Recent GameStop chief executive officer Julian Paul Raines has died due to complications with cancer. The world’s largest gaming retailer confirmed the passing, and Mike Mauler, who stepped into the CEO role in February, issued the following statement:
“We are profoundly sad to learn of the passing of our friend and former chief executive officer, J. Paul Raines. His spirit is woven into the fabric of our company and the entire GameStop family mourns this loss. Paul was a brilliant man and remarkable visionary, as well as a compassionate, caring and inspirational community leader who was beloved by many. Paul cared deeply about his work and his GameStop family, but his greatest love was for his family. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to them and all those whose lives and hearts Paul touched during his journey.”
Raines oversaw GameStop as CEO since June 2010. In November, he took medical leave due to a relapse of the cancer that he first dealt with in 2014. That leave turned into a permanent resignation In February when he officially stepped down from GameStop’s board of directors. At that time, GameStop said that Raines wanted to “focus on his health and family.” Mauler took over as CEO during this transition.
Under Raines, GameStop has spent most of this decade finding ways to incorporate itself into gaming’s new digital ecosystem while simultaneously diversifying the company’s revenue streams. The retailer owns several Spring Mobile and Simply Mac stores focused on mobile phones and Apple products. It also acquired the novelty-product company ThinkGeek and brought its nerdy brand of products into GameStop stores. Similar to how the music industry moved from selling physical media to selling posters and vinyl records to collectors, Raines’ gaming company was preparing for a shift to selling more toys, posters, and other products to fans.
But even as gaming turned digital, GameStop continued to dominate huge chunks of the console gaming market. In 2014, following the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems, GameStop confirmed that more than half of all PS4 and Xbox One games were sold through its stores in the United States. The CEO credited the stores and GameStop’s ground-level associates for keeping the company as an important link in the chain for many consumers.
Raines also found ways to get directly involved in digital sales. The retailer used its associates to inform consumers about season passes and downloadable content. The company would then sell that content as a code printed on a card so player could take that home and install it without having to use a credit card. In 2014, over 70 percent of Ubisoft’s season passes were sold at retail stores, and GameStop has tried to corner that market for all publishers.
We are still in the midst of the digital, online-only transition, so GameStop will have to continue evolving. But the company can use the strategy set out by Raines at the start of this decade to do so.