Whenever any “chief” officer within a company speaks publicly, you can assume that they’re speaking in the best interests of the company. It’s no different with Ryan Cohen, the CEO of GameStop, who said that he thinks gaming console makers should be required to include optical disc drives on their systems in a tweet this weekend.
“Big win for consumers,” Cohen said, replying to a news story about Apple’s move toward USB-C charging and away from its proprietary lightning port. “Consumers have also invested their hard earned money into physical video games. Disk drives should be required on consoles.”
Big win for consumers.
Consumers have also invested their hard earned money in to physical video games. Disk drives should be required on consoles.
— Ryan Cohen (@ryancohen) September 3, 2023
Cohen, as the CEO of GameStop, has a vested interest in people buying physical game media alongside accessories. While PC games began to shift toward digital in the early 2000s with the opening of Valve’s Steam Store, digital console games only became prevalent with the previous generation of consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. GamesIndustry.biz noted at the end of 2022 that only about 28% of console game sales were for boxed copies of games, with 72% going toward digital purchases.
Cohen’s choice of venue for this sentiment was a bit odd. Apple’s shift toward USB-C charging is a result of a push from the European Union for Apple and other mobile device makers to embrace a universal standard for better interoperability and future mitigation of electronic waste from having to regularly replace multiple different kinds of chargers. The standard includes things like smartphones, tablets, cameras, portable speakers, and other small devices, and requires that consumers be allowed to mix and match chargers and charging cables.
The arguments for and against physical sales are very different. Some collectors appreciate the ability to place a copy of the game on their shelf, but more and more games receive massive day-one patches that make an often unplayable game playable.
Increased digital sales are a direct result of gamers buying games directly through the console makers’ own digital storefronts, which allows the owners of those storefronts to dictate game prices without worrying about competition from other storefronts. At the same time, gamers still push back against the use of digital storefronts like Epic Games Store and GOG.com, favoring Valve’s Steam storefront. Some gamers have nearly 20 years of games purchased through that storefront and see the Steam library as the standard home of PC gaming, with other storefronts fragmenting their libraries and preferred store features.
It’s important to note, too, that game consoles are historically the least profitable aspect of console gaming, with game sales and accessories making up a large part of video game-related profits.
And so that’s how we get to the CEO of a video game retailer replying to a news story about Apple USB chargers, saying it would be really nice if game-makers were forced to include optical disc drives on consoles so that he can sell more physical games. GameStop as a corporate entity has not commented on Cohen’s tweets, but we assume the company would also really like it if people bought more game discs.