Game continues to slide...
If you live in or have traveled through London you will have no doubt encountered discarded newspapers on tubes, in the street and in lunch and common rooms across the capital. If you are lucky you might find yourself with the Evening Standard or the Metro to help lunch/train/bus journeys fly by a bit quicker. If you are unlucky it will be City A.M. a boring newspaper about the city and stocks and graphs and FTSEs. However, recently I've not minded flicking through City A.M if only to follow the slip slide of GAME group into liquidation (possibly). In today's City A.M some goon from GAME group was blaming the lack of a new console cycle as a cause of their poor success. Okay, so I know very little about economics and markets and stocks and shares but I'm going to go out on a limb to say that it is pretty retarded to rely on the console cycles in order for the business to stay afloat. In the same week that sales of the Wii have topped 30 million across Europe you'd think somebody at GAME might have clocked on that actually selling games to all those with consoles in their home might be a lucrative business.
It doesn't help that consoles are still quite expensive. At retail Wii bundles are £100, Xbox360s are £150-200 and the PlayStation 3 is still over £200. So if, as purportedly is the case with GAME, you know that new consoles might not be coming around as quickly as they have done in the past (five years per generation is often quoted but actually it isn't as straightforward as that) then as a retailer you need to do your upmost to encourage people to buy games. For the Wii that's encouraging people to buy an extra three full price games a year, the same for the Xbox and up to six games for the overpriced PS3. I don't know about the attachment figures for each of the consoles but I suspect that 3 is way too high. Six is definitely too high and even then GAME would be having to offer a hell of a better retail experience than they are at the moment to encourage people to unload already stretched wallets on games. Especially as it seems that most people are getting their gaming kicks (albeit shallow gaming kicks) from their smart phones.
From my experience, customer service borders mediocre/awful in terms of friendliness, knowledge and the atmosphere (broken demo pods, smell of boys in the morning, dirty shops and GAME radio) in the shops. The range of games is also very poor, the red carpet is rolled out for the big releases but I've been into GAME on launch weeks of less renowned franchises to find they don't have the games. On occassion, like some kind of caveman I have walked to a physical shop with a hard copy list and some real money in my pocket looking to buy not-obscure highly acclaimed games and been forced to walk away empty handed. Not because the games were to expensive (I'm happy to pay a bit more to be able to play games straight away rather than wait for them to ship) but because they weren't stocked. And I'm a hardcore gamer who knows what they want. If GAME can't even serve a customer like me I'm sure most 'casual' gamers are left confused or disappointed with Carnival Games and the like. Furthermore, Amazon almost always beat game on price and has a significantly broader selection particularly for games older than a month. As far as I can make out, GAME hasn't been in the PC market since the late 90s and has done nothing to combat the spread of Steam (Steam hitting over 5 million concurrent users just last week). Another strategy of insidious- limited/collectors/special game editions hardly appeals to the masses either by bumping up the price of games by double or even more for an extra piece of gaming tat .
It could have been different IMHO. Game could have cottoned on to the expansion of the gaming market and made their stores more of an 'experience' like the Apple stores for example. For those who don't live and breath video games discerning what is good or bad can be an incredibly daunting task. This is something almost universally taken for granted in the video game online community. Sadly, some people turn up to a GAME store thinking they are the best placed to find great gaming experiences. We all know it isn't. I think GAME could have completely rethought their stores to cater to the wider market and helped match people who picked up a Wii for Wii Sports or an Xbox for Kinect or a PS3 for Singstar/Dance Party etc with other games that they might really enjoy but otherwise weren't aware of by retraining their staff, reorganising their stores and especially rethinking how they stock games. HMV also seems to be struggling at the moment and they have a near comprehensive range of music and movies (younger readers might not remember the days when you'd have to specially order music from virtually any act that wasn't currently in the charts).
As I've said before, I will be sad if hard copy physical video game shops drop off the high street. Partly because I like the feeling of being an upstanding citizen and buying things in a shop that might help our every growing and healthy economy. I also struggle with believing that gaming is legitimate, this won't help if we have to resort to using online retailers all the time (think of the other things you can only order online- sex dolls, dungeon equipment, dodgy pharmaceuticals). It somewhat buries the culture again, doubly important considering that arcades have virtually disappeared too. Lastly, whilst games continue to be boxed products at least, I am particularly fussy about the quality of a boxed game (new or preowned). If I buy it in a store, if I am not happy I know where to go to uphold my rights as a consumer. Online, you aren't always guaranteed these rights particular in the second hand market.