MCV and Gem kick off Indie Retail Month this week with the top new indies on the High Street.
Over the last 12 months, the UK games market has lost almost 650 High Street stores.
But the actual number of individual retailers has increased. Blockbuster, HMV and GAME still exist, and over the last 12 months there's been a sharp increase in the number of independent retailers, too.
In a troubled High Street there has never been more opportunities for the classic indie retailer. Whether that's opening a new shop in a location where others have closed, or launching new product ranges to satisfy the demand in their local areas.
Our Indie Retail Month in association with Gem will take a detailed look at the indie scene and bring you some of the best independent retailers on the High Street (and the internet) today: from the top innovators and online outlets, to the fastest growing stores.
This week, we reveal the five most exciting new indie retailers that have opened their doors over the last 18 months, kicking off today with Nottingham-based ThatGameShop.
ThatGameShop has expanded both online and in-store since opening in late 2011. Co-owner Carl Moore tells MCV about joining the indie retail scene.
How has ThatGameShop developed since you first opened?
Quite dramatically. The first thing we did was rip out a few walls and units to make the space bigger and more appealing to the customers. After a quick redesign of the store we immediately turned our heads to having a web presence. We've continuously upgraded our website since it went live, and more exciting changes are coming such as the addition of many new products and ThatGameShop.TV for instance.
What have you done to try and stand out in the indie scene?
We may be an indie, but we don't think like an indie. There may be some major players out there, but that doesn't mean we can't give them a run for their money. To announce our entry into the market last year we flew a Hollywood actor Cas Anvar [Assassin's Creed's Altai?r] from Los Angeles into our store in Arnold, Nottingham for a two-week period for three triple-A game launches. We had people travelling over 200 miles to our store to meet him, and our signed pre-orders had such a huge effect that our web sales went up by 800 per cent. We've recently also put together our own Star Trek SKU which we called Star Trek Special Edition that has the game, a 4GB USB stick, blue/yellow tablet bag and an actual 35mm cinematic film slide.
What are the difficulties in joining the video game retail market?
Pricing and getting your name into a fiercely competitive market. In the early days it was really infuriating that there was a set few companies you could approach to get your stock from, and as an independent you had to do it because publishers would not deal directly with you. But then when you got your price and found out that several of the big companies were doing it for far cheaper than you could even get it for, it was frankly disheartening. People don't know at that stage who you are, you have no trading history and you are just another name in an overcrowded market of game resellers all competing for the best price.
What plans do you have for the future of ThatGameShop?
We have signed pre-orders of an EA title releasing soon for Fuse. Every pre-order will come signed by Hollywood actress Gwendoline Yeo who has been in a multitude of major games. We will also be conducting an interview with her and holding some live tournament events which are going to be sponsored by Roxio and there will be some nice prizes. We are also shortly announcing the introduction of ThatGameShop.TV hitting our website soon with live gameplay and trailers. We also currently partner with a review company called Mature Gaming, but have recently announced a second partnership with a company called The War Room who specialise in live LAN events, eSports and tournaments. When customers visit our site, our pre-orders link to MG's reviews so the customer can see a review before they buy a game, and vice versa. So if a customer visits MG and likes a review, they have a link to our product to pre-order or buy it. With TWR, when a customer has purchased a game from us, they can get involved in live LAN events as a bit of fun, or if they're really serious – they can sign up to one of their competitive events.
Any plans for expansion?
Yes. We are aggressively developing the website currently and our focus will remain on that until we see where the market is heading with the new consoles and rumours on blocking of pre-owned games. Only when we know what is happening in the market are we going to consider increasing the number of stores we have. What we don't want to happen is we start to expand our stores and find the new consoles get announced either straight block or give publishers the ability to block pre-owned games, and then we end up in a retracting market. Finally, we are actively looking to get into the digital download space and we're presently in discussions with a couple of companies to make that a reality.