Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Tue, 06 Mar 2012
It's not looking good for Game, the UK's 'specialist' high street video games retailer.
In the last few days we've learned that they aren't stocking EA's Mass Effect 3 (and other EA titles), they aren't stocking Nintendo's Mario Party 9 (and other Nintendo titles), there will be no stock of Ubisoft's Vita games or Capcom's next Street Fighter game, and even the Sony Vita hardware they're selling has 'property of Sony' stickered on it, until the moment it's sold.
It's a good job they've got such a loyal customer base who'll carry on shopping there for all the other great, hard to find games they sell, the cool and unusual merchandise they stock, the valuable fan-focussed services they offer, and the trusted expertise they provide, outside of pushing AAA titles that they don't have any more... Oh yeah, right... they're stuffed.
I dug out my old Electronics Boutique card today and popped down to see if I had any credit on it worth redeeming before it's too late. It only had a fiver on it, and the only game I fancy (Dark Souls) was 33 quid (only available pre-owned), so I didn't redeem it, but the nice lady behind the counter was quite excited to see such an old 'loyalty' card still going.
I'm not loyal to Game though. I don't like them, and I won't be sad to see them go (while not wishing redundancy on any of the staff who work there).
At best Game have been a poor servant to the games industry, and at worst have actually damaged it.
The argument always trotted out in their favour is that the games industry needs (or needed) a specialist retailer for visibility on the high street, and without Game nobody would know about new games, and all we'll see are the small number of big, safe commercial hits for sale in the supermarkets.
Well, I think that's all we've ever really had from Game. They've taken the space of a specialist shop on the high street, but acted more or less like a supermarket, and only ever focused on a small number of safe, familiar commercial titles like Fifa and COD and Mario games.
They've never really, properly stocked niche titles, they've never provided any fan service, they've never brought over mad Japanese imports, or odd RPGs, or provided visibility for any of the strange and unusual and beautiful games that will never be stocked in the supermarkets, or if they have they've done it in such a desultory, disinterested fashion that they might as well have not bothered.
I can remember dozens of times over the years when a great but uncommercial gem of a game was released, but couldn't be found in a supermarket or a Game on launch day, and I had to go online to find a copy.
They've never been a shop for video game fans.
With their heavy promotion of pre-owned stock, Game killed the possibility of 'long tail' sales of great, niche games with good word of mouth (i.e. exactly the sort of games I've made personally), which in turn has been responsible for the phenomena of all sales of retail games being compressed into the first couple of weeks after launch (as pre-owned sales take up the slack from then on), helping to kill the middle-tier of console games that don't have that massive first week marketing push, thus killing the middle-tier developers who made those games.
Maybe none of this is exclusively Game's fault, but they share some of the blame for an increasingly narrow AAA hit focused retail sector that's also killing the remaining publishers and developers who make these risky, expensive games, forcing the migration of so many creative and talented developers to digital download platforms, which is in turn killing the retailers themselves.
I love video games, and I think the games industry in the UK deserves a decent specialist retailer that provides a different service to the supermarkets and electronics stores. A retailer that supports and stocks games other than just the big budget, heavily marketed AAA titles. The existence of Game, and the way they swallowed up and homogenised rivals like Electronics Boutique and Gamestation, has killed the possibility of such a retailer ever existing.
So, any ideas on what I can buy with that fiver on my loyalty card? Quick!