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.