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GameStop CEO details progress of vintage game sale initiative


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GameStop CEO J. Paul Raines provided more detail on the company's new vintage games initiative in an interview with Joystiq, speaking to us about why the company wants to pursue this avenue at all, and how existing GameStop property and sites can be appropriated for this purpose.

The plan to sell classic games online remains tentative, but is in progress with GameStop's "dotcom team" – a team that Raines suggested would "kill me if I start giving you an ETA, because they won't be able to surprise the world with their announcement."

"We've thought about this vintage thing as an online initiative, and that's where we're doing most of our work," Raines said. "Part of what we have to do is we have to go source a lot of this product, get customers to trade some of their old product with us, and go find some old consoles, but we also own a lot of old product."

One of the questions we had after seeing Raines reveal this initiative in a Polygon interview is where the material comes from initially. It turns out that despite clearing older games out of stores by dropping the prices, GameStop still has a lot of them kicking around. "Well, we don't have a lot of NESes or Dreamcasts," he said, referring to two hypothetical systems I brought up. "That's some pretty old stuff. But we just took Game Boy Advance out of stores recently, about a year and a half ago. Original Xbox, I think we took out of stores in 2009, as I recall. We're reducing the footprint of PlayStation 2."

GameStop also owns a site called Raines called the site "an online marketplace for electronics, that gets a massive amount of old electronics sent to them. Buymytronics is an interesting destination for these products as well," he noted, and agreed when I asked if it could also act as a source.

GameStop hasn't nailed down the exact scope or age range of the retro games it's targeting yet. "We're thinking about everything. Nothing we'd really want to call out yet. Our dotcom team is right now grinding through a lot of opportunities to see what's out there and see what we can get our hands on and what we can merchandise."

Specifics – like pricing – have yet to be determined. GameStop will be looking to the various online exchanges, like eBay, and talking to PowerUp Rewards members – a group the company intends to lean on throughout this process. "A lot of what we do today is we let the PowerUp community tell us what they want to see, so we'll be doing some contests around that and you can tell your readers to look for that upcoming pretty soon through PowerUp Rewards," he teased.

GameStop CEO on the company's vintage game store plans

In fact, one unusual idea has already bubbled up through the community as a possibility. "When I talk to PowerUp members," Raines said, "they tell me, boy, it would be cool if you could have someone make new versions of old gear and old consoles, kind of a retro version of stuff. That's an interesting one too." Consoles like the Retro Duo or even the Neo Geo X, then, could end up part of the deal, though of course Raines did not name specific products. Raines obliquely hinted at more potential for new stock as well. Responding to my question about determining prices, he noted that "We also have relationships with every major publisher in the world and console maker in the world, that we can talk to about what they have and what they can make."

Why get into the old games business at all, when GameStop stores seem to want nothing to do with them? "If you go to eBay and some of the online marketplaces, some of these vintage gaming titles are very valuable," Raines said. "We've got a lot of gamers here, and a lot of people who have a lot of older, vintage stuff in their collections, so we just thought it's an interesting time to start thinking about bringing this to our best PowerUp members and giving them a chance."

Centralizing retro material on a specialized web store will also make it easy for GameStop customers to find, and then buy, things that GameStop has around but does not currently give marquee space to in stores. "Sometimes what's funny is if you put a pre-owned title in the store, a lot of customers may not really want it in a store," Raines said. "But if you're a collector of Call of Duty, and there's an old Call of Duty original, Call of Duty 2, floating around, it has a lot of value for you. Right now, you don't have an easy way to find it, because it might not be available on our website, but it might be in 300 stores out of our 4,600 in the US and you don't have a way of finding it. So if we can put that collector's type product on a really cool site that allows you to see what we have available and so forth, then we think it's interesting."

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