Lots has been said recently regarding the much maligned Game group in the UK. Their stores, once the flag ship for gaming on the high street, have been hit by issue after issue as of late and only today it was announced that the stores would not be stocking any Ubisoft titles for the PlayStation Vita (which includes both Rayman Origins and Lumines, which are two of the best reviewed titles thus far, according to MetaCritic). This, coupled with troubles with Konami, the fact that the new Tekken 3DS game didn’t appear in stores, the switching of The Last Story special edition to standard editions and other financial concerns paints the picture of a business on the rocks.
Is it surprising though, in an economic climate that has seen other retailers shut up shop? Well apparantly we should be surprised, given that gaming is now the number one best selling entertainment product out there in the high street. Huge launches of games are held at Game’s Oxford Street store and the group even attempted to sneakily one-up Eurogamer with their Game Fest show in September last year. The brand is purely associated with gaming. To a point.
See for gamers the brand is associated with nonchalent staff, high price points and bullish retail tactics. The pressure felt at the till point (would you like this, this, to order this, to take this for half price, to have this pre-owned…?) is unbearable and has forced more and more gamers to become more savvy and risk missing launch day in favour of a more appealing price online, without the hassle from the minimum wage student-type who would rather be at home watching Jeremy Kyle while slowly wanking and eating a Pop Tart.
In the last twelve months I have bought one game in their stores. One solitary title. A pre-owned copy of Guitar Hero Metallica with the guitar for £12.99. That’s it. I’ve bought over a hundred games in that year, but only one from the ‘Nation’s Biggest Gaming Store’. Well la-de-dah indeed Mr. Big Shot, it isn’t enough to be ‘the’ store, you have to be a good store. Sadly Game is not a good store. Thier slap dash approach to things, coupled with an admittedly hostile economic climate has resulted in good folks losing their jobs and the company cutting corners where possible to stay afloat at the cost of what they needed most, to be the best, the amiable store on the high street.
I work for Blockbuster in the UK, a company that has also seen it’s share of woes, but it had the benefit of the rental side of the business to help keep the head above the water. We are competitive on price, 90% of the time bettering Game’s launch prices, and yet the brand itself isn’t as well known for it’s gaming as it is it’s movies. This could change quickly. Best Buy didn’t make it here, Gamestop decided to go web only and I fully expect Game to do something similar, merging its GamePlay website business with its store-based sites.
There comes a time when you have to adapt or die.
Game resisted for too long, confident that their name, the brand would save them, and to an extend it was not such a foolish attitude to have, as publishers discuss working out terms to save the struggling company for fear of losing a key retail outlet for their product. What should happen is that other retailers, those with a more stable position, should now be getting some reward for their service and their dedication. Indie stores could use some love, why not encourage them to survive rather than pump money into a company that’s pissing money and closing stores?
It’s a real crime that decent folk will lose their jobs, but I think the days of Game and Gamestation on the high street are numbered. I would like to be idealistic and hope that it wouldn’t happen, but I think it’s time to let them go under, to move forward and see what the future of game retail brings with it.