The Changing Face of Games Retail

Keza MacDonald hopes the demise of Game Group might herald the return to the high street of small enthusiast shops.

“Game Group, the company that owns both of the specialist high-street games retailers Game and Gamestation, has officially gone into administration , after suspending trading on its shares and filing for administration last week. Along with practically everybody in the games media, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this over the past few weeks, going over the potential reasons for Game’s failure to compete and its spiralling implications – not just for the obvious victims, its UK customers and employees, but for everyone who buys, makes and sells games. You can read about all of that here if you’re interested, but there’s no other way to spin it – this is bad news for all of us.

What I haven’t seen much talk about is our personal relationship with games retail. Game as it currently stands, with its limited selection of strong sellers and at times rather aggressive emphasis on pre-owned, up-selling and pre-order deposits, bears little resemblance to the Game that I visited when I was growing up. Games shops were actually places that I used to go to hang out when I was a teenager, to browse with friends and occasionally make new ones. It’s this experiential side of retail that things like Steam and Amazon haven’t replaced, and I really miss it.

Our local Gamestation in Edinburgh, before it was swallowed by Game Group, was a two-floor gamer’s paradise with new stuff on the bottom floor and a top floor full of T-shirts, figurines, demo stations and racks full of retro games going back to the NES. The most valuable of these items were displayed in glass cases. I remember staring longingly at a mint condition (and very overpriced) copy of the super-rare SNES game Secret of Mana inside one of those cases for about two months. Now and then there’d be someone else staring longingly at it right beside me, and we’d strike up a conversation. The staff were friendly and passionate (as many Game and Gamestation employees still are), and would happily chat for a half hour, trading recommendations and experiences. It was a real enthusiast store. I spent a faintly ridiculous amount of money and time there.

After Gamestation’s acquisition, whilst games sales were really booming between around 2006 and 2010, a lot of this disappeared. Retro was sidelined and eventually eliminated entirely in favour of a Game-like pre-owned model that focussed on newer games only. The merchandise became slowly more generic until most of the quirky stuff was gone and only the DS cases and Mario plushes remained. I stopped visiting games shops very quickly and started buying online. I attributed the death of the games shop as I remembered it as a necessary complication of my hobby’s move into the mainstream, and mourned it only briefly.

When I moved to Japan at the end of 2008 though, I discovered a world where the game shop was still an experience. There, alongside the rows of shiny new games at the front of the store, you’d find Dreamcast and N64 and Mega Drive games just an aisle away. Pretty much every games shop apart from the massive Bic Cameras and Yodabashi Cameras superstores gave as much floorspace to older games as it did to the new stuff, with 10-year-old boxes proudly displayed and baskets full of miscellaneous cartridges in which you might find a treasure.

Near where I lived in Nagoya there was a second-hand games and CD store, K’s House, that looked and smelled like someone’s attic, with cartridges and disc cases and mysterious, obsolete peripherals and controllers stacked head-high. Now and then, flipping through N64 games in there, I’d see some Japan-only game that I’d read about as a nine-year-old in a magazine and delightedly hand over ¥500 (£3.80) for it. My shelves are liberally adorned with such curios. God only knows how much money I spent.

I could have predicted that the experience of shopping for games somewhere like Osaka’s Den Den Town or Tokyo’s Akihabara would be exhilarating for any geek, but what I didn’t understand about Japanese retail is that most stores were like this. In Britain, shopping is something I do grudgingly and in as little time possible, picking up things online wherever possible. In Japan it became a recreational activity.

All of this will probably sound intimately familiar to anyone who collects vinyl. The record shop is perhaps a British equivalent to the Japanese games store. But surely there must be a place for enthusiast shops here, still, alongside the megachains like Game (or whatever Game is replaced with in the coming weeks). If it turns out that the British high street cannot support a games megachain, does that mean it can’t support smaller, more specialist shops either? Can’t there be somewhere for enthusiasts to shop, too, whilst mums and gifters and more casual browsers pick up FIFA and COD and Just Dance from bigger chains and supermarkets? Bigger retail stores are vital to the health of the games industry, but for a long time they’ve been all there is.

Maybe they do exist, somewhere, and I just don’t know about them. Do you?”

Keza MacDonald is UK games editor at You can follow her on Twitter @kezamacdonald
This is merely a repost of a very interesting article, you can read the entire piece here.


Game Over for GAME

After following the situation for the last week or so, what I find amusing is the ex-CEO of the company blaming the poor fate of the company on a poor 2011, including Christmas on some articles.

Yeah, I suppose titles like CoD:MW3, Battlefield 3, Skyrim, Fifa 12, Madden 12, Uncharted 3, Professor Leiton IV, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, Zumba, Dead Island, Forza 4, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, SW:TOR, Batman: Arkham City, Saints Row: The Third, Deux-Ex, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Need For Speed: The Run, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, God of War Collection 1 & 2, Sonic Generations, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Just Dance 3, Driver, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, L.A. Noir, Mortal Kombat, Mass Effect 2 and Dead Space 2 were just total garbage (some better ‘garbage’ then others) and the lack of AAA titles this year was the company’s doom…

Gotta love people that manage company’s without so much of a clue of what they are actually selling or talking about. But hey, it’s easier to blame the “lack of titles” over last Christmas and the digital distribution market (Steam) and Online only retailers (Amazon).
Yes, that sounds legitimate, let’s blame Steam which is but a small portion of the market compared to the consoles and might as well blame online stores like Amazon for being intelligent and having stupidly amazing prices and promotions strictly online. What’s that you say? Oh GAME’s website also had cheaper products then the stores? Well, why not do those prices in-store as well? Oh you got rent, shipping and employee costs to pay, that’s right. Well look how that turned out eh, people rather buy online then, there goes the rent money, oh snap.

Oh but they still don’t buy from YOUR online shop, but rather from Amazon or Steam, or even eBay? Damn, I wonder why that is… Maybe the over-the-top profit margins? Ever heard less is more? Steam sure did, so did Amazon.

I suppose 2 years since Ian Sheperd took the reins wasn’t enough to see how game was spiralling to their demise, nor to adapt to a market THEY should actually know about, digital distribution and price slashes right under their noses and still they missed the train, amazing…
You don’t charge people extra on a time of crisis like the world (and specially Europe) is still in, you charge less and do amazing deals and behold, you actually end up selling more.

Example time:

I was still working at a GAME store when Dead Island came out, the game was a blockbuster hit, sold out in every GAME shop in London, except ours, we had so much stock due to ghost pre-orders (that’s when you pre-order games for a fictitious costumer). And what did the brainiacs in head offices decided to do? Increase the price from 34.99£, to 39.99£ and when stock was really low, up again to 42.99£, boy, they were so smart! You know what people did? Hit the road to online retailers and Tesco’s. Gratz GAME offices!

Oh GAME… I guess a fair analogy would be to compare you to a sexy blonde, best thing that ever happened to most men, yet dumb as a door knob.

At this point, I just really hope GameStop or whoever saves your ass, because I want my Diablo III CE pre-order! But if not, well, I guess I’ll have to go Amazon, teh-heh! :>


Rant #1

Yesterday I served what I thought was a very arrogant customer, making snide comments about my line of work, and aggressive body language, I eventually confronted him about it saying he was acting arrogant to which his reply was: “I’m better then you”. I want to thank him for proving my point.

The lack of boars in Cataclysm

By Brosephine, Human Paladin @ Silvermoon EU
Taken from the EU forums:

(This was too good to leave it alone)

“I can’t help but notice that Cataclysm has had a distinctive lack of boars. When I leveled through the Vanilla content I was asked to kill boars. When I was done killing boars, I was asked to kill some more. Wherever I went, I was asked to kill boars. Burning Crusade came along, with more boars, fel boars. But then WotLK came, and everyone was especting frostboars but… no boars. Not a single boar.

So I was thinking, surely Blizzard will see to this injustice to be fixed in Cataclysm, but there were no seaboars in Vashj’ir, no fireboars in Hyjal, no stoneboars in Deepholm, no desert boars in Uldum and not even the Dragonmaw orcs had boars! But they’re orcs! Now you tell me there’s not boars in the Firelands?

So will we see the return of the mighty boar in MoP?”

So yeah, Blizzard where are my liver-less boars?

Challenging Challenge Modes


Regarding challenge modes in the upcoming World of Warcraft – Mysts of Pandaria expansion.

If I were to be asked by Blizzard my opinion, I’d have to say “challenge mode” does not seem challenging at all at this time, and I hope they really take into account this type of feedback. I absolutely agree, running a dungeon ASAP to get more score/points/whatever is definitely not a challenge, not in the context of what Warcraft is.

Look at the current state of heroics (and the same started to happen by the middle of Wrath), you queue up and run the thing as fast as humanly possible, skipping this and that boss. We’re already doing challenge mode today, we just don’t get rewards for it.
If we are to have a real challenge mode that actually makes sense in wow, then make it proper, as gear equalization doesn’t seem enough at this time.
A few suggestions would be:

No boss skipping.
It’s challenge mode, ‘everything-has-to-die’ would make sense.
CC should be rewarded.
As in, the amount of times/CC combos and ‘where/on who’ was CC was used, and extra score/points should be earned for it.
Create very particular achievements for it.
With this I mean specific achievements, like “Have the pack of <boss name>’s 3 bodyguards being Polymorph, Unconcious (sap), and scared to death (fear) before <boss name>’s lands his first blow”. Create different combinations!
Reward ‘oh shit’ situations that were overcome.
Did the party nearly wipe? But didn’t because those 2 guys managed to stay alive and finish the pack/boss? More score to the party then!
‘All Clear’ reward.
Kill every single pack and boss on that instance and get more points!
Speed run(?)
The faster you clear it the better, but! How well did you fair in the other fields? If you cleared the dungeon as fast as possible but didn’t do CC’s, Skipped some trash and other variables, then you won’t get a lot of points anyway, in fact, the amount of points you get for a ‘speed run’ should be low in comparison to the rest of the variables.

What if I actually want a speed run?
Sure, more power to you then, but I’d suggest you make a specific mode just for it. That way we could have:

Normal mode dungeons.
(for teh nabs)
Heroic mode dungeons.
(or remove them altogether being replaced by challenge modes)
Challenge mode dungeons.
(my suggestion above)
Speed-run mode dungeons.
(run and clear bosses asap to get your rewards)
Tower Defense/Survival mode.
(hell, let’s make it interesting! Survive through several waves of incoming mobs that keep coming through specific doors in the instances, the more waves you survive… you get the point)

Add some Blizzard magic dust to it, and it would turn out amazingly fun to run a 5man again in my opinion.

“In the game industry, like the television industry, the battle is ultimately one for people’s time” – Chris Morris


I think a few people here are missing the point when – justifiably – blogers and critics mention that small apps, ipads, kindle’s and iphones are a ‘threat’ to the console market, specially to the one that will need to catch up like the Wii U.

It’s all pretty much self explain in the sentence “Remember, in the game industry, like the television industry, the battle is ultimately one for people’s time”. This couldn’t be truer, obviously the threat isn’t plain and simple, or noticeable, that’s the ‘beauty’ of it really, it’s a sort of stealth threat that it might become serious, or not.
While we cannot really directly compare a Wii to an Ipad or a kindle, the ultimate goal is indeed to thrive when people are choosing what to do with their time and what sort of life-style they have.
Before the apps and ipad mania there was no real threat to any console, if you want games, you buy a console (or use your pc) and that was it, but now people have a lot more choice of how, where, and when they want to game – aka use their time – A person that is constantly on the move but want something interesting to do while travelling or commuting will most likely go for a simple platform like a kindle or a few iphone games to fiddle around. Yet, that same person might not find any usefulness to have (or spend more money on) a Wii, regardless if he likes to throw parties at home with his friends or family.

People that like to play games casually are no longer forced to own a console to do so, and fulfuil their gaming needs with a simple <insert any hand-held device here>, thus making the point of console = games mute.

So yes, it might be just a storm in a glass of water, but it has the potential to be enough of a threat to hinder some extra sales, lost to people who just have no home-time to spend on gaming.
I’m a Wii owner myself and it’s my favorite console, but it’s severely underused by me and my companion, she loves it more then I do and barely uses it, due to; precisely, lack of time. Yet, on the other hand, I’ve happen to know couples that spend the time they have at home fondling around their ipad games and buying games for a £ instead of spending 200£ on a console and a few more on 2 or 3 titles.

Plus you’ve got major announcements for new generation consoles coming from Microsoft and Sony somewhere between 2012 and/or 2013 at the latest. And when they launch 1 or 2 years later the Wii U will have around 3 to 4 years of age, and although the current Wii had the upper hand when it launched – by tapping into a market that was untouched and full of potential, the casual/family gamers – this time both Sony and Microsoft will be aware of that market and if they do their homework right, they’ll tap it from the get go with something innovating (Note that innovation mostly Microsoft since Sony just tends to copy-cat others (The early unreleased PSX controllers; the Wii remotes/Move) and their real innovations don’t break any ground and fail miserably (PSP Go).

Under the Knife! (2)

Yes, under the knife 2! That will be my situation within less then a week, and being the gaming ‘tard’ that I am, I couldn’t help myself but to fool around with existing games and use them as an analogy. Even “2” was specifically selected since it’s technically the second time I’m going under, that’s how sad I am :3.

In short, this surgery is something that will finally put a lid on some unfinished business for the past.. 28 years really. My diagnostic was, and still is, Pulmonary Valvular Stenosis, this basically translates in general symptoms of lowered oxygenation of the blood, quick fatigue, purple tone of the face and hands, etc. The most noticeable of them being the fatigue, rendering me tired as hell just after some minimal effort (running, carrying weights).

This surgery will finally fix that – rather then amend it temporarily like the first time (but it wasn’t possible to do so at the time anyway) – and finally give me a, long expected, better life quality, trivial things like being able to ride a bike will be possible, Oh joy!

“Y U NO RIDE BIKE AT 28?” ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)