LAS VEGAS – GameStop is stepping up its cellular profile with the introduction of Cricket Wireless prepaid phones and plans at 2,800 of its 4,200 U.S. stores.
The AT&T no-contract subsidiary will be the exclusive cellular provider for GameStop, marking the first time that the No. 1 gaming chain will sell new phones in its stores and activate them for consumers.
The announcement was made here earlier this month at CTIA’s Super Mobility Week, where Cricket president Jennifer Van Buskirk told TWICE that the move into GameStop could presage further retail expansion.
“We’ll talk to anyone” about selling Cricket service, and Cricket will add more CE retailers “where it makes sense,” she said.
GameStop currently sells pre-owned refurbished phones without activation, and TracFone’s Net 10-brand prepaid activation cards, which will be discontinued. Instead, GameStop will begin selling Cricket’s no-contract 4G LTE service and the Cricket-network HTC Desire 410 and ZTE Sonata 4G handsets in October in in a phased brick-and-mortar rollout to be complete by the end of the month. The chain will also activate Cricket service on its refurbished phones.
The move represents GameStop’s latest expansion into the mobile market, which it sees as a hedge against the decline of packaged software. The company also operates 48 Cricketbranded stores in select U.S. markets, 238 AT&T-branded stores selling AT&T postpaid service, and 33 Simply Mac stores that sell the full line of Apple products, including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
For Cricket, the partnership with GameStop “accelerates our retail footprint across the U.S., solidifying our position as a national player,” Van Buskirk said.
Cricket also sells through select Walmart stores that carried it before the carrier was acquired by AT&T in March and positioned as AT&T’s premier prepaid brand.
Cricket also plans to add “a lot more stores,” Van Buskirk said. “We aim to be a national presence, and GameStop helps,” by filling in gaps in markets where Cricket has no retail presence.
Cricket has added “several hundred” locations since theacquisition, on top of the 600 Aio-branded stores that were since converted to the Cricket badge. Aio was AT&T’s prepaid subsidiary before the Cricket acquisition.
Cricket can expand nationally now that it uses AT&T’s national 4G LTE network for service, having previously offered service on a 3G CDMA network that it operated in about 40 percent of the U.S. Before its acquisition, Cricket offered LTE in only a handful of markets.
Van Buskirk said Cricket will shut down its CDMA network by Sept. 2015 and that customer migration from the CDMA network to AT&T’s LTE network is “ahead of expectations” because of the changeover to faster LTE service nationwide.
To promote its availability in GameStop stores, Cricket created a 3D interactive video game to take consumers through a virtual-reality rendering of its planned footprint within GameStop stores.
GameStop also sells refurbished tablets, new Android tablets, and other refurbished CE in its stores.