GAME have today announced they are in talks with their lending syndicate only a day after it was reported that it had lost credit assurance with most of its publishers, after a dismal trading year that saw shares in the company lose a whopping 92 per cent of their value. Part of these discussions are said to involve the lenders going over a strategic plan put forward by the company to review its overseas operations, where over half of GAME’s 1,274 stores are situated. 664 to be exact, dotted around France, Portugal, Scandinavia, the Czech Republic and Australia. The remaining 610 are spread throughout the UK and Ireland where they squat in various high streets and shopping precincts like gangs of constipated gargoyles.
Nothing has been confirmed but a quick look at its foreign websites might offer a wee bit of insight into which countries’ stores might get the chop. GAME’s Portugese site is currently offering surprisingly hefty discounts and its French site is down for maintenance at time of writing, while it’s Spanish and Australian sites look busier and healthier by comparison. One can only speculate as to whether all or only some countries’ stores will get the old heave-ho, but each approach still only delays the inevitable. Whether it takes months or years GAME is as good as dead the way it’s run right now, with its demented addiction to foisting strategy guides, plush crap and extended warranties onto customers who just want to buy some games to play.
Some might argue that we need GAME to survive because there’s no other dedicated games outlet in the UK and the industry still needs them. I’d reply that the reason the UK has no other dedicated games outlets is because GAME either bought them all up – like they did with Gamestation – or drove them out with its “10 stores on every high street” policy. If there’s a gap in the market then someone will fill it, even a big gap like the one GAME would leave. The breathing space granted by the departure of GAME’s ponderous corpus would allow for the existence of small independent stores that also double as social spaces. I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for friendly, non-pushy customer service and a place to chill with fellow gamers over a coffee and some LAN games. Hey, a man can dream can’t he?
Assuming we don’t all start buying our games online it’s more likely the banner for new game releases will be taken up by the likes of Zavvi and HMV, with a little help from supermarkets like Tesco, while places like CEX use the vacuum to strengthen its hold on the pre-owned market. With GAME’s monopoly broken there’s also the chance foreign chains like Gamestop might try to invade our shores en-masse, but to do that they’ll need to be competitive and competition is good for the industry. It’ll lead to better service and better prices for us, the consumer, as these disparate stores clamour for our money. If it’s a choice between that or a bloated retail monolith which thinks it can do as it pleases and – allegedly m’lud – dictate to me how I buy my games, then I’ll take diversity thanks.
I’d like to close by offering my thoughts and best wishes to GAME’s frontline staff. They’re the ones who’ll suffer when GAME goes tits-up.