GAME goes into Administration

Not the office kind.

UK dedicated games retailer GAME has filed for administration and been delisted from the London Stock Exchange.

“Further to this morning’s announcement of the suspension of trading in shares of GAME Group plc, the board has concluded that its discussions with all stakeholders and other parties have not made sufficient progress in the time available to offer a realistic prospect for a solvent solution for the business,” the company said in an official statement.

That’s it really. I can’t put any real spin on something as blunt as that and the header image for this article is as comfortable as I can be to cracking any jokes about it. Anything more would be tasteless and insensitive to the thousands of staff who could well be looking for another job this time next week. I’ve crowed about the slow, agonising demise of GAME on Bitscreed for going on two months now but I’ve been expressing my opinion about the chain for much longer than that. In each case I’ve always stressed that my issues with the company were with the company itself and never the staff. It’s been popular to rail on GAME staff for being uninformed, pushy and countless other complaints expressed by gamers, but front line staff don’t decide company policy.

As a corporate entity GAME was a fucking monster. It drove independent game stores out of business and assimilated any real competition to secure a virtual monopoly on specialist videogame retail in the UK. GAME’s management arrogantly assumed being the only specialist retailer around meant customers would keep coming, and this fostered a sense of invulnerability that made them believe they could do whatever they liked. Uncompetitive pricing, hard-selling surplus guff like strategy guides to customers, shifting the focus of staff training from product knowledge to “sell, sell, sell”, and even using its dominant retail position to bully publishers. When online retail, digital distribution and other alternatives to specialist stores began opening up the management clung to this illusion of superiority and refused to adapt to the changing business landscape.

GAME’s sheer size ensured it wouldn’t simply fall down and die overnight and this sustained the management’s delusion they couldn’t possibly fail. Any cracks that appeared were plastered over and forgotten without addressing the root causes, so by the time the true extent of the rot was revealed – around November last year – it was too late to do much of anything about it. Things got worse in February when it put a deadline on buying its overseas operations and 46 staff were let go from its Basingstoke HQ. After that GAME lost its credit assurance and with it the ability to guarantee stock on its shelves, starting with Tekken for the DS and Ubisoft’s entire UK Vita launch line-up. Losing Mass Effect 3 in March was the sledgehammer that brought the whole worm-eaten edifice down around them.

GAME is not dead yet though so put the hammer and nails aside for now. Administration gives them ten days of breathing room for the board to make the most important decisions about where the company will be going, during which nothing can be sold or stripped away. It’s speculated a new smaller, leaner company might rise from the ashes minus 300 or so of its current stores, most of which are expected to be Gamestation outlets. Every GAME property outside the UK and Spain are also expected be sold off. Money raised from selling these assets will first and foremost be used to pay overdue wages – as it fucking well should. After that any extra money goes to secured creditors (banks, basically) then other creditors (publishers, etc), and lastly the shareholders who stood by and said nothing while Rome burned. Total closure is still possibile but it’s the worst-case scenario in a precariously thin selection.

My sympathies and best wishes are, as always, with the front line staff: the overworked, underpaid lads and lasses manning the tills and sustaining forced smiles as the Death Star implodes around them. I can only hope things work out for the best for them because it’s looking pretty damn bleak right now. We’ll know more over the next ten days.

Source: MCV

Matt McDermott

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