Phones 4 U, Polish Videogames 4 Me?

During an amble through my town centre’s shopping mall this afternoon, I managed to, stupidly, purchase a Polish dubbed edition of Battlefield 3 for my PS3.

I know.

Now, that’s entirely my own fault, it does say Polska on the box, albeit somewhat hidden in the corner by the PEGI rating; Still, I have chosen to blame this frankly ridiculous purchase on fact rather than sheer idiocy – the fact I’ve resorted to buying my games from Cash Generator.

I’d like to think had I walked into the GameStation a few doors down I’d have been given an English edition of the EA DICE shooter – you know, one I could actually understand and enjoy, or at the very least, the staff would have asked if I was aware that this one disc, for whatever reason, was Polish.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the GameStation brand was dissolved during GAME Group’s financial woes and the stores that once housed RPG geek’s-a-plenty are mostly now filled with “loot hunters” of a different kind – those who frequent Poundland or charity shops.

My local GameStation branch however, after sitting empty for 10 months or so, has bucked the trend and just reopened as a bright, welcoming, technology filled… mobile phone shop.

Another phone shop? How do they manage it? If I take a casual walk from one end of the shopping centre to the other, it will take somewhere between five and ten minutes. In those few minutes, I’ll pass numerous tacky clothes stores, a handful of discount outlets, and depressingly, just as many empty units as those occupied.

Oh, and nine mobile phone shops.

Thats nine dedicated mobile phone shops; The likes of Phones 4 U or the ubiquitous EE. I’m not including the Virgin Entertainment or Apple units, or the four or five independent sellers on the market. Nor am I including the handful of second hand stores, like CEX, with cabinets full of iPhones and Samsung Galaxys.

I really don’t understand how they’re still in business. It’s a ridiculously saturated market, one that surely cannot be sustainable much longer. These shops are often mere footsteps apart, and all sell the same handsets and accessories at RRP, very rarely with any distinction to the handset only buyer – thus becoming little more than contract showrooms.

Is this what “high street retail” has become? Cheap multipacks of Quavers and people scrambling over each other to offer me more international minutes than I’ll use in a lifetime?

I despair. I just want to shoot someone.

Preferably, in English.

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Phones 4 U, Polish Videogames 4 Me?

GAME Might Be Interested In Old HMV Premises

It’s been confirmed this evening by GAME Retail’s CEO Martyn Gibbs – that the groups management have approached Deloitte – the company called in to deal with HMV & Blockbuster’s recently announced receivership – with regards to the possible acquisition of some 40 odd retail units currently operating as HMV.

This surprising move comes a mere 10 months after GAME itself (as GAME Group) filled for administration, and subsequently closed over 250 of their lesser performing stores.

The new look GAME are believed to have exceeded sales expectations over Christmas and many are assuming this, coupled with the sudden apparent lack of high street competition, has given the company reason to look at expanding or returning into those towns and cities in which they once held premises.

The most interesting thing here, however, is what GAME could potentially be planning to do with these new premises; Every HMV I’ve ever been in has a considerably larger footprint than any surviving GAME store, and many of these are spread over multiple floors.

These two points alone make the idea of the new branches being simply “GAME” as we know it somewhat of an oddity. Further curiosity arises once we look at the current marketplace; – We’re moving towards the next generation, and digital downloads are becoming an ever more prevalent part of the video game shopper’s experience; This, atop the growing popularity of points cards for XBLA, PSN or Steam and the increased push from platform holders to move consumers onto subscription models like PlayStation Plus or Live, can only mean that the traditional boxed-product shelf space a retailer would need is actually shrinking. So why the bigger stores?

Obviously, as part of their relaunch GAME have diversified somewhat, and are using that space in their current branches accordingly. They now stock a much wider range of merchandise and associated products which may appeal to gamers, rather than just the games themselves, and that merchandise brings with it an increased chance for GAME to call upon a stalwart of traditional retail, the upsale. Perhaps sir would like a guidebook, a t-shirt or a plush toy to accompany his new title?

More recently however, it’s something quite different that has proved the high street’s saviour, tempting customers, and crucially, their wallets, away from online – the offer of an ‘experience’. An exciting high street purchase can no longer be a solemn experience involving near endless queues and nothing else. Customers want to get hands-on with their products: they want to see how they feel, how they look, and just generally get a try-before-you-buy experience which isn’t on offer elsewhere. We all understand high-street retail comes at a premium compared to it’s online counterparts, but whilst every household is undergoing their own austerity measures daily, struggling retailers will need to evolve.

Is this GAME’s new game?

Perhaps with the next generation of home consoles on the horizon GAME are planning to rely less on selling us a product, than an experience?

Could we see these new larger, open-plan or multi-leveled units being used as pioneering tech lounges, or even gaming cafés? Will GAME build upon their current invite-only ‘lock in’ evenings and hold more, bigger scale, public gaming events?

As a child, when I first started gaming, right up to the very moment I write this (and beyond), I’ve always wanted to see more community within gaming retail – there’s an ever present social aspect within video games which the mainstream seem to ignore, and the sooner this is realised the better. Games retail ought to be about those buying the games.

I’d love to walk in to a bright, open GAME, with knowledgeable staff, and plenty of demonstration units to hand. To walk into GAME and discuss a new release with a complete stranger, before loading it up and playing a co-op round, then swapping gamertags for later.

Perhaps this is a little off kilter with GAME’s business plans, but who knows, it works for Apple.

GAME Might Be Interested In Old HMV Premises

To Infinity And… Stop There, Perhaps?

So, Disney has officially announced Infinity.

In a nutshell, this is Disney’s grab at the character driven hysteria (and it’s subsequent profits) the Skylander’s franchise has been enjoying for the last 12 months.
With the right marketing, if Disney Interactive do this right, the opportunities for near endless revenue streams are tenfold. Aside from harnessing the direct Disney & Pixar licences, there’s the Marvel, Muppets and Star Wars IP to play with too. All hugely loved, and already massive franchises in their own right; Very exciting stuff indeed.

Cross promotion and tie-ins with upcoming movies or Disney Channel shows are just another reason that gamers, platform holders and Disney’s accountants alike will likely be rubbing their hands with glee as this tried and tested formula makes a move to market in a few short months.

One thing I’m not excited about as a consumer though? Lack of PlayStation Vita support.
The first reveal trailer for Infinity, shows the title to be coming to the big three home consoles as expected. 360, PS3 & Wii U. Further to those, there’s a Wii release, which, whilst a little unexpected, is entirely sensible given the original console’s untouchable install base within Disney’s traditional target market age band. Of course, the Wii U’s relative infancy is also a factor as to the game’s generation slide back to the recently superseded Wii, but alas, the fact it’s still found its way onto the U is something to bear in mind as you read on.

So, no Vita version? Is this because the game’s a play at home title requiring large peripherals and long over-arching storylines explaining the life and times of Buzz Lightye… Oh, there’s a 3DS version.

Like Skylanders then – even though it is seen to be entirely possible Disney’s Infinity will run perfectly well on a handheld, in one form or another – the development team have chosen to overlook Sony’s handheld, and stick to the Nintendo faithful.
I’m sure Disney have their reasons for this, but at some point, somewhere, developers will need to push forward and support new hardware, and Sony really ought to start talking to devs to make things like this happen.

After the success of Skylanders, letting what may well be the final big multi-platform franchise of this generation launch and leave you standing at the gates is not only embarrassing for your brand, it’s a significant business failure.

A game featuring Cars’ Lightning McQueen & lovable pirate Jack Sparrow may not sell to the PS Vita’s current users, but it would certainly put the Sony handheld on more Christmas lists. Likewise a Marvel Avengers or Star Wars character set would sell ridiculous numbers to the older and (occasionally) more discerning current owners. Win-win.

Business is business, and poor unit uptake and sales figures will always mean that companies don’t want to risk their money on you – but if, as a major platform holder, you can’t get what looks to be a dead cert on board, you’re fueling your own funeral pyre, I’m afraid.

Developers not supporting new hardware is damaging the industry, and if the likes of Sony, or even nVidia with their upcoming Shield handheld, do not address the issue head on, then in the current risk-adverse climate innovative new products will be long dead before they’re even launched.

I’m sure Infinity will be fine, regardless. The Vita, however, might regret not getting more third parties on board, especially those with such popular brands already attached to them.

To Infinity And… Stop There, Perhaps?

HMV Expected To Enter Administration Tomorrow

It appears HMV is set to become the latest high street retailer to face closure, with administrators Deloitte expected to move in at the opening of business tomorrow.

This comes after several years of declining profits and hard fought battles against online retailers and cut price supermarket deals.

What is unclear currently is whether the HMV brand will remain, like GAME before it, or all but disappear within a matter of days, like camera specialist Jessops just last week.

HMV currently operate more than 230 stores and employ over 4,000 staff.

Personally, I think we all know this has been on the cards quite a long time – I do believe however that the name and iconic branding still holds some precedence and hope to see at least some of the stores saved.

It’s important to stress that if administrators are appointed the chain is no longer required to accept any gift vouchers or store credit. I therefore recommend that if you can, you spend those as soon as doors open tomorrow, or risk losing them.

Best wishes to all affected.

HMV Expected To Enter Administration Tomorrow

GAME Offering Free GTA V Pre-Orders With Selected Purchases

High street retailer GAME have announced that customers buying certain pre-owned titles, including Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3, are currently able to put their name down for a copy of Rockstar’s upcoming Grand Theft Auto V ahead of it’s Spring release, free of charge.

This pre-order, which normally requires a £5 deposit, secures your copy on launch day, and nets you a pretty neat double sided poster too. Whilst this promotion is almost certainly being offered to ensure GAME’s pre-order allocation is high, and they have plenty of stock delivered at launch, it’s still a nice little bonus for those of us who are yet to place an order for what’s likely to be one of 2013 biggest titles.

GAME Offering Free GTA V Pre-Orders With Selected Purchases