It's hard to say if GameStop's recent announcement of the creatively named mobile service called GameStop Mobile is forward-thinking or too-little-too-late.
The service allows consumers with unlocked mobile devices (specifically GSM and HSPA phones) to use AT&T's mobile spectrum without having to deal with AT&T.
The convenience, as expected, comes at a price.
Out of the five available plans, none sport unlimited data transfers, though the "Smartphone Unlimited" plan includes unlimited talk and text with 500MB of transfers for $55 a month.
A "Data Only" plan offers 1GB of data downloads also for $55 a month, even though AT&T itself offers 5GB a month for less.
Subsequent plans, ranging from $45 a month to 10 cents per minute domestic calling, fill out the list of services offered, also asking slightly more than AT&T.
So if the prices of the plans aren't competitive, and there isn't any new hardware to lure consumers in, what's the draw?
Power to the Callers
GameStop Mobile represents a move into a niche corner of a brand new enterprise for GameStop, whose revenue recently fell by 17 percent due to crawling store sales, likely an effect of gaming's digital downloading boom.
The games retailer could conceivably only enter the market in this fashion for one of two reasons: Either it's banking on the sale of the service with traded-in iPads, iPhones, Vitas, and Windows Phones.
Or, it sees something on the horizon that other games retailers don't.
The first scenario is the most likely, as an influx of trade-in devices has not been met with a commensurate clamor from the tablet-hungry public.
Offering these devices with a mobile plan in-store sweetens the pot, and potentially widens the young market for used and unlocked mobile phones, tablets, and handheld gaming consoles.
The iPhone effect
If GameStop is able to generate interest in that market alone, and if phone manufacturers are willing to play ball with the new service (by manufacturing devices compatible with GameStop Mobile SIM cards), then fully-functional iPhones may cease to be a "luxury item" in the way that $60 retail games can become ubiquitous as cheaper used games.
However, the hurdle that neither of these scenarios can overcome is the restricting mobile web components of the GameStop Mobile plans.
Smartphone users, in particular, utilize huge amounts of bandwidth for things like navigation and social networking, which this venture fails to address.
Pair that with the unremarkable price points and it's hard to see how consumers might jump on-board with GameStop's gamble.