GameStop tries to calm internal fears about shift to NFTs

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GameStop is embracing NFTs, and many of its employees worry this will lead to anger among customers. But now the company is attempting to dismiss those concerns with some internal messaging.

Following the February 3 announcement that GameStop is building an NFT marketplace on the Immutable X platform, GameStop acknowledged that could anger some of its customers. As part of a question-and-answer session with store associates, GameStop store experience boss Christopher Harkness compared the early days of digital ownership tokens to previous tech shifts like free-to-play and microtransactions.

Here’s a transcript of the question and Harkness’s answer:

Q: Why are we getting into NFTs? We have struggled with GameStop’s public image in the past, and NFTs are widely seen as a scam and dangerous to the environment due to the amount of energy necessary for the blockchain. Aren’t we worried that this will just put another round of articles about us on Kotaku and Polygon?

A [from Chris Harkness]: The gaming marketplace is rapidly changing. If we look back at some of the biggest shifts in gaming culture, there were several innovations that really changed the way we consume content: shifting from physical to digital, story-drive DLC add-ons and microtransactions, streaming services, the free-to-play phenomenon, and mobile gaming are a few that come to mind. NFT and blockchain are new technologies to many gamers but show that they may be the next big evolution in gaming. Regarding scams and energy concerns, there’s an opportunity for a company to overcome these challenges to make the next step in the evolution of gaming.

Harkness is repeating a common defense among NFT’s true believers. The idea is that while the technology has not proven useful yet, it may one day have similar success to free-to-play gaming. In other words, GameStop is hoping to make money by pretending the emperor’s new clothes exist and are very handsome.

But the question that Harkness answered rightfully points out that this is a risky strategy. Many gaming fans — especially the kinds that regularly shop at GameStop — have had a loud, negative reaction to NFTs. Many people do not believe the promise that they will really get value out of owning a digital good, but many more can easily imagine a nightmare scenario where speculators control a game’s economy.

Harkness notes that while GameStop might try to turn NFTs into a way for the company to generate revenue, it is not a focus for the rest of this year.

“While everyone may feel differently about NFTs, our top priority for 2022 is to win in stores by providing our customers an outstanding shopping experience,” said Harkness.

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