Without any prior announcement or even a press release, the largest worldwide specialty video game retailer in GameStop has launched its own branded MVNO in GameStop Mobile. The new MVNO is a departure for the video game focused retailer as it is only the second national SIM-only virtual operator to launch in the US after the relative success of T-Mobile powered Simple Mobile, which was acquired by Tracfone parent America Movil earlier this month.
The GameStop Mobile service consists of a slate of service plans that start at $20 per month for full PAYG access with no additional daily fees and goes all the way up to $55 a month for unlimited voice and text with 500MB of monthly data access, with additional 500MB buckets available for an extra $5. Of note, the service also offers at data-only service plan for the same monthly rate that offers a 1GB monthly allowance with the same additional 500MB buckets offered at $5 if the initial 1GB allowance is used before the month is over. Airtime is available in the following denominations: $5 / $10 / $20 / $30 / $35 / $45 / $50 / $55
With GameStop looking to diversify its service offerings outside of its core used games market, the decision to launch an MVNO is being seen by many as a misstep, as the plan offerings offer little in the way of competitive advantage in comparison to the services offered by carriers such as T-Mobile and more established MVNOs such as Simple Mobile and TracFone/Straight Talk. The retailer has also taken to offering trade-ins for electronics, including cellphones as well as the ever popular iPhone with mixed results along with selling Android tablets bundled with generic Bluetooth controllers for gaming.
With more MVNOs adopting the SIM-only service model, the key advantages for GameStop include the ubiquity of the chain with many locations in shopping malls and low rates for customers looking for voice and text only, especially international tourists, as the lowest rates start at $20 for PAYG voice/data and unlimited voice/text service starts at $35 with data at a rather expensive $0.30/MB. Other SIM-only services from MVNOs aren’t easily available over the counter.
For GameStop Mobile to be successful, it needs to address the monthly data allotment for its data-only and smartphone plans, as data access is becoming more important to its core customer base rather than voice. Had it launched with data rates equivalent to or better than AT&T for smartphones and data-only devices, it would have been a viable alternative to T-Mobile for prepaid data service with an equivalent nationwide reach to Walmart. As it stands, there are much better values for BYOD service, but this does signal a new wave of competition in the virtual operator space.
Update: GameStop has pulled the portal from public view as of this morning.