So GAME were bought out, for the princely sum of £1, and the gaming world seems to have gone a bit mad and gotten all excited about the ‘return’ of the ‘great’ GAME. Not I though. I wasn’t shopping there prior to their woes, and I certainly won’t be rushing back now, not until some changes are made to actually make it worth my while.
What changes would *I* make?
Well, you’d better hit this convenient jump click thing if you want to find out!
So, firstly let’s get the name sorted out, the brand must be consolidated, but how do you decide on a name? GAME is synonymous with exclusives, with midnight openings and launch events, while Gamestation has a reputation of being *the* place for gamers, with a more specialist feel. The money would be on retaining GAME, but I’d like to see GAMEstation become the singular brand, taking the best from both sides and creating a great brand.
It takes more than a name change to bring about change though, and the next essential change has to be a change of focus on what the group can offer a customer. GAME stores are horrifically sterile in many cases, appealing perhaps to the ‘person on the street’ rather than the ‘gamer’, you know the sort, the Aunt or Nan who wants to get a game for a relative, but perhaps doesn’t want to go into a grungy store with loud music. This is, in some ways a sensible approach from the GAME group, especially given the massive leap in diversity of gamers since the launch of the DS, the Wii and the rise of casual gaming, but one that clearly hasn’t been as profitable, or as sustainable as they perhaps would have liked. Instead I think that GAME need to look at stores that also offer a specialist product line, and look at what works. Book shops in particular. The best book shops around have been forced – partly due to eReaders, but mostly due to cheaper prices online and in supermarkets – to up their game, ensuring that their shop is more welcoming, and that the customer feels a benefit for shopping there.
Now, picture this:
You walk into GAMEstation and pass by a line of gaming pods, with each new console on display, and a sign detailing their ‘Try Anything’ policy, the 18+ zone offering mature gaming away from ‘innocent’ eyes and a rack of in-house gaming magazines that not only details upcoming releases, but also pre-order incentives, achievement guides and vouchers. Heading into the retail area it is open, with games displayed by genre instead of just being thrown in alphabetically, allowing non-core gamers the chance to look at games that they may not have heard of, but that are similar to games that they have played, and enjoyed. Store staff are out on the shop floor, offering advice and opinion, and not a corporate line. Their name badges have their gamertags/PSN ID on, as well as their name, and each has a pocket filled with code cards for avatar items on certain consoles, just to give out. As you pass by an extensive range of games you get to a coffee shop-style area, with free wi-fi, good drinks and an encouragement for Streetpasses, gaming etc… There would be a store specific 3DS Mii waiting to be picked up, as well as a schedule of evening gaming events for the last hour of trading. Continue with the midnight launches, continue with what worked before, but diversify and offer an experience. THAT is what we want on our high-streets, it’s why many places thrive while others falter.
None of this is infeasible, in fact much of it is being implemented elsewhere – specifically comic book stores – and working. What GAME need to realise is that as the move to a digital download generation is upon us, the stores can survive if they have something to offer other than product. There will still be a place for collector’s editions, there will still be pre-paid code cards, and there will always be a need for peripherals and accessories, but why not offer more? Why not open up and share the passion?
For me personally the GAME stores offer NOTHING of interest. The mis-management of the company for the last few years, coupled with the lack of respect for many gamers, and publishers if truth be told, was off-set against the massive rise in casual gaming. They lost focus, they realised that there was more profit to be made from the blue-rinse brigade than the JRPG fans, and as a result have become a hollow example of a gaming store. Where I live we now have three indie gaming stores in a town with a population of about twenty-thousand. Each of these stores offers something unique, and they have managed to thrive alongside one another. If I want an obscure title, I could probably find it on their shelves right now AND they’d know my name. Also in the town is my employer, Blockbuster, who have taken great steps into the gaming world over the last decade – not forgetting that they were hiring out Mega Drive games years ago – and are now in a good position as a retail/renting store that people remarkably still ignore. Even with our store in the town all of the stores are doing well, and this is down to that unique experience we all offer. GAME need to do more of this if they ever want my business again. Also they should also be closing more stores, in areas where there is an overlap. Consolidation over coverage.
Oh, and would it REALLY hurt to get some arcade machines into stores?