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OPINION: Really, you don't want GAME to fail

Ben Parfitt
OPINION: Really, you don't want GAME to fail

I wrote this story this morning. And I took no pleasure in writing it.

Let’s be clear about something though – the likelihood is that GAME and Gamestation will be fine. It needs to change, lean down a bit. But I’m sure it will survive.

The scare this morning is that the retailer admits there’s an increased likelihood that it will miss targets set by lenders. If that happens, lenders could in theory take action to recoup their cash. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that lenders WILL do that.

Indeed, a supportive approach is far more likely. GAME lasting and thriving offers them their best financial outcome.

What has upset me more this morning is the relish with which some commentators embrace any negative stories about GAME.

“GAME has only got itself to blame.”
“I wouldn’t miss GAME if it went under.”
“I haven’t shopped at GAME since FOREVER.”
“GAME is guilty for destroying industry creativity.”

That’s a selection (and bastardisation) of some comments I’ve heard online and on Twitter this morning. But let’s just stop for a moment and consider what it would actually be like if GAME went under.

I used to live in Croydon. Back then I spent nearly every weekend hanging out in the handful of decent indies that used to be based there. X-Electrical was akin to a retro gaming museum. I imported Animal Crossing and Viewtiful Joe for the GameCube from them. I sold them my copies of Panzer Dragoon Saga and Burning Rangers for the Saturn.

I rarely went to GAME and Gamestation.

Now all of those indies are closed. There are no indies where I live. There are none where I used to live. There are none in the town in which I work. I couldn’t name an indie within 30 minutes of me.

Now I visit my local Gamestation (Enfield Town) all the time. The staff are great, the prices are OK. They know me, I know them. I go there when Mrs Ben wants to buy clothes. I’ll hide in there if it’s raining. I’ll go in there even if I‘m not buying.

I’d be sad to see it go.

But what if GAME did ‘go under’? First and foremost – thousands and thousands of families would face dire consequences. Mrs Ben lost her job at the height of the recession in 2008. And again in 2010. It was horrific.

We had a youngster who had to be pulled out of childcare. My salary alone was barely enough to cover our 100 per cent Northern Rock mortgage, let alone the bills. Or food. Or clothes for our baby. Or games.

We had to rely on hand-outs from my family to sustain us for a period of nearly two years. My dad was in his seventies and my mum worked part-time. They were happy to help, of course, but I know that they went without. For us. And that’s a dreadful feeling to live with.

I reckon we were within one or two months of being repossessed. And once that’s happened to you, you’re screwed. We’d effectively be ruled out of the housing market for a decade. We’d have to live with parents, meaning a move to Hampshire and, for me, the possible loss of my job. We’d be paying off the penalties for failing to keep up mortgage repayments for years.

It would have been game over.

And if you wish that on anyone simply because a staff member at GAME was once a bit dismissive of you or that you think Gamestation’s pre-owned prices are too high then you need to get a grip and grow up.

You always have the choice of voting with your wallet. You’re always free to shop elsewhere. But to wish ill on a retailer because you don’t like them? Frankly, that’s disgusting.

Secondly, consider what the UK High Street would actually be like without GAME and Gamestation. There aren’t many indies left to fill the gap and the loss of GAME would do nothing to help indies – they can’t compete with supermarkets and online.

The result would be a huge number of UK High Streets left with no games presence at all. HMV? Maybe not for long. CEX? Rather you than me. Blockbuster? I guess, at a push.

Imagine if the supermarkets were the last place left to buy games on the High Street. The poor selection, the erratic prices, the stagnant back catalogue, the (please forgive me) often clueless staff.

Imagine the next generation of console arriving later this year or next without any dedicated retailers to spread the message.

I guess most of us would default to online, but for me I rely on pre-owned for my gaming. I’m not rich. My disposable income is minimal. I survive as a gamer through the generosity of publishers who send me code and the ability to sell off my old games to Gamestation. Without those, I’d be priced out of my hobby.

Love it or hate it, GAME and Gamestation are most likely more important to your hobby than you realise. And the UK market would be irrevocably weaker were they to vanish.

Despite what you may think, GAME and Gamestation are on your side. They want you to enjoy your hobby and they want to sell you the games that allow you to do so.

Don’t criticise GAME for prioritising FIFA 12 over DoDonPachi Resurrection. Shelf space is at a premium in these tough times. Any retailer that didn’t prioritise the multi-million seller would be mental.

And DoDonPachi will be there, somewhere, tucked at the back. And the guy who really wants it will find it.

If you want to blame anyone for the products that GAME and Gamestation give the most attention to then blame yourself. They are only answering to the buying habits of consumers. Sure, retailers will support product that publishers ‘encourage’ them to, but no retailer on earth will indefinitely support product that is not selling.

And I really don’t think it’s fair to criticise GAME staff for failing to match your encyclopaedic knowledge of games. They are there to serve customers. The internet is there for you to talk games.

You don’t think GAME ‘gets it right’? No, for you it probably doesn’t. But for the family and mass markets GAME targets? Yep – it’s spot on.

And I guarantee you one thing – if GAME and Gamestation were to go and not be replaced (and no, I don’t think GameStop would step in and buy them out) gaming would be weakened.

Sales would fall. And if sales continue to fall here and elsewhere, publishers will have to consider their potential releases more carefully. And in those situations it’s the ‘risky’ (read: creative, innovative) titles that are the first to be dropped.

I’m not urging you to shop at GAME and Gamestation. It’s Ian Shepherd’s job to convince you of that. All I’m urging you to do is get behind them. Because despite what you might think, they really deserve it.

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Tags: GAME , Retail , Opinion , gamestation , support , editorial , billy

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Comments

13 comments

I'm always unsure how I feel about these kind of things.

Granted, it would be bad news for the industry and a lot of consumers if GAME disappeared from our high streets. That said, there's a reason they are doing so poorly at the moment. Their prices are too high, their sales tactics too aggressive and in general, their customer assistance is pretty poor.

Usually a shop goes out of business because it fails to provide a service that enough of the public need, or it fails to do so at a good enough standard. Would I be sad to see GAME go? Yes, but there's many reasons I personally don't shop there...

David Howard

David Howard INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 12:17PM

1 2

"And if you wish that on anyone simply because a staff member at GAME was once a bit dismissive of you or that you think Gamestation’s pre-owned prices are too high then you need to get a grip and grow up. You always have the choice of voting with your wallet. You’re always free to shop elsewhere. But to wish ill on a retailer because you don’t like them? Frankly, that’s disgusting."

I disagree, in part.

To wish for someone to lose their job is wrong. Very wrong. To wish for a company for whom I worked for five years - and have shopped with for 15 years - to treat me with any sort of respect is not only correct, but it should be a given.

I will indeed vote with my wallet. I'm still waiting for an order from GAME's website to turn up from the 23rd of December (which I couldn't pay for with a gift card that I got for Christmas, as it "doesn't work that way, you have to use it in-store"), and can't make a claim for a replacement until the 16th of January. At which point, I have to print and fill out a claim form for them and then post/email it back to them, because their website doesn't handle lost items properly. I might get my games a calendar month after they were apparently shipped.

And the product they charged me for but then didn't have in stock? Order cancelled an age after it was placed, and then no refund given (as yet.) We're talking about a couple of pounds (literally) - but that isn't the point.

Fancied a bit of F1 2011 this weekend, so went to pick it up in-store. £30 for a preowned copy on 360. £35 for a new one. FIFA 12? £42.99 in their "Sale."

And for the guy that really wants DoDonPachi Resurrection? No, he won't find it. At either of the two stores that are within 200 yards of each other in my town. Why? Because the shelves are full of preowned stock that - as a trading decision - they'd rather keep until it was absolutely worthless, than sell at a decent price and make a slightly lower profit on. Back in the days of Electronics Boutique (which turned into GAME) it was never that way. A sale was a sale was a sale, and as long as the product went for a minimum amount over and above what the store bought it in for, that was fine. Browsers could be turned into repeat customers by you knocking a couple of pounds off the shelf price of a preowned title, rather than steadfastly sticking to your guns and watching your business fail.

We can't just sit there with rose-tinted spectacles and cheer a company on that is wholly failing its customer base. I have no qualms with going to Tesco or Sainsbury to buy a game. I don't get ambushed by shop staff as soon as I walk in, and I can pick up any chart or recent title, generally. Failing that, I'll go online to get the product that I want.

I hope nobody loses their job, but some will go. The people responsible are - funnily enough, as is always the way - either no longer with the company, or far too high up the chain to even care.

Ken Barnes

Ken Barnes INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:30PM

0 3

While I certainly wouldn't take pleasure in seeing GAME fail, I do unfortunately agree with the first three of the quotes you gave at the start of the article. Ultimately (in my opinion), GAME is currently in a situation where the more dedicated gamers are getting their games online and others (those who only buy the chart titles, your FIFAs and CODs) are going to supermarkets because they ultimately sell chart titles cheaper.

I do agree when you say "I really don’t think it’s fair to criticise GAME staff for failing to match your encyclopaedic knowledge of games. They are there to serve customers. The internet is there for you to talk games." But the problem is that when people then go on the internet to talk games, the people they talk to inevitably draw their attention to various websites (including GAME's own one) selling games cheaper than they are in-store.

As a fellow writer, like you I also often have to rely on pre-owned games to affordably enjoy my hobby. But the suggestion that if "you think Gamestation’s pre-owned prices are too high then you need to get a grip and grow up" is a little unfair in my opinion, because it's a valid criticism. In this day and age purse strings are tightening around the country, and as such it's no surprise that as GAME are closing stores CEX are opening new ones - one opened just down the road from me a month ago. While it may not be the most glamorous of stores its pre-owned prices are very affordable and as such it's rare that I go there and don't see a huge queue at the tills with people eager to buy stuff.

It's a difficult situation for GAME and while (like you) I agree that nobody should be taking pleasure in its downfall I do feel that it needs to make big changes and with regards to its pricing structure. Whether publishers like it or not, judging by CEX's success it appears pre-owned games are the key to making money for retailers at the moment, but only if they're being sold cheaply enough. As it is £37.99 isn't exactly what people expect to pay for something pre-owned, and the sooner GAME realises this the better.

In short (sorry, I went on a bit there) I wish GAME every success but feel it really needs to get more aggressive with its pricing strategies instead of just sitting there and expecting its specialist store credentials will be enough to get the gamers in. Gamers aren't stupid, and they know where to get games cheaper.

Chris Scullion

Chris Scullion INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:43PM

0 0

They will likely have better years in 2012/2013 with the new hardware cycles increasing their hardware sales and leveraging their knowledge as new and existing consumers wonder into the store interested in the new consoles.

In regards to the last 3 years and the negative reactions to GAME's performance this year I believe the core feeling is that most consumers just don't see the value in GAME anymore but are unable to express exactly why that is, so jump on the bandwagon of condemning GAME as a terrible company.

Below are a few of the competitive advantages GAME has over online retailers and my personal opinion on them:

# - Knowledgeable staff
I have never required their knowledge as the games industry is one I've always followed with a passion, my mum has probably used their knowledge when buying my Christmas presents as a child but only when it was a surprise gift

# - Brick-and-Mortar stores
This is great for returns but I only really value that benefit when buying hardware and even then It's often cheaper at Argos, Amazon, Curry's etc

# - Trade-in-titles
I'm one of those consumers who never traded in titles as I always viewed trading in as a rip off, I also never liked buying pre-owned titles... especially these days with every big game requiring an online pass.

Unfortunately the downside to having these benefits is that operating costs are higher and therefore likely to translate to higher priced goods, which it does, which leads me the primary reason I don't shop at game:

- The title I want is cheaper elsewhere

That's it, plain and simple. I have nothing against the company, I used to love them when I was younger and had no access to the internet, GAME / Electronic Boutique was where I'd learn about new titles. But with the internet I get all of my knowledge through websites like MCV and Joystiq, before buying I can compare prices across multiple stores and pay the lowest.

In my opinion GAME still holds value for those new to the industry, consumers looking for hardware bundles, consumers looking to trade-in and mums who need guidance on the "Duty of War 4" game her son wants for Christmas.

Aside from these four demographics, who would spend money in GAME?

What’s most depressing about all of this is when they’re really gone we’ll see online and supermarkets hike up their prices as there’s no longer a game specialist to compete with. When that day comes we’ll all miss GAME deeply, if only for keeping everyone else in check…

Do you guys agree/disagree?

Jarvis Crofts

Jarvis Crofts INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:50PM

0 0

I disagree that prices will rise if GAME fails. The supermarkets will compete with each other.

To be perfectly fair, GAME's in-store prices are generally higher than most supermarkets well after launch. To hark back to FIFA 12 again, I can pick that up at my local Tesco (or Sainsbury, for that matter) for £30-£35 with my shopping, or make a special trip to GAME to pay £10 more for it.

Ken Barnes

Ken Barnes INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:55PM

0 1

"To be perfectly fair, GAME's in-store prices are generally higher than most supermarkets well after launch. To hark back to FIFA 12 again, I can pick that up at my local Tesco (or Sainsbury, for that matter) for £30-£35 with my shopping, or make a special trip to GAME to pay £10 more for it."

That's true, the supermarkets have always hedged their game prices against other in-store spending. However GAME leaving the industry would reduce the amount of players in the industry which almost always leads to the potential for less competition/higher prices.

Jarvis Crofts

Jarvis Crofts INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:58PM

0 1

"However GAME leaving the industry would reduce the amount of players in the industry which almost always leads to the potential for less competition/higher prices."

I doubt it. It's not as if with Game leaving that the demand would vanish. There would still be demand. Someone else would just pick it up.

David Howard

David Howard INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 1:59PM

0 1

GAME is still crucial to the industry, videogames is the most complex of the entertainment formats and new uneducated consumers such as parents looking to buy into new hardware need somewhere they can ask questions and get opinions. Yes there are online resources but not everyone has the know how or time to discover what format will suit them best or what the differences that matter between XBL and PSN or this gen of home consoles versus what we may get at E3 2012.

Getting a thousand people to wait in line for the latest title they cannot wait to get their hands on which garners prime time news coverage for our industry cannot be gotten from people buying from a website.

A business that talks to its consumers and is able to profile their buying habits and wants is also of great use to publishers who are considering what DLC is right for a pre-order mechanic or which consumes most want.

And there's the basic fact that if there are failures in distribution due to poor weather, transport companies going into administration, or web based businesses not having stock, consumers would still be able to get games by simply heading to a store in person.

a lot of these are off the top of my head and there are plenty more reasons why GAME needs to stay with us.

Dave

Dave Turner

Dave Turner INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 3:42PM

0 0

Personally I'm sick and tired of hearing about GAME / HMV and there woes !
Its tough out there for everyone.

Michael Pearce

Michael Pearce INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 3:55PM

0 2

Running a price comparison site we've noticed that Game, least online, have become more price competitive the last 12 months, aware that they're loosing a massive share of revenue to the mass of low priced rivals. Over Christmas they achieved a record (by their standards) for price deal alerts on our system (Skyrim £22.50, Saints Row 3 £19.99)

Carl Warrent

Carl Warrent INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 4:36PM

0 0

An important question - why are Gamestop posting far better results than GAME despite broadly similar market challenges ?

I'm not claiming Gamestop are perfect (they still have lots to do) but surely there must be some valuable lessons here for UK retail ?

Matthew Hill

Matthew Hill INDUSTRY
Jan 10th 2012 at 5:19PM

0 0

The biggest crime Game and Gamestation need to hold their hands up to is the constant need to promote pre-owned gaming over new... for them it means a 100% profit margin, for the industry it involves a 0% profit margin. And people wonder why developers are losing money so quickly nowadays, it's because noone is actually putting money into their pockets anymore, it's all going straight to the retail outlets.

Ben Dawson

Ben Dawson STUDENT
Jan 11th 2012 at 9:22AM

0 0

I don't think anyone is seriously wishing Game would fail, but there are a lot of valid comments both in this article and in the comments below it. To me, its not that the service isn't great or that the range of so called 'specialist' titles is non existent, or even that the preowned prices are high. I understand that all these things are likely unortunate necessities required to operate in a competitive high street retail space - no, its that going to Game is such a thoroughly depressing experience. The games industry is a vibrant, creative one full of talented individuals working with (mostly) cutting edge tech. The average customer would have no idea of this entering a GAME store. These outlets feel more like overly lit, poorly decorated charity shops. I visited a GAME yesterday - they had a PSVita on a stand - its was filthy, on the last gasp of a charge and on a stand places so that, in order to use it, you had to basically get in the way of customers waiting to pay. This sort of crap speaks to the fact that GAMEs basic retail model is fundamentally broken. Yes, it may be sad to see them go, but I agree with other posters that someone will take their place - hopefully with a more mature attitude to the industry and to games retail in general.

Jim Mower

Jim Mower INDUSTRY
Feb 2nd 2012 at 9:11AM

0 0