Gamestop CEO Mark Raines is a hallowed person, touched by the divine; like EA's Frank Gibeau, he's among the Elect who have Lain Their Mortal Eyes upon the next generation Xbox console. First impressions? All good, it seems.
"We've been spending a lot of time with Microsoft, but we have to let them take the lead on this, but it will be a very hot, compelling device," Raines told GamesIndustry in an interview. "They are doing some really cool stuff, and I'm eager to hear them start their announcements because I think the world is going to stand up and take notice."
The news should be some reassurance to those troubled by rumours that the new machine will include an online code system designed to block pre-owned - Gamestop has already publicly warned Microsoft off the idea, and it's possible the CEO's breezy comments today reflect a change of tune at Xbox HQ. Raines is also upbeat about console hardware in general, pooh-poohing suggestions that the next Xbox and PS4 will struggle in a market infested by browser and mobile software.
"We don't subscribe to that," he told the site. "The cool thing with GameStop is, we've got a lot of gamers here and we've got a lot of people [on the team] who've seen every console cycle. And what's interesting to me - I was talking to one of our founders, Dan DeMatteo, and he was telling me every console cycle you get people who will say 'there will never be another console,' or 'what else can the consoles do?'
"And we just believe it's a cycle and we just haven't had a new product in so long. But we certainly don't believe that the new consoles won't be as exciting. There's a lot of demand for PS4, and I think there will be for the next Xbox as well, once it's announced."
Nor is Raines troubled by what the growth of digital bodes for Gamestop's brick and mortar business. "We don't think digital is going to replace retail. I know everybody likes to get worked up and dream about a world without stores and all that, but our point of view is that consumers want both," he explained. Right now, about seven percent of GameStop's revenues are from digital, but most of them are bought in store.
"People will come to our store and buy BioShock and then they'll also buy season pass DLC or a Steam download, or they might go play on Kongregate. We think there's a place for both, and one of the things that's important to recognize is technology is important but chronology is also important, and consumers just aren't ready to go massively digital yet.
"And when they are, we're creating the business deals that will support that. Will streaming be the killer app that kills retail? It sure hasn't looked like that yet." Sounds like he's been reading our fascinating, penetrating piece on why the industry isn't ready for a digital-only Xbox 720, doesn't it?
An earnings call transcript picked up by Videogamer offers a few further dribbles of insight - in the words of president Tony Bartlet (not to be confused with Martin Sheen's character off the West Wing, sadly), "we also have knowledge of the [next Xbox], but I'd rather that be out in the public before we discuss our digital goals for 2014." Gamestop is "making broad assumptions about launches within the guidance," according to CFO Robert Lloyd, "as we do not have launch date information for quantities, prices or available software."
A picture to play us out. The image below is what Call of Duty's face could look like, given access to appropriately powerful hardware. I am so very scared.