OPINION: The Gamestation gamble

From the moment there ceased to be a GAME and Gamestation store in every major town, Game Retail Group must have known a unification of its brands was inevitable.

The whole point of running both brands in parallel was to appeal to the ever-broadening games market across the country. In GAME, every town would have an ideal outlet for parents and grandparents (or, in other words, Nintendo gamers) while your more dedicated, male-orientated games crowd would flock to Gamestation.

When the chain collapsed earlier this year, slashing its nationwide store count by half and ditching the idea of two shops per shopping destination, one of the brands would always have to die.

GAME was the obvious choice to live on in many ways. Better brand recognition and more appeal for the supposedly limitless mass-market.

But, personally, I think Game Retail Group has made its first mistake.

As we’ve said time and time and time again, the games market is changing dramatically. The casual mass market is still playing games, but they’re doing it in browsers and on iPhones and iPads. Nintendo knows this, which is why it revealed Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive and not Carnival Party Games.

The next-generation of consoles will be a core gamer battle, not a mass-market battle as we’ve seen this past five years. Which is why I felt Gamestation was the best placed to survive in what will undoubtedly be a brutal battle for retail in the increasingly digital-centric future that lies ahead.

Don’t forget, too, that Gamestation was the more profitable brand(at least as of the end of 2011), partly because of its greater success with pre-owned sales.

That’s not to say that changes wouldn’t have been needed, of course. The teen-centric fuck your girlfriend” marketing ethos that has become indicative of the Gamestation brand would undoubtedly have to be altered for what would inevitably be the new chain’s newer, wider market.

Less black, silver and blue – more magnolia, colours and chart music.

Would that have destroyed the very heart of what the Gamestation brand is? No, it would have evolved it to survive in an increasingly hostile retail environment.

It’s unclear what the ‘new’ GAME will adopt from its fallen cousin. What we do expect is that all your reward points and XP and various other store credits will be unified, meaning no phoning customer service to switch your balance between the two as per the last six months.

I’m not an idiot and do of course realise Martyn Gibbs is a pro and knows exactly what he is doing. And Gamestation was his baby – he wouldn’t have given it up lightly. He certainly knows a lot more about it than me. If I were you, I’d take his word over mine.

I sincerely hope that I’m proved wrong and GAME flourishes under its new direction. Good luck to all the staff involved.

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