GameStop celebrated the launch of its NFT marketplace on Monday. Its Ethereum-based depot for virtually autographed JPEGs arrived just days after the meme stock giant ruthlessly laid off more employees, and based on my short tour through its website, it’s also still a little broken in places.
No one can quite seem to make sense of GameStop’s current business strategy, least of all its pivot to crypto. Teased earlier this year, the ailing gaming retailer released a GameStop Wallet in May that users could download to exchange cryptocurrency and “store NFTs securely.” Since then, cryptocurrencies have tanked and the NFT market has all but collapsed.
One senior former employee, who wished to remain anonymous while they search for a new job, told Kotaku they were skeptical the company’s crypto team was big enough to launch anything that would meaningfully impact GameStop’s bottom line. They also believed it was mostly just aimed at exciting investors and people on Reddit.
“As noted last week, our leadership team is committed to profitably growing our commerce business and launching new products, including those developed by our blockchain team,” CEO Matt Furlong, referencing last week’s layoff announcement, told staff in an email today (a copy of which was reviewed by Kotaku). “GameStop of the future has a unique opportunity to anticipate and meet an expanding range of customer demands and merging interest across our stores, web properties, and the virtual world.”
With that context in mind, I’m pleased to announce the launch of our NFT marketplace: https://nft.gamestop.com. Today’s launch reflects months of hard work on the part of our blockchain group and many individuals across the organization. It’s also the result of our ability to form new partnerships with artists and creators, as well as technology partners including Loopring and Immutable. Although we have a lot of work ahead of us, this launch demonstrates the degree to which GameStop is transforming as we embrace change and pursue new areas of opportunity.
The launch and accompanying praise comes just four days after the latest round of layoffs at GameStop’s corporate offices. Roughly 160 staff were cut, according to one current and one former employee. Three employees at the gaming magazine Game Informer, which is owned by GameStop, were also affected. GameStop’s corporate offices faced a similar round of layoffs in May, while Game Informer has effectively had its staff cut in half over the last year, Axios reports.
Employees in GameStop’s stores are also feeling the pain as they try to keep things running while being short-staffed and underpaid. Meanwhile, GameStop earned a $1 billion windfall last year on a sell-off of its inflated meme stock, and its revolving door of executives have continued to garner millions in total compensation.
Maybe that’s who the Dankclops#69 NFT is for. At $7,890, the marketplace’s most expensive NFT certainly isn’t for the store managers who make barely $15 an hour, or the recently laid off staff at the corporate offices, some of whom only got a month of severance. One former employee told Kotaku they didn’t even get two weeks. But sometimes that’s just the way the NFT crumbles.