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GAME Buzz | We Just Lost The GAME

Matt Gardner

GAME Buzz | We Just Lost The GAME

Though there will be time for critical analysis, nitpicking, number-crunching, and predictions for the future later this week, here's a somewhat rose-tinted look back at why we'll miss GAME and Gamestation, as we grew to know them.

I always preferred Gamestation to GAME; the former, as it did, bearing many more similarities in comparison with the grotty and grimy independent cubby holes that became like second homes during my formative years.

With Yeovil the nearest town of any note growing up (yes, I know), I was actually rather spoiled for choice in the beginning. But the warning signs came as my favourite little grotty and grimy independent cubby hole was forced to close its doors as specialist chains came a knocking.

GAME Buzz | We Just Lost The GAME

A teenager at the time, it must be said that I didn't really mind too much. I'd like to regale you with a story of how I stuck by my indie guns through thick and thin, but the fact is that pocket money from mowing the lawn at weekends only extended so far. Much like all of us today, eyes glued to the dealstream, scouring the interwebs for the lowest prices, I'd try and make sure I could get the best deal.

We had a number of little outlets, an Electronics Boutique, a GAME, and in time a Gamestation too. Weekends away from school would be spent scampering between them all, desperately seeking out the lowest prices for my shiny new N64 or PC. But as well as pricing, I found that loyalties changed with staff. I was incredibly sad to see the small EB leave the shopping centre, as I'd been on first name terms with a number of their staff - passionate people who always seemed well-informed, and eager to chat about games.

If nothing else, the internet is proof that gamers like talking about games almost as much as playing them.

Gamestation became my second home after that, and it's a credit to the GAME Group that they retained the staff, along with the look...well, to a certain extent. Even as the joys of Amazon became widely apparent, that Gamestation was still my regular destination. A rabid Nintendo fanboy at that point, I'd spend hours in there discussing the merits of Zelda over everything else on the shelves. You'd start seeing familiar faces in there on weekends, coming in just to peruse the 2 for £30 section, or young gamers armed with a stack of prospective trade-ins.

It's thanks to a chance meeting in there that I managed to finally get that elusive bastard Mew.

Jon has already discussed the delights of the high street - partner in crime as he's been on a number of occasions when decided that we a new game immediately and jumped in the car for a quick gaming roadtrip to satisfy the fix - but it's important to note the things that places like GAME and Gamestation did right.

I canvassed a few people asking about their reasons for shopping at GAME or Gamestation, and a long list of favourite things and anecdotes came back, including retro cabinets, genre advice, midnight launches, pre-order incentives, third party peripherals, bundle offers, demo stands, sales advice, a willingness to help, a willingness to listen, Reward Points, pre-owned deals, 2 for £30, 3 for £20, the fact GAME was purple, Guitar Hero challenges in-store, playing FIFA 08 for an hour before politely being asked to let someone else have a go, discovering Civilization after encouragement from a sales rep, trading Pokemon cards with staff members, buying a Jigglypuff plushie on a whim, discovering local gaming nights through the manager...and so on and so forth. Some of these are applicable to plenty of other retailers, some are about one one specific store, but the point remains. GAME's place on the high street was a little bit special.

GAME Buzz | We Just Lost The GAME

These were places run on an immediate basis by people like us, for people like us. In the days when to be a gamer still held something of a stigma, these were places of sanctuary, with the wildfire spread of stores something of a vindication for our leisurely choices.

There'll be articles to come that analyse what went wrong, indeed we've been doing that these past few weeks already, much to ex-CEO Shepherd's apparent chagrin. But even though the perils of big business, and the alluring desire for monopoly will surely be discussed in time, first and foremost the frontline faces - those who shook our hands and gave us sage advice - should be thanked for their part.

We have heard tales of internal communication follies, oppressive regimes from the men in suits, embattled managers and their staff desperately balancing customer service with ruthless expectation from above, lately in the face of some pockets of disgraceful consumer behaviour. The rising prices, dearths of incentives, falling stock, and gaps on shelves have taken their toll.

But for a certain generation of gamers, GAME's rise mirrored our own, and became something we could always point to. Somewhere we could always go, on a high street increasingly filled with clothes shops, coffee outlets, department stores, and opticians' studios. I've missed trains because I spent too much time poring over game covers, forgotten friendly meetings, and aggravated parents no end because "ten minutes" turned into "the best part of an hour"

The specialist store on the UK high street is not a dead concept, not at all. The GAME Group made mistakes, big ones, and that led to an inexorable downfall in the end, but there's still a place for games, now more than ever. I would posit, though, that we need to look East and embrace the social side of things. The 3DS and the Vita, not to mention smartphones and tablets, are perfectly poised for social local gaming. And just imagine if there was a haven on the high street where you could indulge in such things, learn about the latest releases, investigate a demo or two, and maybe even grab yourself a game or two on a whim while you're at it.

Mind you, we already came up with that idea when we started drawing up plans for The Dealspub.

Add a comment8 comments
Jamie10  Mar. 27, 2012 at 20:33

Extremely well written article! :)

martinjp  Mar. 27, 2012 at 21:02

He's the second Shepherd to have an unsatisfactory ending lately.

Wasssssupppp  Mar. 27, 2012 at 22:41

Loving the article. I also used to love the grotty independent stores. Got a lot of nostalgia for those. Loved Gamestation on the rise, but post takeover, they lost it somehow. Gamestation's preowned prices for PSP were great. But it became harder to prove things like price-matching. And I had terrible customer service over a return. GAME always gave great customer service, but the stuff was near RRP and was always overpriced compared to the web except in the GAME January sales. The only point I disagree over is the high street. Gaming has no place on the high street anymore. The media is tiny and getting smaller (downloads). The display stands in GAME for Vita games proved this. High streets have overheads that are much smaller on the web. The future is the supermarkets, online downloads and web mail order. And it all comes down to price.

PurplePride  Mar. 28, 2012 at 09:40

Lovely article. As someone who worked in a GAME for three years from 2005-2008 I can safely say that it was one of the best times of my life. Sure we had corporate pressure from above but by manager and our team worked our butts off. Nice to see that it meant something. Articles like these are in short supply, so thanks Matt.

RiKx  Mar. 28, 2012 at 09:51

With Yeovil the nearest town of any note growing up (yes, I know), I was actually rather spoiled for choice in the beginning

Haha at risk of sounding ancient I remember when the only places in Yeovil you could buy games was woolies and WHSmiths! Music too with, the exception of Acorn records which was run by that fat guy in a black t-shirt with a beard!

Game used to be an inviting place before they laminated the floors, put halogen lighting in and got rid of the big screens. I have a special fond memories of game in bournemouth as I used to there on the bus and look longingly and SNES games and then purchase amiga ones as they could usually be found on offer. I worked for both EB and Game and they were in that order the 2 best jobs I ever had. I worked in EB at for me the golden age of videogaming.

Despite being a massive amiga fanboy, which I was still using right into '98 (even though I had a playstation) I worked in a game store when gaming set standards that are still attempted to follow today. The kind of releases I'm talking about are, Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, tekken 3, banjo-kazooie, rebel assault, Turok 2, (mario64 and goldeneye had been out a while but were still fresh and VERY much loved and talked about).

Then there was the big one. Zelda - Ocarina of time. Clearly nobody at the time estimated how big this was gonna be. We took over 1300 pre-orders for Zelda. A few days before release we learned we would be getting a initial stock delivery of, get this - approx 75! To be followed by another 250.

This did no go down well on release day. I got shouted at by someone for selling 'his' copy of the game. Which of course hadn't happened as none of the delivery went on shelves they all went to pre-order customers like him. But still they were good times. Steering wheels were a new fresh accessory too (though we are still many years later and they still dont seem able to perfect a couch version ;) ) I had no end of joy banking round corners in colin mcrae and v-rally (98 edition of course).

ah good times...

DivideByZero  Mar. 28, 2012 at 12:15

Well, I persoally miss going in to John Menzies in Staines and my Nan kindly buying me games on tape for my Amstrad CPC 464. I still remember the store layout and have all the tapes.

Game and Gamestation may be gone but like so many great shops of peoples youth, fond memories will live on forever while the bad ones tend to fade.

Feron  Mar. 28, 2012 at 12:46

Brilliantly written. As you say, there'll be plenty of time to point fingers and cast blame, but many have fond memories of Game or Gamestation. Almost brought a tear to the eye. Great read, great sentiments, and great thanks indeed to the sales staff. I've made friends I still have to this day because of Game. Let's pray gaming doesn't disappear from the high street.

hurrakan  Mar. 28, 2012 at 17:49

I don't have fond memories of them personally.

My town has a GAME and Gamestation - they are both still open today. But GAME has a sign saying they can;t do anything with trade-ins, reward cards, gift cards, etc, etc.

And I still have a gift card with £40 on it. Bah!


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