Monday, 5 March 2012

Staying in the GAME

It was very tempting to go with the much overused and expected ‘GAME Over’ pun for a title, but I just about managed to resist. Well, I almost did, but I still mentioned it in the top paragraph. That’s still worth half a point for making an effort to be original, right? But anyway, with the disastrous no-show of Mass Effect 3 in stores caused by a financial black hole and the possibility that such a thing might become a trend, is there a way for GAME to survive as a high street retailer?

In its current form I am not convinced that GAME can possibly stay around for much longer. Even the company directors are considering a retreat from the brick sanctuaries found lining town centres and shopping arcades. It’s easy to see where they are losing their customers. Let’s be honest, if you are tech savvy enough to navigate to my little Internet blog, you probably do most of your shopping online where you can find titles 20 per cent cheaper than you will find them in GAME.

Focussing on the chain’s problems isn’t the point of this post, but it’s obvious that the overpriced games, understocked back catalogues and rip-off trade-in prices are but a few reasons why most people tend to go elsewhere. What would it take to turn the business around and give prime location shops an edge over websites that can operate from warehouses in the darkest corners of nowhere?

One advantage of physically existing in a high traffic area is the ability to show off your products. The online domain has been slowly catching up with the amount of exposure it can output, but it still can’t quite rival the possibility of letting you play the game instantly. It might just be my memory fading into oblivion, but I seem to remember that demo units used to be a lot more prominent in shops. These days it seems like you’d be lucky to see a DS booth in the corner. Surely allowing customers to try before they buy will influence snap decisions?

Whilst demo units will take up space on the shop floor, it will be another hook to draw people from the street and into store. I realise it isn’t perfect as you will still get the bored dossers that have no intention of buying anything come in and play the games, but it still pulls in a bigger crowed of potential customers.

Introducing regular events could also draw in crowds of people. I don’t just mean launch events designed to flog the latest games and consoles, but things like Street Fighter tournaments or Call of Duty shootouts. You’d need staff dedicated (or desperate) enough to work the extra hours, but making your shop something more than a place to buy games could help develop a loyal customer base who would actually want to buy games from the business.

Game shops can survive, but they need to work out what they can offer to gamers other than just a place to buy games. They will never be able to seriously compete with the online retailers at a pure price level because they have drastically increased running costs in comparison. But there must be a plethora of advantages that are just waiting to be tapped from having control of over 500 shops across the UK. If GAME forms a proper community to engage and embrace, people might be able to justify paying slightly more for their games.

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