Publishers respond to GAME woe

Publishers Codemasters, Konami and 1C have weighed in on the trouble engulfing GAME.

Firms hope the ‘shake-up’ could be for the good of the industry, and that GAME will re-emerge a fitter, leaner enterprise.

Konami’s UK General Manager Pete Stone told MCV: "One way or another it’s crunch time for the GAME Group. Despite the growth of digital delivery there is still a long way to go with physical games, so we need a presence on our high streets and in our shopping centres and I want GAME to survive in some form. I never like to see anyone lose their job and I feel for the many staff there. But I also know there are far too many GAME and Gamestation stores and at the very least rationalisation is necessary.

"There are other issues that should have been addressed a long time back, such as the in-store experience, depth of range, and online competitiveness, which they need to look at if they get past their current crisis. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they can come out of this leaner and stronger."

Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens is confident in the games market, with or without GAME.

He said: "The loss of Game, were that to happen, would not be helpful to the perception of the gaming industry particularly for traditional publishers who are making the transition to digital rapidly in any event.

"For many, digital starts with a disc, so a retail presence is still needed. It may be that it is more a case of virtual retail such as than it is GAME.

"If you analyse digital revenues, a disc is a significant contributor to the generation of those revenues. While there are great opportunities in social and particularly so in smart devices, there is also intense competition and aside from rising development costs, marketing spend to cut through the clutter is soaring.

"For many Apps and social games, the revenue generated is inconsequential. It has to be a top ten game to be meaningful and then it really is. This is not lost on progressive retailers who have embraced digital and changed their business and business model accordingly.

"By virtue of their loyalty scheme, GAME has built a community which could prove valuable to some.

"You could make an argument that platform holders intervene and convert debt to equity but the quid pro quo might be the management of the pre-owned element.

"There are other initiatives that could be taken if the industry was to collaborate but that has never happened!

"The reality is such that market forces will prevail and what will be, will be. What is for sure is that the consumer doesn’t go away but will navigate another route. Some may see that as an opportunity even those who are similarly challenged as the trading boost may be the trigger for a turnaround in their fortunes.

"Those who make games will ultimately be best placed. The global games market continues to grow year-on-year and accessing that global growth will not be negatively impacted by a downturn in the UK High Street."

"Hopefully GAME comes through but talk of its demise may be premature in any event as it could re-emerge from a pre-packaged administration for a powerful new owner.

"There are still many a twist and turn to the saga but whatever the outcome, I don’t see the market going away. In fact I see it continuing to grow but in a different form and measured and tracked differently."

"There are exciting times ahead."

1C international publishing director Darryl Still has been critical of GAME in the past, and believes if the retailer is to survive, it needs to focus more on being a specialist and less on the big blockbusters.

"It saddens me greatly to have been proven so right in this instance," he said.

"But my main hope is that the shake-up will turn out to be for the good. It seems to me that, with the likes of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons doing the job of stocking the mass market hits, it is behoven to whatever specialist game entity that crawls from this wreckage to be exactly that. A specialist. Stocking range & supplying knowledge.

"I spent some time with the GameStop guys in the States last week, and the way they are supporting their physical stock, with a whole back-up catalogue of key codes for games they don’t stock, but which are available for immediate download and play by their Impulse digital company, is not really rocket science, but just makes so much sense.

"That is the kind of side by side solution a games retailer needs to offer. Along with some staff expertise. Just look at how Apple stores manage the whole in store experience with loads of experts and knowledgeable staff. Leaving the wide range to iTunes. And the stores are always rammed!

"The fact that EA have just had their best ever launch with the latest Mass Effect title, without a single copy hitting a GAME shelf just proves that type of title is not where specialist games retail should be focussing their main efforts.

"My hope is that the great people at UKIE and other industry luminaries can help facilitate an independent solution to supporting a string dedicated customer base who want knowledge, breadth and support, working with some key digital suppliers and therefore they can leave the price wars and margin cutting to those that can cope with it.

"Hopefully all of these solutions will also leave the pre-owned bullshit to eBay and Amazon’s marketplace where it belongs."

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