Sony’s Cheaper Digital PS5 Is Bad News for GameStop

Sony’s Cheaper Digital PS5 Is Bad News for GameStop

The video gaming big takes a daring step in the direction of an all-digital future.

Sony (NYSE:SNE) not too long ago revealed its next-gen gaming console, the PS5, throughout a livestream occasion. It did not announce the worth or precise launch date, however revealed its design and a few particulars relating to over two dozen video games designed to be performed on the console.

The largest shock was the reveal of two PS5 consoles — a typical model with an optical drive for bodily video games and 4K Blu-ray discs, and a digital version that lacks an optical drive.

The digital model may very well be $50 to $100 cheaper and would possibly enchantment to avid gamers who do not buy bodily video games and media. However it may spell bother for GameStop (NYSE:GME), the struggling retailer that was relying on disc-based PS5 consoles to spice up its vacation gross sales this 12 months.

The PS5 and its accessories.

Picture supply: Sony.

Why is Sony launching a digital-only PS5?

Gross sales of bodily video games have declined over the previous decade as digital distribution platforms expanded and obtain speeds improved. Online game publishers inspired that shift since these publishers bought digital video games — which did not require bodily discs and packaging — at a lot larger margins. Publishers additionally typically oppose gross sales of used video games at retailers like GameStop, since they do not generate any recent revenues. Digital video games cannot be resold or shared.

As one of many world’s largest sport publishers, Sony would profit from steadily phasing out its bodily video games. That transition would additionally complement the expansion of Sony’s PlayStation Community (PSN), which delivers digital video games on to its PlayStation consoles, and its PS Now cloud gaming service.

Sony additionally prefers avid gamers to purchase video games straight on PSN as an alternative of shopping for digital codes from third-party retailers because it cuts out the intermediary and strengthens its ecosystem.

That is why it barred GameStop and different retailers from promoting digital obtain codes on PSN final 12 months.

On the finish of 2019, Sony had bought over 106 million PS4s and hosted 103 million month-to-month lively customers (MAUs) on PSN. That sticky ecosystem can get rid of Sony’s dependence on retailers, and merge its software program and {hardware} right into a “walled backyard” akin to Apple‘s App Retailer.

A digital-only PS5 may additionally compete extra successfully with Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox Collection X in pricing. Neither Sony nor Microsoft have revealed the launch costs of their next-gen consoles but, however Sony gained a head begin at first of the present console cycle by pricing the PS4 at a lower cost than the Xbox One.

Microsoft hasn’t introduced a digital-only Xbox Collection X but, but it surely notably launched a digital-only Xbox One S final 12 months — and up to date leaks counsel a less expensive disc-free “Xbox Collection S” is within the pipeline. The digital version of the PS5 may pre-emptively counter that lower-end Xbox.

Two people shopping for games at a video game retailer.

Picture supply: Getty Photographs.

Why is that this dangerous information for GameStop?

GameStop’s inventory has crashed practically 90% over the previous 5 years as a consequence of sluggish mall site visitors, declining gross sales of latest and used bodily video games, fixed CEO adjustments, a failed bid to promote itself, and the suspension of its dividend. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated that decline.

GameStop’s world comparable retailer gross sales declined by 19% in 2019, then tumbled one other 17% within the first quarter as a consequence of COVID-19 shutdowns. Wall Avenue expects its income to sink 12% for the 12 months because it posts a web loss.

GameStop attracted some bullish curiosity final 12 months after Scion Asset Administration’s Michael Burry, portrayed by Christian Bale within the movie model of Michael Lewis’ The Large Brief, took an activist stake in GameStop. Burry dismissed the notion that digital distribution platforms would kill GameStop, and declared the arrival of latest disc-based consoles just like the Xbox Collection X and PS5 in late 2020 would lengthen its life.

Sadly, the introduction of the all-digital PS5 — and the attainable arrival of an all-digital Xbox Collection S — could torpedo that bullish thesis.

May there nonetheless be hope for disc-based consoles?

Bodily media is steadily fading away, however there’ll all the time be avid gamers — particularly older ones who personal giant collections of discs — preferring having optical drives.

Bodily variations of video games are sometimes bundled with collector’s gadgets, and optical drives can be utilized to play backwards-compatible video games, Blu-ray discs, and DVDs. That is why the usual variations of the PS5 and Xbox Collection X will nonetheless include optical drives.

Subsequently, the digital version of the PS5 is not sounding the loss of life knell for GameStop but, but it surely generates one other long-term headwind for the struggling retailer.


Leo Solar owns shares of Apple. The Motley Idiot owns shares of and recommends Apple and Microsoft and recommends the next choices: lengthy January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft and brief January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft. The Motley Idiot has a disclosure policy.”>

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