I never thought I’d say this of a multimillion pound company with hundreds of locations across several countries, but poor GAME. They’ve spent the last few years in a kind of half-life, skulking around in the background scamming people on their used games and encouraging bewildered grannies to fling away £40 on Duke Nukem Forever for their ten-year-old grandson. Well right now the whole bloated mess seems to be collapsing under its own weight – reportedly (though, it must be stressed, denied by the company), GAME have been unable to afford new stock, with accounts of a complete lack of new games, which looks very serious when coupled with accusations of late staff payment. Oh, and what’s this, they’ve been hacked and had plain text usernames and emails taken (once again, denied, but still!)? Beautiful.
Game have, for a long time, been an unstoppable force in the UK gaming scene. Hell, the main other store, Gamestation, is owned by them. So why the slow sales? Well, dear boys and girls, walk with me and I’ll explain.
The fact is, brick-and-mortar game stores are a dying breed – I believe irreversibly. Now, that isn’t to say boxed games are as well (though perhaps long term they might meet the same fate), it’s just that nobody with any sense is going to travel several miles for a game that might not be in stock or requires a deposit to reserve when they can pre-order it online and have it plop onto their doorstep on launch day (sometimes before) without having to lift a finger. Well, maybe one to use the mouse to buy it, but whatever, it’s an expression. The business model just can’t survive the costs needed to run actual stores.
Secondly there’s pricing. Game generally hitches a ride in the back pockets of the major publishers (at least until they lost all their friends by grabbing too much from used games) and as such you’ll never see any sort of discount on a game at launch unless they suspect it will flop – the last time this happened to me was in 2007 when I bought NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, a game that was launched at half price and not even worth that. Not that I’m bitter. There’s actually some bizarre situations with its pre-owned pricing as well, since – and I swear this is true – I saw a used copy of Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, a game released nearly four years ago for a last-generation system, selling for £30. That’s absurd, it’s like trying to sell people an Apple Newton with an antenna taped to it and pricing it as an iPhone.
Compare this with Amazon, where I saw a full £50 cut from the Game price for the 3DS last March, and you begin to see cracks emerge. You see, GAME is a relic of a different age, when physical stores were pretty much the only place you could buy games, and when you only had perhaps two outlets in the nearest ten miles. Now, because of Steam and Origin (sorry) you can have steaming hot games piped directly into your house via the magic of the internet. Or in my case, sluggishly dribbled, but once again, not bitter!
Therefore, the only people they’re going to attract will be the foolish, those who don’t know where to shop for games or don’t care. This mainly amounts to harangued parents buying the latest cash-in licensed game for their hellspawn and not realising that the kindly developers who shut their kids up for a few blissful hours won’t get paid if they buy it used, and the bewildered old dears who are old enough to mistrust anything made in Japan. As gaming audiences get older and wiser, we’ll stop buying into their deals and the store will disintegrate completely. And you know what? The poor unpaid employees will lose their jobs while the executives walk away unscathed because the industry just dumps on you like that. Screw you GAME, and all that you stand for. I give them a year.