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GameStop Pivots to Esports With Slate of New Partnerships

Company Wants to Be Pop Warner of video gaming

Fresh off the heels of announcing a new CEO, GameStop on Wednesday detailed its plans to expand into esports as it continues to refocus its business more on the culture of video games, rather than just their sales.

The company first step in this shift includes partnering esports group Complexity Gaming to open what it calls the most advanced esports facility in the country at The Star in Frisco, Texas. The company is also teaming up with a number of other esports brands and companies to host gaming clinics, “Overwatch” watch parties, and collegiate esports tournaments.

“We are aiming to become the official pop warner league of esports where GameStop provides fun and unique cultural experiences for player development while preparing the next generation of professional gamers – it doesn’t get any better for amateurs of all ages looking to learn and compete at the highest level,” said Frank Hamlin, Chief Marketing Officer for GameStop, in a prepared statement.

In May, GameStop and Complexity Gaming will open the new GameStop Performance Center which will serve as the new headquarters for Complexity Gaming. The 11,000 square foot center will house a public gaming area for fans and sponsors, as well as cutting-edge performance training via data analytics, enhanced gaming equipment, a video studio and a merchandise wall. The center will share a location with the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, making for seamless coordination and integration between the two organizations, according to the press release.

Popular on Variety

“The opening of the GameStop Performance Center represents Complexity’s vision to further professionalize the esports industry and leverage the learnings from the Dallas Cowboys who also call The Star home,” said Jason Lake, founder and CEO of Complexity Gaming. “We are creating a world-class facility that will engage fans both in person and online and positively impact the entire industry for decades to come.”

The GameStop Performance Center will not only serve as a training ground for gaming clinics but will also be one of the premiere public headquarters where gamers can unite and share their passions for esports while celebrating their love for video games, according to the press release. Through this partnership, Complexity Gaming and GameStop will work to engage fans both locally within the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex through onsite activations, and globally via online content.

GameStop also announced a number of other esports collaborations Wednesday with Infinite Esports and Envy Gaming as well as a slew of new esports efforts:

Gaming Clinics
GameStop will develop an educational esports series of gaming clinics and tournaments where amateur players can participate through a mix of live and virtual events, learning insights and strategy from some of the best professionals while honing their skills on some of the most popular video games such as “Fortnite,” “Overwatch,” “Call of Duty” and many more.

Matcherino
Players will have the opportunity to prove their new skills in competition through GameStop’s partnership with Matcherino. As a leading crowdfunding resource for esports organizers, prize tournaments and streamers, Matcherino is partnering with GameStop to engage and incentivize fans through targeted offers that will help fuel the passion of the esports community. GameStop will be participating in hundreds of amateur tournaments in 2019.

Collegiate Star League
To further amplify its audience reach with amateur players, GameStop is partnering with Collegiate Star League (CSL) to activate collegiate esports tournaments across online and on-campus platforms. As the official retail partner of CSL, GameStop will have a presence across all digital platforms, including social media channels – and will participate in key events, including the Summer School League, back to school campus tour in the fall of 2019 and 2020 CSL Grand Finals.

“Overwatch” Watch Parties
GameStop will provide unique fan experiences for Overwatch League aficionados in major markets across the country, giving gamers special access to exclusive events, merchandise and more.

Wednesday’s news comes less than a week after the retailer chain appointed George Sherman as its new chief executive officer, effective Apr. 15.

Sherman replaced Shane Kim, who’s served as interim CEO since May 2018. Shane, a former Xbox executive, took over the role after Michael Mauler resigned after just three months on the job. He reportedly left for “personal reasons.” He worked at GameStop for more than 16 years before taking on the role of CEO.

Previously, Sherman served as CEO of Victra, one of the largest authorized retailers for Verizon Wireless in the U.S. He also spent three years as president of Advance Auto Parts and had a short stint as its interim CEO. During his tenure there, he helped merge and integrate General Parts International following its acquisition in 2014. Sherman also had leadership roles at Best Buy and Home Depot.

Despite being the largest brick-and-mortar video game retailer in the U.S., GameStop has been struggling financially due, in part, to the growth of digital games distribution and online retailers like Amazon. It just saw a 5% drop in global holiday sales compared to the same nine-week holiday period in 2017. It also recently sold its Spring Mobile business for $700 million and will use the proceeds to reduce its outstanding debt, repurchase shares, and reinvest in its core gaming and collectibles business.GameStop sought a potential buyout with private firms last year, but ended its efforts in January after failing to secure a deal, sending its shares tumbling more than 27%. It blamed a “lack of available financing on terms that would be commercially acceptable to a prospective acquirer.

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