Editorial: Is it Game over for GAME?

No doubt you’ll have heard the news today about GAME not stocking Mass Effect 3 or any of EA’s forthcoming releases. This along with the recent troubles stocking Ubisofts Vita Launch games (which they now stock) and The Last Story orders being cancelled the day before release don’t really paint a good picture for the future of Britain’s main specialist retailer.

It’s no secret that business at GAME has been declining for some time, a lack of competition on the high street (self-inflicted too, by buying out main rival Gamestation) and increasing competition from Supermarkets and Online Retailers has left GAME in a precarious position for some time.

Many would say the writing was on the wall last year when even with big releases like Modern Warfare 3, GAME had a drop in profits of about 17% (compared to the previous year).

With the current state of things at GAME, the lack of EA and Nintendo games could have an even worse impact on their business. If they can’t afford to stock a big release such as Mass Effect 3 why would another publisher then trust them with credit for their big titles? Sure GAME may end up stocking ME3 eventually, but the majority of people who are going to be wanting the game will be release date buyers and they will simply shop elsewhere, once they’ve gone elsewhere why would they come back?

Of course, GAME still haven’t sold their overseas operations yet, the sale of which could provide the short term cash boost they need to start stocking the big releases – but will it be enough? If people have used Amazon (for example) in the absence of GAME stocking a release, they are going to be used to paying a lower price for the products – why go back to GAME? What is the incentive?

One potential solution for GAME (and not likely one that they can afford at this present time) would be to have the same prices instore as online (or do it for those who Click and Collect for example) – it would make them that little bit more competitive and could bring the customers back in.

If GAME were to disappear, I believe it would be terrible for the Games Industry in the UK. Yes the hardcore will continue as they were (buying off Amazon e.t.c) but for the more casual gamer, the presence of GAME on the High Street gave more visibility to games. If you lose that visibility you lose the casual market who will simply return to playing Angry Birds.

Yes, the supermarkets will fill the gap, but most supermarkets only stock the Top 10 (if you’re lucky, usually it’s just COD, Fifa and a couple of other games). There’s still HMV, but again their also in a decline (especially their gaming business). Grainger Games have an opportunity to expand (they could give away free condoms with every game) but I doubt they’d be able to expand to fill GAMEs gap quickly enough.

It’s highly likely that GAME would be bought out before they had a chance to go under (Gamestop are apparently interested as they no longer have a UK Store presence) , which would still lead to Job losses (I’d imagine any new buyers would close about half the stores, especially where there’s 2 or 3 in a shopping centre) and you’d probably lose the GAME and Gamestation brands from the high street.

The next couple of months will be the most telling for GAME. If they can resolve the stock issues and regain some customer confidence (which with all these order cancellations, is probably at an all time low) they might just make it to the end of the year. It is highly likely that it will be Game Over for GAME by 2013.

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