Game Retail CEO Martyn Gibbs tells MCV why Gamestation had to die and how its spirit will live on within a new GAME.
So is it just the High Street stores that are being rebranded, or is it the website, too?
It is everything. We are moving to one single brand under the header of GAME.
Why take this decision?
We have got two very strong brands in the UK, and what we need to do is morph both of those brands into a single, focused brand to deliver for the UK gamers. It isn't about Gamestation going actually. We are taking everything that was great about Gamestation to help them to deliver that in a new brand that we are creating under the GAME mantle.
I guess it will feel like GAME suddenly has a bigger presence on our High Streets.
The reality is we have a property portfolio that doesn't give us a national coverage of either brand. Both brands do need to change, and there's a lot of good elements to both of the brands that we have got. In terms of Gamestation, expertise, humour, personality and all of that is going to be fundamental to the new brand as well.
Was the idea of having a brand for the hardcore gamers and one for the mass-market fans a bit out-dated?
I think the single brand approach makes a lot more sense, because it allows us to have one core proposition in the UK. There were obviously a lot of places where Gamestation wasn't. So, I'll give you an example – the Trafford Centre where we never had a Gamestation, so we had a GAME that was having to act a little bit Gamestation and a little bit like GAME anyway. Also, in towns where we didn't have a GAME but a Gamestation, we had them acting a little bit like GAME.
So how is the loyalty card scheme changing? How central is it to your community activity?
The key point for me is that the Gamestation loyalty card is actually a better scheme, at least in our mind and according to our research, to the GAME points scheme. A new reward scheme is going to going to be creative and take the best out of the Gamestation reward scheme, and put that into GAME. So it really is about taking the best of Gamestation.
So tell me about GAME Hunter. How does this work?
GAME Hunter allows anybody that's going through any of our channels to access any product that we have within our business. Basically, everybody in store has access to our entire range of games. It's not just about the games they have in that store, they can order it and have it delivered the following day. I think that's really interesting, and you can imagine how important that is going into Christmas on delivering on our specialist credentials. We are never going to be out of stock. Mums at Christmas will have their products they desperately want. That is a big step on for us. When you look at a store being able to access, at the moment, something like 7,000 different titles. That's going to be a big part of our proposition.
You make reference to having the biggest range of games. Does that mean you are looking to stock a broader range of niche and specialist titles?
It is a broader range. It's about taking new and pre-owned product, and looking at how we can facilitate any purchase a customer wants to make on any game. Obviously, they are a lot of games that aren't available anymore that we can help people access available pre-owned, and we also have a great opportunity to expand our range now with every single one of the suppliers.
Is this a bid to become more specialist? To stock more of the niche titles?
GAME Hunter allows us to expand our product range, and best of all give customers the opportunity to access that wherever they wish to shop, be that through our stores, be that through online or be that through ecommerce.
What efforts are you making to retain the Gamestation customers?
The easiest way to answer that is our store teams. We announced everything to our store managers on Tuesday this week. And they are 100 per cent behind what we are doing and they are really looking forward to creating one new brand. Whilst it might not be under our headline that we have had before, how GAME as a brand evolves itself will be very much be around those Gamestation teams as well.
One of your store managers is on our MCV website telling people in the discussion threads what the changes mean. They already appear active about it.
They have really bought to it. My longer background is Gamestation, and in terms of the decision the business has been made it has been in collaboration with the research and with some of the store teams. It has been a collaborative approach. The customers have been involved, the store teams have been involved, the central teams have been involved, and the publishers have been involved. We have made sure we have a got feedback from all parties.
You've spent much of the last decade handling the Gamestation brand. Was this personally a hard decision to make?
It was not a decision that was taken lightly, and through that process of making that decision, we had to make sure the process was robust. Gamestation is and will always be in my blood, and it was a big point in how we assess the GAME brand. It really is around the people that we have got within the business who is defining what the brand is going to be, and what our current customers will see. I believe in that process, and I am exceptionally excited about what we are creating. We are not losing anything about Gamestation that we want to retrain. The people and principles of that brand will very much manifest itself under the GAME layout.
You use the term ‘multi-platform' in your press release. What does that mean?
If you think about it, this is about LIVE, this is about PSN, this is about WiiWare, it is about any way that the customer wants to access content, and us being able to do that. We are going to be launching tablets into our stores for our store teams to use. So literally they will be able to, rather than talk through what they think about games, they will be able to access the content themselves and be able to show demonstrations. We are really excited about that. There are some store guys that are already doing it, using their own tablets to show people YouTube videos and the like. And we are now organising that how we roll that out through our stores.
Does this, and the introduction of Wi-Fi in every store, and your new PC download store, represent a change of attitude from Game towards digital?
Absolutely. The key headline for us is that we are creating the most valuable community of gamers in the UK. And in doing so we understand that we have got to evolve, we have got to evolve our proposition, and it doesn't matter whether it is a digital or physical product that people are trying to experience.
Game of old would announce these services and then take a while to roll them out. How long will it be before we see these changes?
Wi-Fi will be available in all of our stores by peak. How we utilise those in terms of the Live and PSN bays, we will have that going into a selection of stores over the next six to eight weeks. In terms of GAME Hunter that is available in all of our stores now. In terms of the store teams being able to use tablets, that will be as quick as we can purchase them and make sure we have the right ones, that ought to take about six to eight weeks. Pretty much everything we have announced and all the details we have given you guys are around things we are doing pre-peak. There's a lot we still haven't announced.