Last week Game Retail announced that, after 19 years, Gamestation will cease to exist.
The firm is rebranding all stores with the GAME logo.
Game told MCV that the best of Gamestation – its pre-owned policy, loyalty card and passionate staff – will play a major role in its new vision for GAME.
But for many the end of Gamestation is an end of an era for the UK High Street.
Here, former staff and industry colleagues share their thoughts and memories from the life and death of Gamestation.
Then: Trading Director, (1999 – 2005)
Now: Trading Director, Green Man Gaming
Having joined Gamestation as trading director when they only had four stores it was an incredible journey.
What a lot of people do not know is Gamestation was build on a £2,500 grant from the princes trust and this was the only money founders Juilan Gladwin and Steve Hall borrowed to build the business. The rest was generated from profits which is almost unheard of in retail.
The saddest thing about the loss of the Gamestation brand is that Julian and Steve were adamant they would not sell to GAME as the feared they would lose the brand they had worked hard to build.
Let's be 100 per cent clear Gamestation was built by the staff, and the vast majority were gamers who loved the product and the company and without them it would never have succeeded.
In the early days we would calculate sales and stock flow on bits of fax paper and spend many a night in the warehouse putting stock in boxes – everyone pulled together at all times in what were probably the best working days of my life.
To all those who worked for Gamestation back in the day they can be extremely proud of what the achieved and I'm sure they will share my sadness at the loss of a brand they all worked so hard to build.
Then: Assistant Product Manager (1998 – 2009)
Now: Supply Chain Analyst, MVG, Asda
Have worked at Gamestation for 11 years from working in the York store to buying at head office, I can honestly say that there will be no other place like it.
The people, the togetherness and the atmosphere of the whole place was that of work and fun hand-in-hand. We were all true gamers and that came across in our brand, we were proud to be Gamestation. I’ve met lots of amazing, sorry Gamestation language, ‘Mazin!’ people working here and I’m glad to say that I’m still friends with lots of them.
Having shopped in the original Gamestation in Gillygate in York from Jay and Steve’s humble beginnings, you always knew you would get an honest and informed opinion on anything you were buying and that approach stayed with the brand for many years.
Part of me will always Gamestation and we’ll probably never see the like of this again.
Then: Assistant Account Manager (2002 – 2009)
Now:Senior Buyer, ShopTo
I started at Gamestation in 2002 when there was only 40 stores, so I saw it grow from an independent through to a large successful retailer.
The passion people felt for that company was evident in everything we did, you felt it in the stores and in the head office. The launches were fun, the conferences legendary and everyday was different from the last.
The golden years in York will always be precious to me and it's sad to see the brand disappear.
Those years were a way of life and not just a job – a quote many of us still say now.
Then: Commercial director and MD, (2003 – 2009)
Now: CEO, Game
It was not a decision that was taken lightly. Gamestation is and will always be in my blood, and it was a big point in how we assess the GAME brand. It really is around the people that we have got within the business who is defining what the brand is going to be, and what our current customers will see.
I am exceptionally excited about what we are creating. We are not losing anything about Gamestation that we want to retrain. The people and principles of that brand will very much manifest itself under the GAME layout.
UK sales manager, Ubisoft.
I first visited GameStation when I was a rep on the road back in 1997, and they only had four stores.
Their head office consisted of three very friendly people, based above the shop in Hull and even when they started to expand at a great pace, Julian always had time for a cuppa and a look at the upcoming games presentations I had.
It was an amazing journey through expansion; the BlockBuster takeover, the sale to GAME and everything that has happened since then. It will be a shame to lose Gamestation from the high street but the choice to focus on a single brand is the best one for the future of Game. Not any easy decision I am sure, but it’s the right one.
Then: Product Director (2003 – 2009)
Now: Head of Portable Media & Computing, Asda
I was fortunate enough to spend six years at Gamestation in various roles, and it was a truly special place to work. From store colleagues right through to head office, there was a great sense of unity, and despite massive growth Gamestation remained a retailer for gamers, run by gamers. Anyone fortunate enough to attend any of the last few Gamestation ‘Gamesfest’ conferences will be able to testify what an incredible culture and atmosphere there was.
Although the Gamestation brand will be missed, a best of both brands approach may prove to be a positive for both the High Street and the games industry.
Sales Director, Nintendo
I have two memories that stick out. One - the launch of Wii in 2006 and the amazing flagship store in Birmingham. We created a 'live' demonstration in the feature window, which showcased a family playing a Wii tennis match for the massive crowd that had assembled for the midnight launch. It was innovative and exciting and only something Gamestation could have pulled off with such professionalism at the time, how we will miss that maverick personality which stood out from the rest of retail.
Two - the unbelievable Gamestation store managers conferences which blew everyone away. The Enemy, The Twang, Feeder, Officer and a Gentlemen, SpongeBob and Mario costumes – the list goes on and so will the memories.
In summary the best tribute I can pay is to highlight the outstanding passion of the managers, which is ultimately what created the point of difference and made Gamestation the preferred destination for gamers across the UK. I now look forward to an new era for GAME emerging in the High Street combining the talents of both brands culminating in a potent force in the high street.
Then: Online Manager, (2007 – 2009)
Now: Trading Director – Asda Direct.
When I look back it was a real rollercoaster journey.
I was welcomed with open arms from the outset – despite my Southern idiosyncrasies – and felt like part of the furniture very quickly, making new friends and being part of something really special in that first year in 2007. We worked hard and played hard – during a time when the industry was thriving – and collaboration between retail and suppliers were paramount.
I look back with fondness at the entrepreneurial spirit everyone lived and died by, and I am exceptionally proud of what we achieved, as well as the professionalism everyone exuded as we handed everything over to GAME – knowing we were making ourselves redundant – sometimes under trying circumstances…
I guess that deep down I always thought that the Gamestation brand would never outlive that of the mothership, although I am rather intrigued at the move at this stage given the current economic climate and affinity Gamestation has with their value proposition. Saying that I can see how moving to one brand can help GAME improve efficiencies further, as well as their targeting. Only time will tell if it’s the right move.
Farewell Gamestation – thanks for the memories. It’s been emotional.
A SHORT HISTORY OF GAMESTATION
Fellow graduates of York Universty Stephen Hall and Julian Gladwin, set up Gamestation with the help of a £3,000 grant from the Princes Youth Business Trust. They opened a small shop in York and relocated to a better site a few months later.
A second store is opened in Leeds, followed by stores in Bradford and Hull.
Gamestation had become the fastest growing games chain in the UK and it attracted attention from Blockbuster, which bought the retail chain for a reported £75m.
Following dramatic expansion to 240 shops, rumours swirled that Blockbuster was looking to sell Gamestation to focus on its troubled core business. The firm denied it, and MD Michael Logue revealed plans to open 80 stores in 2007.
Except Blockbuster wasn’t being completely honest, and nine months later the rental firm sold the chain to its biggest rival – GAME.
Gamestation continued to operate in parallel to GAME. But at the start of the year the firm decided to close its York HQ and moved all operations to GAME’s Basingstoke base.
Following a difficult Xmas, GAME entered administration and closed hundreds of stores. A month later GAME is saved by OpCapita, and a new CEO is named – former Gamestation boss Martyn Gibbs.
The newly formed Game Retail announces plans to merge its two brands under one logo – GAME. Gamestation as a brand will cease to exist.