After a soft launch earlier this month, GameStop has suspended its forthcoming PowerPass service, set to offer customers unlimited access to used games for six months. The program was originally scheduled to fully launch in the coming weeks, with sign-ups to begin on November 19.
Initial reports on the PowerPass program explained that it would allow participants to essentially rent used titles from GameStop. (Those titles would be limited to ones offered at the store’s physical locations, rather than through the chain’s online inventory.) PowerPass’s $60 price-tag would cover six months of playing and swapping, after which customers could select one preowned game to keep permanently. Whether or not the program’s specifics will change as a result of the suspension remains unclear.
Kotaku reports that GameStop employees have been instructed to remove signage advertising PowerPass from stores. Additionally, a GameStop spokesperson told Kotaku that those who have already purchased their membership through the soft launch can receive a full refund, and pick out a used game to keep for their troubles. The same spokesperson also provided the following explanation of the suspension:
“We have elected to temporarily pause the roll out of the new PowerPass subscription service, based on a few program limitations we have identified. We feel this is the right thing to do for now to ensure we are able to provide our guests an exceptional service.”
GameStop’s entrance into the game-rental market comes amid the company’s continued financial difficulties. The gradual and consistent trend away from physical games and toward digital ones have hit the retailer hard. Last March, against a backdrop of slouching sales and falling stock prices, GameStop announced that it would close up to 190 of its 6,600 + stores. The chain is undeniably feeling the pain that has marked the retail industry more broadly in the age of digital commerce.
It’s understandable for a new program to experience hiccups as it approaches its launch – that’s what soft launches are for, after all. However, by not announcing a reinstatement date for PowerPass (and by being ambiguous about why it was paused in the first place), GameStop has raised a few red flags. Kotaku references employees who speculated that GameStop’s computer infrastructure couldn’t handle the program. The “few program limitations” that the GameStop spokesperson left undefined could be any number of things: PowerPass’s price, its duration, the games customers can keep after the program expires, or anything else.
Keep an eye out as GameStop provides more information about PowerPass, and possible changes to the program.