GameStop debuts Android gaming tablets preloaded with EA titles

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Videogame retail chain GameStop is now selling gamer-optimized tablets running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system, rolling out the devices in time for the fast-approaching holiday shopping season.

The Wall Street Journal reports GameStop is offering three different Android tablets, making the units available across 200 of its U.S. retail locations. The pilot program includes tablets produced by Samsung Electronics, Acer and Asustek Computer--each sells preloaded with seven free games including Electronic Arts' Dead Space and Madden NFL, as well as GameStop's own Kongregate Arcade (a browser-based Android gaming app touting access to hundreds of free Flash-based titles) and Google's own Android Market app storefront.

GameStop states it will sell the Android tablets at costs comparable to standard retail pricing. The company adds that it worked with its manufacturer and game publisher partners to include a special code that will interact with an external wireless controller that it will sell alongside the devices--the controller, priced at an additional $39, enables players to control four of the seven free games from across a room.

Although GameStop CEO J. Paul Raines tells the Journal "We believe there is a gaming opportunity on tablets," citing consumer demand for gaming experiences across multiple devices, analysts are not convinced, citing lackluster sales for existing Android tablets. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad continues to lead worldwide tablet sales, increasing to 68.3 percent global market share during the second quarter according to IDC--Android's tablet market share slipped from 34.0 percent in the first quarter to 26.8 percent, due both to Apple's dominance and the introduction of Research in Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook, which captured 4.9 percent market share.

Poor Android tablet sales have also contributed to a scarcity of games and applications optimized for the larger screens. In addition, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter tells the Journal that cost will be a decisive factor in GameStop's success or failure, stating that devices priced at $400 or $500 will face an uphill challenge: "I don't think anyone is going to buy one," Pachter said.

GameStop first indicated plans to unveil a branded Android tablet last month, with president Tony Bartel calling it a "GameStop-certified gaming platform." The firm's push into the mobile gaming segment corresponds with growing customer demand for gaming experiences: Consumers across the U.S. spent $5.9 billion on videogame hardware, content and accessories in the first quarter of 2011, up 1.5 percent over the year-ago period, according to research firm NPD Group. While spending on new physical video and PC game software totaled $2.03 billion, consumers also spent $1.85 billion on mobile games, digital downloads, social gaming and other emerging segments.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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