GameStop NFT marketplace, crypto pivot explained

Not quite a year ago, GameStop, the once-dusty retailer, shocked the country with an astronomical stock market rise. And it’s once again making headlines with another major shakeup.

GameStop will venture into cryptocurrency and NFTs with a dedicated marketplace, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, as part of a turnaround strategy for the company—whose share price was floundering before its meteoric ascent catapulted it into meme-stock territory.

According to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter, the retailer has hired more than 20 people to run a new unit that will build a digital hub for buying, selling, and trading NFTs of virtual goods in the gaming world (think avatar outfits or weapons). It’s enlisting several game developers and publishers to offer NFTs through the marketplace when it launches later in 2022, and is nearing partnerships with a couple crypto companies to share knowledge and collaborate on games hosted with blockchain technology.

We’ve reached out to GameStop about the report and will update this post if we hear back.

By all means, it would be a fitting pivot. The move would push the company into some of the most-hyped areas of the internet universe, where we imagine the same speculative investors who bet on GameStop last year can campaign free and unfettered now—sending famously volatile cryptocurrency assets skyrocketing to infinity and beyond. (In fact, if Reddit is any indication, the communities have already overlapped in new subreddits like r/Superstonk and r/SatoshiStreetBets—a portmanteau of r/WallStreetBets and Satoshi Nakamoto, the legendary creator of Bitcoin.)

It’s not just GameStop

It also furthers a larger trend in gaming, which is among the pioneer industries to integrate with the metaverse. In recent weeks, massive video game developers Ubisoft and Square Enix (makers of Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy, respectively) have made forays into NFTs. And according to CoinDesk’s 2021 Annual Crypto Review, gaming was the third most-funded application of blockchain technology, raking in a record-setting $3 billion from investors—a number exceeded only by centralized exchange platforms and custody services, which safeguard crypto assets. Another $2.2 billion, meanwhile, went to NFT-focused companies. Altogether, the past year has seen a groundswell in money for crypto. For comparison, in 2020, just $3.4 billion was distributed across the entire crypto landscape.

But GameStop isn’t the only company reinventing itself with crypto: Earlier this week, 20th century gadget emporium RadioShack said it would engineer a cryptocurrency exchange platform along with its own token, RADIO. Perhaps hitching yourself to the crypto wagon is simply the new playbook for aging companies hoping to survive the trek into a future ruled by Web3.

If that’s the case, they’re probably not wrong—crypto appears to be growing faster than ever. OpenSea, the internet’s current go-to NFT marketplace, where digital collectibles like CryptoPunk and Bored Ape Yacht Club avatars are sold for millions of dollars, raised $300 million this week for a total monster valuation of $13.3 billion. In 2021, the company carried out $14 billion in consumer transactions—worth hundreds of millions in revenue, thanks to the platform’s 2.5% transaction fee. And in the first week of the new year, OpenSea has already racked up $1 billion in trading volume.

GameStop’s stock, meanwhile, surged more than 20% following the news, before settling to a 5% rise midday Friday at roughly $137 a share. It’s still down 60% from its peak during last winter’s frenzy—when it briefly hit $347 a share—but is up 663% year-over-year.