GAME Over?

Posted on March 17, 2012 - 10:00am by MrLolkins


As anyone following the recent news would have realised. UK games retailer GAME (And co-company Gamestation) Are under threat of bankruptcy and closure after the company’s value has dropped considerably over the last 3 to 4 years. Being a loyal GAME customer for about the last 12 years, this is a sad day, but I can totally understand why it’s happening. Obviously there is a recession which has affected everyone globally and people don’t have the cash to burn on things like games as much as before, but the reasons behind GAME are much more focused on the game industry as a whole, and publishers aren’t helping in the least.

Editor's Note: g1 MrLolkins has provided this well-written piece, which presents his belief that such things as used game sales, Online Passes, Apps, and online shopping are all factors in GAME's pending demise. Do you agree with him?

 Used sales.

The big elephant in the room, with GAME and many other big retailers for games, is the used market. GAME gets a great number of its profits from used sales, but the recent string of attempts from publishers to try and combat this has had a reverse effect on what they wanted to achieve. Instead of convincing people to buy more games new, people are just getting turned away from more games, with the sting of DRM, Online Passes, and ransomed content.

“It’s very easy to hand out punishments to used gamers, but companies seem revolted by the idea of rewarding new buyers”. - Jim Sterling on The Jimquisition

When I see a game used going for really cheap, that I wasn’t considering buying anyway, I’ll generally buy it to see what the series is like. I tend to play through the single player campaigns first before touching multiplayer, and if the single player is decent enough, I would consider moving to the online. But for some people, their main focus is online play, and with developers set on shoehorning it into every title they can, as some people won’t even go near a game if it doesn’t have some kind of online function, spending your entire focus on a multiplayer experience and then charging people extra for that part of the game you already have in your hands on a disk, is downright ass buggery. 

DLC that can be missed with no real effect to the main or multiplayer modes, I can happily deal with going without. Skins, fast unlock codes, free DLC, extra little bonuses are the perfect way to entice people into buying new games. Holding back on an entire half of a game experience, is frankly insane.

"Part of the reason for the online pass is that when that stuff goes online, it isn’t free. We have to pay for servers and all this different stuff to maintain it." Justin Richmond, game director for Uncharted 3

Sorry, but that’s just wrong. If someone buys a game with online multiplayer, their server load is directly paid for with that purchase. If someone else then gets that copy, that server slot is transferred also. Used sales do not double the amount of people playing on a server. The game isn’t a virus, it doesn’t self-replicate when it is resold Unless someone is pirating the games and then passing them on, buying a copy that has been used does not mean that because it’s in a different machine, that it needs another server slot to be paid for. This is downright bullshit.


Sony, being one of the major pushers for online passes, has at least redeemed itself recently with the announcement of Killzone 3’s multiplayer becoming *Free 2 Play* Until you get to a certain level cap, and then you can CHOOSE to pay for the full experience. This is one of the best decisions Sony has made in the last few years. By instead encouraging people to play the multiplayer and then decide if they want to continue rather than withholding it altogether and make you take a gamble if you like it or not, they open the game to many more people who were maybe sceptical at first, but can now try the game risk free and perhaps even become new fans.


Cost /Length = Value

The length of some retail games also can come into question, one such title being The Darkness 2. I’ll say it now, the game is awesome. I love the gameplay, its amazingly fun, and I would recommend it to anyone. But not at £40, what I paid for. I was excited for this game as I was a massive fan of TD1, and while not one of the longest games ever, it had a lot going for it in terms of the sheer amount of little touches it had that extended the length of it tremendously. TD2 cut a lot of that length out. Now, I’m not saying linearity is a bad thing, I understand the decision to focus more on telling a direct story, but I could complete the entire campaign on the hardest difficulty in 3 hours, add another 2 for the (again shoehorned) multiplayer portion.* I platinum trophied it and took it back within a week (To GAME) and got £35 back.

*NB: I know The Darkness 1 had a shit multiplayer, but the difference there was that it was totally optional. In TD2, the “Vendettas” explains plot holes from the main story, but in focusing on this “extra campaign” it ultimately made the main suffer*

Great game, but about as short as the rest of this man's life. 

I have not traded in a game for 5 years. The Darkness 2, was so completely not worth full price, that it made me take it back.
Some people say that the cost of it should not negate the fun and experience. But in that one case, I seriously beg to differ. When Skyrim (Yes, I know, it’s a different genre of game, but it’s the same price) can pack so much content whereas TD2 lacks so much? It begs the question why it is being sold for £40

So how does that tie into GAME? I bought The Darkness 1 preowned from GAME years ago and loved it. The experience I got from it, made me so excited for TD2, I pre-ordered it, and paid full price on release. Without used games, I would not have bothered buying TD2 on release, and would have just waited for a cheaper used copy before considering it. Used games directly influence people for later purchases on a series. If someone loves the first game because they tried it, and are made fans from it, then they are more likely to pay full price in the future to get it sooner.


*This is why I have such a massive issue with online passes. If a game with a really short campaign but a lengthy multiplayer focus has an online pass? It can fuck off, especially if the game isn’t that good to start with. (The Darkness 2 took the good approach and offered in game bonuses for a new copy, it does not use online passes)

App store vs handheld market

Now, something like Angry Birds, launched for 99p. I have had way more than 3 hours playing angry birds over little bursts, than I have through the £40 I paid for 3 hours of The Darkness 2. One big criticism with the Vita and 3DS when they launched is that the mobile market has adapted, people are buying games for a few bucks and are able to get the same level of enjoyment from them as a full title, while the handheld consoles are expecting people to pay full price for a handheld game. This is a totally valid argument, but this is also true for consoles also. XBLA, and PSN titles, while at a fraction of the cost of a retail release, can still offer hours of enjoyment, some being retail release worthy. People realise that they can pay a fraction of the cost by simply changing service also. Steam offers insane bargains on games that retail tend to completely miss out on. The problem here, is not that indie and mobile games are so much cheaper, but more the fact that full blown retail games are too expensive for the current economy.

 This is going for free and has much more content value than some full price retail games.

 This is free and offers more time spent, and freely updated content, than some full retail games

Online vs store prices.

The final and one of the biggest issues with GAME’s demise, is that, and it’s becoming more and more of a sad truth. Dedicated video game retailers are slowly becoming/are redundant. Supermarkets and online retailers such as amazon, (Hell, even GAME’s own website sell the same games new, at lower prices than in store) are able to offer games are considerably lower prices because they make so much profit from other products that they can afford to sell games at piss cheap prices.

GAME on the other hand, relies on used sales to actually turn over a profit, which are being directly crippled by publishers. Even if GAME goes under, there are still places which offer used titles at similar prices. HMV, Zavvi, CEX and even ASDA have pre-owned sections offering comparable prices, but generally a smaller selection. But these retailers will still have a business if games are no longer being sold in retail or used form, GAME on the other hand, doesn’t. Ebay will continue to be a supplier for used games.

The fact that publishers like EA were refusing to stock game with copies of Mass Effect 3 (Probably one of the biggest releases of this year) was probably one of the final nails in GAME’s coffin.

No support from publishers for giving them new titles + less people buying new games from the recession + less people buying used games due to publishers withholding content at extra cost = a failure waiting to happen.

The saddest fact is, if GAME can go under, then independent game retailers have no chance.

I realise this is one of the longest articles I have ever written, and if you have sat through this, I thank you for persevering. But for those that just want a TL;DR. Here’s how to combat the failing market of retail video game stores:

1: Publishers need to stop punishing used sales, and start encouraging more new sales

2: Retail game prices need to drop in order for people on a tight budget to actually be able to afford to buy more games.

3: GAME needs to have more incentive for people to shop in store rather than go online. Better offers and more

Some slightly good news is that Wal-Mart (ASDA in the UK) has shown interest in buying out GAME, and that a formal offer from investment group OpCapita (Owners of Comet) is actually under negations right now. It doesn’t help the fact that publishers are still not stocking GAME, which, as is plainly obvious, if you don’t have the product to sell, you don’t have a business, but it’s a small glimmer of hope that GAME won’t be completely destroyed. Source - Ripten


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