren’t as bad as on D2D or Impulse, there are several regions which get treated just as badly on Steam as anywhere else.

    Most people are probably now thinking that the worst of these is Germany due to the countries laws pertaining to the selling of games. But that too is not correct.

    Looking at Steam’s catalog for the “game” category only yields the following information in regards to availability:

    North America: 1293
    United Kingdom: 1271
    Australia: 1252
    Germany: 1205
    Japan: 1177

    As you can see, Japan has the smallest number of games available. This is not due to any laws, but simply due to publishers not being convinced to sell in the region.

    Now *if* GameStop were to use Impulse and their clout to start convincing publishers to sell equally in all regions including Japan, then they might just have something going for them. But I really don’t see them having the foresight or interest in doing any such thing.

    And until a service does that to a great extent, Steam isn’t going to go anywhere.

  11. But you can’t even filter by region to buy games !

    I like Impulse, but I hate it for this alone

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