So Gamestation has passed into the great beyond, well, according to MCV anyway. At the Game Conference, it was announced that all stores will now operate under the GAME brand, leaving Gamestation – first founded as an independent in York in 1993 – to undergo a cosmetic change and be fully assimilated into its current overload parents, like a high street Borg. As a former GAME employee (and one who is relatively fond of their continued presence on the high street) it’s an ultimately unsurprising move.
Back when I first joined the company in 2008, I was informed of the purpose of having two separate chains being run by the same company. Game was the family friendly store, where first time or younger gamers would come. Store assistants here were told to constantly approach people – yeah, I was the person you hated for hanging around like a fly in garbage – and see what they wanted. Gamestation was designed to be as independent as possible; their target customer knew what he wanted and was probably as boned up on gaming as the store staff. It created two stores that could, in theory, exist on the same high street.
Until they couldn’t, as this year proved so effectively, when suppliers cut off games and Game went into administration. 277 stores were closed and 2,104 jobs were lost across the country. In my hometown, a Gamestation sign hangs over a building that hasn’t been opened in months, while Bournemouth’s high street saw both the Game and a Gamestation vanish. Since then, the company has been silently transforming itself and waking up to the reality that the high street is usually last on gamers lists on where to buy their games.
This Christmas will be the first one for Playstation Vita and will see the launch of the Wii U. It is probably the biggest festive season Game has had since the launch of the Wii, with these machines vying for love from the gaming public in general. GAME need a good Christmas like Wii U needed Bayonetta 2 and it’s probably the right time in a business sense to unify the stores, instead of fostering false competition because, really, is there any Gamestation shoppers left to alienate?
Their target audience was savvy gamers who thrived on independence. If you are a) a savvy gamer and b) independent, why weren’t you shopping online? Amazon and Play have had the cheapest deals throughout this generation and chances are you would have also heard of the “Electronic Bay”. Oh and let’s not forget Steam – lest Reddit sees a gaming opinion piece without a mention to Gaben’s beloved creation – for also taking a large chunk of gamers money, thanks to their consistent sales that are frequently cheaper than anything on the high street.
The reality is that Game had always lost in their risky decision to buy the Gamestation chain back in 2007. The company was bloated as a result of the acquisition, to the extent that it was one of the contributing factors to its demise earlier in the year. Then, after the administration debacle had left a leaner high store presence, questions had to be asked about who would still be shopping at Gamestation. There will always be people who are new to gaming, who may need a store like Game to point them in the right direction, but most gamers have long left the high street for online – either direct downloads or cheaper deals.
Gamestation isn’t a sign of further demise for the Game brand, just an inevitable consequence of the year’s earlier reality check.