OPINION: Really, you don’t want GAME to fail

I wrote this story this morning. And I took no pleasure in writing it.

Let’s be clear about something though – the likelihood is that GAME and Gamestation will be fine. It needs to change, lean down a bit. But I’m sure it will survive.

The scare this morning is that the retailer admits there’s an increased likelihood that it will miss targets set by lenders. If that happens, lenders could in theory take action to recoup their cash. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that lenders WILL do that.

Indeed, a supportive approach is far more likely. GAME lasting and thriving offers them their best financial outcome.

What has upset me more this morning is the relish with which some commentators embrace any negative stories about GAME.

GAME has only got itself to blame.”
I wouldn’t miss GAME if it went under.”
I haven’t shopped at GAME since FOREVER.”
GAME is guilty for destroying industry creativity.”

That’s a selection (and bastardisation) of some comments I’ve heard online and on Twitter this morning. But let’s just stop for a moment and consider what it would actually be like if GAME went under.

I used to live in Croydon. Back then I spent nearly every weekend hanging out in the handful of decent indies that used to be based there. X-Electrical was akin to a retro gaming museum. I imported Animal Crossing and Viewtiful Joe for the GameCube from them. I sold them my copies of Panzer Dragoon Saga and Burning Rangers for the Saturn.

I rarely went to GAME and Gamestation.

Now all of those indies are closed. There are no indies where I live. There are none where I used to live. There are none in the town in which I work. I couldn’t name an indie within 30 minutes of me.

Now I visit my local Gamestation (Enfield Town) all the time. The staff are great, the prices are OK. They know me, I know them. I go there when Mrs Ben wants to buy clothes. I’ll hide in there if it’s raining. I’ll go in there even if I‘m not buying.

I’d be sad to see it go.

But what if GAME did ‘go under’? First and foremost – thousands and thousands of families would face dire consequences. Mrs Ben lost her job at the height of the recession in 2008. And again in 2010. It was horrific.

We had a youngster who had to be pulled out of childcare. My salary alone was barely enough to cover our 100 per cent Northern Rock mortgage, let alone the bills. Or food. Or clothes for our baby. Or games.

We had to rely on hand-outs from my family to sustain us for a period of nearly two years. My dad was in his seventies and my mum worked part-time. They were happy to help, of course, but I know that they went without. For us. And that’s a dreadful feeling to live with.

I reckon we were within one or two months of being repossessed. And once that’s happened to you, you’re screwed. We’d effectively be ruled out of the housing market for a decade. We’d have to live with parents, meaning a move to Hampshire and, for me, the possible loss of my job. We’d be paying off the penalties for failing to keep up mortgage repayments for years.

It would have been game over.

And if you wish that on anyone simply because a staff member at GAME was once a bit dismissive of you or that you think Gamestation’s pre-owned prices are too high then you need to get a grip and grow up.

You always have the choice of voting with your wallet. You’re always free to shop elsewhere. But to wish ill on a retailer because you don’t like them? Frankly, that’s disgusting.

Secondly, consider what the UK High Street would actually be like without GAME and Gamestation. There aren’t many indies left to fill the gap and the loss of GAME would do nothing to help indies – they can’t compete with supermarkets and online.

The result would be a huge number of UK High Streets left with no games presence at all. HMV? Maybe not for long. CEX? Rather you than me. Blockbuster? I guess, at a push.

Imagine if the supermarkets were the last place left to buy games on the High Street. The poor selection, the erratic prices, the stagnant back catalogue, the (please forgive me) often clueless staff.

Imagine the next generation of console arriving later this year or next without any dedicated retailers to spread the message.

I guess most of us would default to online, but for me I rely on pre-owned for my gaming. I’m not rich. My disposable income is minimal. I survive as a gamer through the generosity of publishers who send me code and the ability to sell off my old games to Gamestation. Without those, I’d be priced out of my hobby.

Love it or hate it, GAME and Gamestation are most likely more important to your hobby than you realise. And the UK market would be irrevocably weaker were they to vanish.

Despite what you may think, GAME and Gamestation are on your side. They want you to enjoy your hobby and they want to sell you the games that allow you to do so.

Don’t criticise GAME for prioritising FIFA 12 over DoDonPachi Resurrection. Shelf space is at a premium in these tough times. Any retailer that didn’t prioritise the multi-million seller would be mental.

And DoDonPachi will be there, somewhere, tucked at the back. And the guy who really wants it will find it.

If you want to blame anyone for the products that GAME and Gamestation give the most attention to then blame yourself. They are only answering to the buying habits of consumers. Sure, retailers will support product that publishers ‘encourage’ them to, but no retailer on earth will indefinitely support product that is not selling.

And I really don’t think it’s fair to criticise GAME staff for failing to match your encyclopaedic knowledge of games. They are there to serve customers. The internet is there for you to talk games.

You don’t think GAME ‘gets it right’? No, for you it probably doesn’t. But for the family and mass markets GAME targets? Yep – it’s spot on.

And I guarantee you one thing – if GAME and Gamestation were to go and not be replaced (and no, I don’t think GameStop would step in and buy them out) gaming would be weakened.

Sales would fall. And if sales continue to fall here and elsewhere, publishers will have to consider their potential releases more carefully. And in those situations it’s the ‘risky’ (read: creative, innovative) titles that are the first to be dropped.

I’m not urging you to shop at GAME and Gamestation. It’s Ian Shepherd’s job to convince you of that. All I’m urging you to do is get behind them. Because despite what you might think, they really deserve it.

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