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GameStop Forms Publishing Label GameTrust, Signs Ready at Dawn and More Studios

(Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr)

(Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr)

GameStop isn’t only going to sell games, it’s moving deeper into publishing them too.

GameStop, the largest new and used game retailer in the U.S., has formed its own publishing arm named GameTrust while adding three new developers to the label, the company announced on Monday.

Ready at Dawn, Tequila Works and Frozenbyte join Insomniac Games as developers who will all develop projects that will be published under GameStop Corp.’s GameTrust label.

The California-based Ready at Dawn made The Order: 1886, a PlayStation 4-exclusive that received mixed reviews when it released in February 2015. Tequila Works is an independent studio from Spain that created Deadlight (2012), whose latest game in development is Rime, an Ico-like project. Frozenbyte is a Finnish studio known for the Trine franchise. All three studios are working on unannounced games for GameTrust.

In January GameStop announced that its first published game would be Insomniac’s Song of the Deep. The game will release on July 12 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC on Steam in each platform’s digital stores and with a physical copy exclusively at GameStop retail locations.

GameStop reinforced that it will not have any creative control over the games or studios under GameTrust. Each team will also retain the rights to the games it develops. GameStop calls GameTrust a non-traditional publisher. The company said this brand of publishing will “revolutionize the game development and distribution process” by giving creators the full freedom to make games that will have a large-scale reach by using GameStop’s retail and marketing power.

Developers signed to GameTrust will primarily be smaller independent studios. GameTrust will release games for all console platforms and the PC, potentially including virtual reality later on. The games will be a focus at GameStop retail locations and its online store, with special marketing for certain titles. GameTrust titles will be released digitally across the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Nintendo eShop and Steam with retail versions available at GameStop stores.

Unlike other game publishers, GameTrust won’t provide quality assurance or localization support for its published games, leaving those responsibilities up to the developers, according to Gamasutra.

Plans to create GameTrust began over a year ago, according to a GameSpot interview with Mark Stanley, vice president of internal development & diversification at GameStop. GameTrust will act as a separate vertical division within GameStop that has a new dedicated team of people. This is to avoid communication with GameStop’s marketing teams and potential conflicts with other publishers and developers that the retailer already has partnerships with for its core business of selling games.

There are an additional 18-20 developers in discussions with GameStop to potentially develop games under GameTrust, Stanley told GamesIndustry. Studios are chosen as GameTrust partners based on the high-quality titles in its portfolio and the reputations of the developer. Stanley compared the GameTrust label to the same way that Netflix changed its business model, going from mailing movies to customers to now partnering with reputable directors and actors for creating original shows like “House of Cards.”

“You draw that parallel, you see by the list of partners we’re really making sure that we’re partnering with folks that we know are going to make great games,” Stanley said. “Period. They’re not going to let a mediocre game come out the door.”

Stanley explained that the company is leaving it up the developers to create quality content so it can focus on expanding each game’s audience. “So that, for us, gives us the peace of mind that we don’t have to worry about good games coming out, which is great,” he continued. “That’s where the name GameTrust comes from. It really is anchored on the trust that they’re going to make a great game and they’re trusting us that we’re going to be able to basically extend the reach and the discoverability of that game around the world.”

Some titles under GameTrust will also receive special merchandise and multimedia content tied to the game that will be sold at GameStop stores and other retailers, like a children’s book for Song of the Deep. One of the goals of GameTrust is to expand each new game into a multimedia property.

As independent games, GameTrust will focus on release dates that avoid the blockbusters from other major publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. “Our games won’t be launching in that Q4 timeframe when there are AAAs launching all over the place,” Stanley told Gamasutra. The company’s potential goal is to release 5-10 games under the GameTrust label in its first year but that’s not an official schedule.

Focusing on smaller games allows the company to take more risks with each title that it couldn’t do with a triple-A release, according to Stanley. The targeted budget for these releases could be $15 million and under, which Stanley told MCV are often ignored by bigger publishers. With GameTrust the company can support each project in a way that’s tailored to what the developer needs.

“We have the flexibility of being able to either partially fund or fully fund a project for development, but also we bring in all the different aspects of promotion, marketing, merchandising and truly developing a new IP as if it were AAA,” Stanley told GamesIndustry.

Before joining GameStop, Stanley was the vice president and general manager of Sony Computer Entertainment in Latin America for six years. Stanley is using that experience to expand GameTrust’s potential portfolio of developers and games. He said he understands the challenges smaller developers face and believes GameTrust will allow for more creative projects to be fully realized.

Stanley said that GameStop is using GameTrust to expand and diversify its business ventures aimed at giving the company stronger longevity as its retail stores continue to face tougher competition from online retailers and digital storefronts. The company expects that by the end of next year, video game sales will account for only 50 percent of its total revenue, with the rest coming from its various diversification models and other merchandise.

Ready at Dawn announced last June that it would self-publish its own games, moving away from Sony after it published The Order: 1886. The team also made PlayStation Portable games like Daxter (2006) and two God of War titles in 2008 and 2010. Tequila Works recently lost Sony as the publisher for Rime and gained the rights to the IP in March.

The Grapevine, Texas-based GameStop has more than 6,600 retail stores across the U.S., Canada and Europe. The company’s stock opened at $31.86 a share on Monday and is currently up to $32.17.

Watch the new trailer for Song of the Deep:


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