Upon walking into a Hertfordshire Gamestation store this lunchtime, you'd be hard pressed to tell anything was afoot.
Perhaps the emptiness was a surprise, though to be fair even Sainsbury's was virtually deserted at one o'clock in the afternoon.
Talk of barren shelves and suicidal staff is clearly unfounded. The shelves were full, the sale racks looked enticing and pre-orders for upcoming releases like Silent Hill HD, Max Payne 3 and Ridge Racer Unbounded were clearly displayed for all to see.
There was no inkling of woe from the staff, either, who were busying themselves and very pleased to help when pressed.
I should point out that, mate, that that game is actually free to download on PS3,” the assistant told us as we handed over a PS3 copy of DC Universe Online along with a copy of FEAR 3 as part of the 2 for 20 offer on pre-owned.
We knew, of course. But we weren't confident in our broadband line's ability to download all 10GB or whatever it is in a single lifetime. The disc-based game, at that price, seemed like a good idea.
It was only upon pressing that the assistant revealed his true concerns. With all the headlines flying around and uncertainty still hanging above them, it's really no surprise.
There are rumours that GameStop might come in for us,” he explained. But that's the most worrying thing. You think GameStop is going to want two stores in every town? And GAME has all the good locations. First thing they'd do is shut us down I'm sure.”
But what of head office? What's the latest?
To be honest I don't know if they have any idea what's going on, apart from the managers at the very top,” he admitted. We just sit here hoping that we're going to get stock of all these games we're taking pre-orders for. It's not great but, hey, until we hear any different we're here to stay.”
Speaking to MCV a GAME spokesperson subsequently pointed out that it has hardly been silent. The retailer has issued two full statements in the last two weeks. Both said negotiations are ongoing, and that IS the situation.
As for the other stuff – GAME doesn't comment on rumour and speculation”, naturally.
But certainly the heads thrashing out the details at head office in Basingstoke remain determined.
Any why not?
MCV has revealed today that GAME and Gamestation accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the Vita's launch-week sales. A big Spring Sale kicks off this weekend, including some big discounts on pre-owned hardware. And that follows on from an excellent fortnight of promotions on Microsoft hardware that has performed well for the Group.
Yes, Mass Effect 3 will be missing from shelves next week. But it won't be the week afterwards – GAME and Gamestation are offering 35 trade-in credit against EA's title. Expect those shelves to fill up quickly.
MCV won't deny that every new release not stocked by GAME is a big blow to the chain. But there's also no denying that GAME remains a publisher's best weapon, even now.
They think it's all over… but it's not. Really, it's not. Good luck to all workers at GAME and Gamestation.