The worst kept secret in the gaming world is out. As of Wednesday 21st March, GAME has been withdrawn from the London Stock Exchange and filed for administration. The ailing company seems to be doing all it can to stay afloat with the closure of at least 300 stores (mostly from their GameStation line), and it looks as though a new company may rise from the ashes. But what happened? How did GAME fall from grace so quickly? Most importantly, though, what does it all mean?
Firstly, I’d like to let you know I called it. I’d like to, but I can’t, since there’s no professionalism in it and moreover no proof. For the sake of argument though, let’s assume I did and head on back to the olde-worlde steam year of 2011. The videogame market was a little starved for releases, and the first warning signs began to show when L.A. Noire was the only successful title for game for several months. There was quiet until November, when, buoyed by the release of the dazzlingly popular Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim, the company began preparing for its usual Christmas rush when something rather unexpected happened. Nobody was buying games. Well, sure, they were, but not GAME’s games, which hit then right in the wallet. GAME usually relied upon the Christmas period’s revenue to see them through the less lucrative summer months, but this time it didn’t happen – their cash flow took a dive.
See, GAME have always been rather pushy about used games, often endorsing or outright encouraging customers to buy them over new copies. This might have saved said customers a pound or two, but caused the publishers and developers no end of headaches and lost revenue. In early February, rumours emerged that GAME was to be unable to stock several new games, including several PSVita games (eventually, this turned out to be true – Ubisoft withdrew their launch lineup from GAME). This progressed further through early March, leading to the EA announcement that none of their new games would be available at the store. Then came the revelation that Mario Party 9 would not be making an appearance either. The publishers fell like dominoes, EA and Nintendo taking with them Tecmo, Capcom and Activision. This essentially signed Game’s death warrant. with debts of £180 million and no FIFA, Resident Evil or Call of Duty to look forward to, it was all they could do to stem the flow. Game formally announced that they were calling in administrators on March 21st.
The plan now seems to be selling off whatever assets they have left and trying to scrape together what they can to sell to a new parent company, possibly Wall-Mart or GameStop in the US. This would most likely mean a new series of stores called ‘GAME’, with a radically new direction and business style. The giant would still be the UK’s biggest specialist games retailer, even after shedding the planned 300 stores, since no real competition exists outside of the realms of the internet.
Hopefully, the new, relaunched store would be able to weather the coming onslaught of digital distribution and online retailers that make physical games stores such a fragile enterprise. If not, the UK’s gamers can expect to do without a store that, while flawed, overpriced and too obsessed with preowned titles, served them well for 22 years.
I’d personally like to wish all the staff at GAME/GameStation the best of luck, and express my thanks for the hard work they’ve done over the years.