REVIEW OF THE YEAR: The fall of Blockbuster

Last week, the High Street told MCV it feels 2014 will be a good year for video games retailing.

But 2013, at least the first half of it, remains one to forget.

Blockbuster is no more. The entertainment brand had been a staple of the UK High Street since 1989 and at its peak had over 500 stores dotted across the country. But on December 16th, Blockbuster closed its doors for the last time.

Blockbuster endured its first brush with closure in January this year and lived to fight another day. But the vision of buyer Gordon Brothers Europe was to adapt the out-dated brand and mould it to a digital business capable of competing against the rise of online – a plan that was blocked by Blockbuster’s US licence holders.

But Blockbuster, much like GAME the year before, has suffered from a decline in boxed game releases and sales.

HMV, another of the UK’s flag-carrying entertainment brands, also slipped into administration at the beginning of the year.

But the music and film industry stepped in to support HMV.

That company lives today – albeit with a heavily cut store and staff count – but as a very different business. Much of the retailer’s games team has gone and the focus moved away from games and technology to core music, TV and film products.

There was an abundance of issues facing retailers. The most glaring of these in 2013 was the lack of releases, which saw a dry spell of titles throughout the spring and summer, with a number of ‘lowest week on record’ stories written by MCV.

Next year kicks off with another dry spell for games, but retailers today are better prepared for it. Stores are taking part in selling digital content, GAME has evolved into an events business, while HMV is using its brand to push into digital.

Video games retail is still a tough area to survive in. But with smaller store bases and a variety of new business opportunities, the worst of the closures may be behind us. For the time being at least.

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