Gamestop takes the convenience out of digital downloads

Gamestop is rolling out a new way to buy PC games but wants you to still come in the store to buy it.

The retailer has announced it will begin selling select high-end PC gaming titles in the form of download cards at its stores across the country. Consumers will be able to buy a card at a retail Gamestop location, then go home and redeem the code online.

Then again, the same consumer could just stay at home, go online to a digital distribution service like Steam, pay for the game there and then have immediate access to it.

In other words, it’s kind of like digital download, but without any of the convenience of digital download.

Of course, Gamestop hopes you won’t just come in and buy the digital download code. It wants you to browse, maybe buy a game you never heard of, check out some accessories, and leave with a $5 deposit on a game you may or may not end up buying later.

And sure, there are benefits to the consumer. For example, you can pay for the digital title in cash, or a Gamestop gift card, or trade-in credit. But the fact that a retail store has to focus on selling virtual products really signifies how this market has changed.

Gamestop has slowly been adjusting to this change. It already sells download cards for low, bite-sized casual games on the PS3 and Xbox 360, as well as in-game content. And of course, it has a whole wall of digital currency cards for everything from World of Warcraft credit to Nintendo Wii Points.

The question is whether or not consumers will appreciate the flexibility in how they can buy their digital content. I for one would prefer to just stay home and not deal with a Gamestop employee when I want to buy a new Call of Duty map pack.