Tony Bartel, Hesston native and president of video game retailer GameStop Corp., likens his company's challenges to kayaking the Gallatin River in Montana: Do nothing and stay in the calm water or move forward into the rapids.
His company is doing the latter.
Bartel was in Wichita on Wednesday speaking at Wichita State University and later at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
He was speaking as part of the WSU Barton School of Business' James P. Schwartz Memorial Lecture Series.
Bartel, a 1986 WSU accounting graduate, told an audience of several hundred students at WSU's CAC Theater that the video game retailing industry "is in a total state of transition."
Video game makers are making fewer, bigger software titles. There is "explosive growth" in online gaming. And the devices by which people are accessing video games are changing.
No longer are gamers just using consoles such as Xbox, Wii and PlayStation. They are using tablet computers such as iPads, and smartphones, he said.
"Gaming is really coming into every element of life," he said.
The challenge for GameStop, which operates more than 6,500 retail stores in 18 countries, is how to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving gaming world in which downloadable digital content and online gaming are growing in double-digit percentages.
"That's really the transition we're in," Bartel said.
It's that future that Bartel thinks is holding back the company's value on Wall Street. Once a stock that traded for more than $60 a share, GameStop's stock is now trading at less than half that. Its 52-week high is $26.05.
That's despite 20 percent annual sales growth over the past 10 years — it had slightly more than $9 billion in sales last year — and a 31 percent earnings per share growth in the same period.
He doesn't think the games on discs that his stores sell will go away completely. He noted that DVD sales are still strong despite the ability of consumers to download movies.
But downloadable content will make those discs less relevant, and GameStop is preparing itself to be able to compete in that arena. GameStop also is looking at how to further integrate its e-commerce and increase its customer loyalty programs so it can meet the needs of gaming consumers "anytime, anywhere and on any device," he said.