Leading high-street store, GAME, filed for administration last week. For gaming enthusiasts this marks a watershed in gaming retail, but from a wider perspective it ties in with the prediction that 40% of high-street outlets will be forced to close in the next five years.
It’s a little too easy to put GAME’s demise entirely down to the shift from high street to online shopping. The gaming industry itself has evolved in such a way that GAME now provides a niche service as opposed to its former reputation as a one-stop shop.
As someone who still has the capacity to waste entire days on a Playstation or Xbox with aplomb, it was always difficult to walk past the GAME store without popping in for a browse. Unfortunately, that’s just the point; there just isn’t much need to go out of your way to go in anymore.
The Virtual World
The growth of online retail is of course a massive contributor, but for the gaming industry it’s more than that. GAME wasn’t just a store you visited to buy games and consoles. It was a place to get advice on what the latest games were, try them out, and trade your old in for the new. The virtualization of the gaming industry and the explosion of social media have turned this sharing experience on its head.
Now online stores and web-browsers are integrated into games consoles, so users can download the latest versions and patch updates of their favourite games while they’re taking a break from play. Rumours have spread that the next Xbox will not contain a disc drive, which effectively means that there may simply be no Xbox games for GAME to sell.
Perhaps more importantly, GAME was a place where you could try out new games with your friends and trade-in your old ones for up-to-date alternatives. It also provided a safe haven for head scratching dads who had no idea what it was their kid wanted for Christmas or how to set the damn thing up.
The Social Gamer
Where social media enters the fray is that, where GAME previously provided gaming enthusiasts with a sharing experience, it is now possible to share gaming experiences on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This makes GAME’s advisory value a thing of the past as well, as it’s now all too easy to find reviews, tips and hints online.
The online networks across gaming platforms are also a social network of sorts; allowing gamers to compete and interact on opposite sides of the world. This is once again an example of the virtual world at work.
Once upon a time, the only way to share this experience was to invite your mates around for a video game tournament. Now it’s all there for you on the game itself. This industry has seen massive change over the last few years, something we’ve seen with the tech PR campaigns we run for our gaming clients.
Nobody wants to see respected retail outlets collapse, and GAME has a cult following of regular customers that have fond memories of the store itself. With that said, times have changed, and what is even more worrying is this pattern may well be set to repeat across a wider range of industries.