When I was younger I used to visit the GAME store every time I went into town. Even if I didn’t have the money to buy a game, I’d look at the boxes and then pick up a magazine with the best demo disc. Nowadays it doesn’t feel quite the same. Each of the several stores near by have the walls lined with a handful of blockbuster titles then a few other games in the mix. The bulk of the store is then filled with pre-owned games for just shy of full price. Whilst the staff are usually friendly, I have people coming up and asking if I want something. If I’m browsing that makes me just feel awkward and want to leave… despite the fact that I’m prone to impulse buying.
Today I was discussing the need for so many stores in a relatively small area and the argument I was given was simply about having their location near competitors like HMV. Kind of makes sense. If people can buy from either store then if there’s a HMV near by and GAME is 20 minutes away, they’ll go to HMV. However what I feel is wrong there is the first part, being able to buy from either store. GAME, as supposed “games specialist”, won’t have much different in the way of stock to HMV and if I go to HMV I can also have a gander at DVDs or music. That is GAME’s failing. Their stock is limited and they don’t provide the consumer with anything that they can’t buy from another store or online for much cheaper.
Don’t get me wrong. It is a terrible thing to happen, in particular for the staff who I wish all the best. However lets not forget that GAME was quite happy when it crushed the indie store, something I much prefer for the variety. Since then it has fallen wayward providing very little to push itself to the front of the pack and as a result has fallen to the back and out of the race.
As mentioned earlier, I much prefer independant stores as they usually have retro games, imports and games that are just harder to come by. Perhaps if some part of GAME was to survive it could look at this. Instead of jostling with the entertainment stores to sell copies of the same games, sell something different as well. The indie market is growing but many developers are struggling for visibility. Why not use this to provide your own range of games? Every month or so could see a new GAME Pack with a feature indie game and a host of others thrown in the mix. Effectively the humble bundle in a box.
There’s other avenues that could be taken as well, such as having staff each pick a “Game of the Month” and give a brief review. Create a more personal feel to the stores, making the message that parents looking for present ideas should shop at GAME’s stores. When advertising in store, look to advertise games that you WON’T see on the TV. For anyone into games it is practically impossible to avoid hearing about the new Call of Duty, so why does GAME push that on us rather than a new innovative IP?
Of course a major problem here is the big publishers. If EA / Activision don’t get to fill the shop window with their adverts and the walls with their games it could mean trouble. Of course this is no small earner for GAME, but its lead to them effectively being the little bitch of the major publishers and they’ve been burnt for it.
Give the consumer a reason to decide “lets go have a look in GAME” and they’ll shop there.