The pre-owned issue…

GAME’s admission that pre-owned sales (sock!) offer better margins than new releases and are (pow!) set to grow beyond providing a quarter of its revenues has no doubt gone down about as well with ELSPA’s members as a Christmas Card from the BBFC.

For years, the retail-publishing alliance have abided by the pact that ‘trade-ins’ is an unmentionable phrase – a linguistic A-bomb best avoided at all costs.

Rather than spoil the harmony of their Special Relationship, this pressing, divisive topic has been buried under platitudes, profit sharing and pretty-looking special editions.

But now the genie is very much out of the bottle. And he’s holding a plastic Tesco bag full of last year’s Top Ten.

We now know for sure that pre-owned is in the ascendancy at GAME. But is this really such a shock, disgruntled suppliers?

Above all else (and, yes, this includes you, platform holders) GAME has a duty to its shareholders. And its investors don’t want subtlety or face-saving. They want positive numbers – and they want them now.

In last week’s half-year results, where overall profits nosedived – in no small part due to publishers’ increasing love affair with online – GAME had little choice but to finally sing about its trade-in success. Anything to give its stockholders cheer.

As the economic slowdown and aging console cycle combine with web distribution to threaten traditional revenue streams, GAME’s previously hush-hush pre-owned business has become the jewel in its crown; something to proudly wave in front of its investors, rather than shunt under the carpet when Microsoft comes knocking.

Lisa Morgan puts it particularly eloquently in this week’s issue: When you’re an operation the size of ours, it’s important to drive to be as profitable as you possibly can be.”

Quite. And however much you want to keep a smile on the face of your publishing partners, that ultimately means looking after No.1.

Can a machine really do a specialist’s job? For a company that proudly invests in the expertise of its staff, what are we to make of GAME’s decision to trial US-style kiosks in its stores?

Perhaps the clue lies in MCV’s second cover story this week. As giant North American chains such as Best Buy lay the groundwork for an all-out UK invasion, our own retail royalty seems to be getting to grips with the tricks of our Yankee neighbours.

Two years after it shocked the world by acquiring Gamestation, GAME once again has a cut-throat competitor to keep an eye on.

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