INTERVIEW: Martyn Gibbs on being back in the GAME

Christopher Dring
INTERVIEW: Martyn Gibbs on being back in the GAME

GAME, at least the old GAME, used to be notoriously slow at launching things.

We recall the days they would speak to us about updating their website or launching a new piece of tech. It would often take a good six months at least before we saw it in the real world. Half the time we'd almost forgotten all about it by then.

That's not true anymore. By the time GAME CEO Martyn Gibbs tells us about GAME Wallet or a store refit, there's a good chance it's already happened. In fact, take this conversation between Gibbs and MCV in our latest interview. We repeated a concern from one of the UK's more niche publishers about the fact they wouldn't be able to get their digital points cards stocked in GAME.

That's quite a strange one, I don't know anyone who is trying to get digital sold in stores that isn't,” Gibbs says defensively, before admitting: I mean, you have to look a little further forward, and if we continue to put cards on pegs we will of course reach a capacity. If you look at all the work we are doing around in-store screens with both Sony and Microsoft and our mobile phone apps with some of the technology we've got launching, we need to move away from thinking that stores are all going to be about the card. We will be developing further and further into customers being able to browse and purchase digital content, but not in the traditional fashion of taking a card to the till.”

So when will this vague idea of selling digital content without the need for a card actually become a fully realised concept?

"If we continue to put cards on pegs we will of course reach
a capacity. If you look at all the work we are doing around
in-store screens with both Sony and Microsoft and our
mobile phone apps with some of the technology we've got
launching, we need to move away from thinking that stores
are all going to be about the card. We will be developing
further and further into customers being able to browse
and purchase digital content, but not in the traditional
fashion of taking a card to the till.”

Martyn Gibbs - CEO, GAME


You and I should go down to our Stratford store and I'll be able to take you through some of our digital initiatives,” says Gibbs.

That's right. They're already working on it. And we'll definitely be taking him up on that offer to go to E20.

Gibbs' GAME feels nimble and reactive. Able to launch things, drop them and re-launch them again with little fuss. And that's impressive when you consider that it is now a corporate, publically-owned entity.

The firm successfully floated earlier in the summer, and significantly boosted its share price after revealing its revenue has increased 30 per cent, with 80m sitting in the bank.

But it's important that it's not just been a solid trading year,” continues Gibbs. If you look at our new digital payment method in GAME Wallet, all of our mobile technology which we are working on, especially our app, and the new categories we have launched with GameTronics – where we're trading in and reselling phones, tablets etc. – we think we've also positioned ourselves well strategically going forward.”

GAME Wallet are two words MCV has been hearing a lot from everyone at GAME over the past few months. The ‘Wallet' is effectively an app that combines gamers' trade-in credit, gift cards and reward points into one handy monetary figure. Gamers can simply buy content using the app. It's a nifty little concept, but it hardly sounds revolutionary.

But Gibbs says we're wrong.

We do see it as a significant development for us,” he says. It has added significant functionality to our app and to our customers' engagement across our Reward programme. Obviously our customers can keep track of their Reward Points, gift cards and trade-in, and long-term they'll be able to top up their credit in a single place. So it allows us to move into different architectures. The uptake that we have seen has beaten our projections from the outset.”

In fact, Gibbs points out that GAME Wallet takes the retailer into entirely different worlds. In theory, gamers could use the Wallet to pay for microtransactions in League of Legends. And the firm recently ran a trial with Just Flight, allowing players to buy Just Flight titles directly from the publisher's website using the Wallet.

GAME Wallet is so diverse in terms of what it is,” continues Gibbs. It's your Reward Points, it's your cash, it's your trading-in credit. It's you being able to use that, not just in-store or on game.co.uk but – for example – the initiative we did with Just Flight.

We're realistic on ways we are looking to utilise GAME Wallet, as ways to support our customers wherever they are and whatever they want to do. GAME Wallet holds new and different opportunities for our customers to access content they haven't before.”

Digital sales are an increasingly important part of our
content sales. We anticipate strong growth in that
category over the next few years. We've launched some
great new digital initiatives. Even in the last four weeks
we have launched code-to-content for Xbox One, Xbox
360 and PlayStation Vita games. And across all of the
spectrum of digital content you will see a more
increased focus in our online channels, too."

Martyn Gibbs - CEO, GAME


It may sound counterintuitive for GAME to support anything that it can't sell. The GAME we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the old GAME, would have been wary of pushing too hard into digital out of fear it would harm its physical business.

But Gibbs and his team doesn't operate like that. There's no point resisting transition in an industry that constantly changes. Nor should GAME force its customers to buy content in a certain way. If GAME, and any retailer for that matter, wants to survive in this industry, it needs to be where the consumers are and providing exactly what they need.

And if that means selling digital products and not physical ones, then so be it.

Digital sales are an increasingly important part of our content sales,” concludes Gibbs. We anticipate strong growth in that category over the next few years. We've launched some great new digital initiatives. Even in the last four weeks we have launched code-to-content for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PlayStation Vita games. And across all of the spectrum of digital content you will see a more increased focus in our online channels, too.

We're really just making sure that we are constantly bringing in every gaming experience that our customers and community want us to bring to market – whether it's physical or digital.”

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