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End Game
March 21, 2012 5:58 AM   Subscribe

British high-street games retailer Game - who also own their once-rival chain, Gamestation - files for administration. After a tense few months involving supply chain issues and cutting prices to stay afloat, the options for purchasing physical games are dwindling, leaving the also-beleagured HMV, the music chain hoping to stay afloat by concentrating on gaming, and the all-powerful supermarkets.
posted by mippy (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
In Canada at least, HMV recently scrambled to get out of the game business, selling off everything they had for 25 - 75% off. I'm guessing it's not working out too well for them either.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:13 AM on March 21, 2012


Tesco's "arch-nemesis Asda" as mentioned in the last link is the British chain owned by Walmart, btw.
posted by XMLicious at 6:20 AM on March 21, 2012


Looks like selling software in the form of physical atoms isn't that hot a business model right now.
posted by acb at 6:25 AM on March 21, 2012


Looks like selling software in the form of physical atoms isn't that hot a business model right now.

In brick-and-mortar stores, yeah. Online retailers are doing just fine selling hardcopy games - you do have a to get a copy of the software in the form of physical atoms in order to play most modern console games, for example. Not everything is LiveArcade and Steam yet...
posted by Dysk at 6:29 AM on March 21, 2012


I'm not looking forward to seeing the effect this has on prices in the dismal online stores run by the Big Three.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:39 AM on March 21, 2012


So what's the preorder bonus for the liquidation sale?
posted by inturnaround at 6:40 AM on March 21, 2012


From my very ignorant perspective, it looks like the game manufacturers have done nothing to help Game over the last few months, but actively helped hurry things along by refusing to provide new titles. While that's clearly understandable, is there not such a significant overall benefit to the industry in having a nationwide retailer that they should have bent a little? Or was Game always doomed and storefronts provide no real use?
posted by Hartster at 6:50 AM on March 21, 2012


The current generation of consoles are showing their age; releases have slowed down, and with them sales. Right now, the biggest movers of volume are electronic retailers, particularly Steam. Even on the consoles, each of the three has an online store where you can buy games over the internet, and those have been taking a larger share of the market as well. No one is emotionally attached to the idea of paying $60 (or, after a year, $30) for a plastic disc; if you can deliver the game electronically and at a lower price, people will buy it that way.

"Game stores," like DVD and music stores, are becoming obsolete.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:54 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a big shame. The market for preowned games has just been shrunk. Physical media may have its downsides, but it takes a little bit of power out of the hands of the content creators.

Another strike against the consumer.
posted by zoo at 6:59 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could be totally wrong, but I don't see how content creators are harmed by the lack of a secondary market, especially when digital distribution is available. The only people who make money off selling pre-owned games are the stores themselves; content creators don't see a dime and people selling their used games hardly get their money's worth unless the game is still brand new. Considering how price fluctuation works in the age of Steam, the creators are better off offering digital ditsribution of their stock at pre-owned prices after a certain amount of time. Which is exactly what they've been doing. By the time the pre-owned price on, say, Skyrim drops to a reasonable discount from buying the game new, the digital distribution of it probably costs around the same and the actual content creators and distributors see that money, not a third party.
posted by griphus at 7:08 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


griphus: I don't see how content creators are harmed by the lack of a secondary market

I think you might have misread zoo's post (or I have!). It's really just to do with this sentence in isolation: Physical media may have its downsides, but it takes a little bit of power out of the hands of the content creators.

So, with physical media, content creators don't have the power to prevent people selling games once they're finished playing them. And I might be atypical, but I've sold games second-hand on eBay plenty of times. I consider this making money off them because - for example - much as I liked GrimGrimoire, it wasn't going to do me a lot of good once I no longer had my PS2. Sunk costs didn't really enter into it.
posted by smcg at 7:19 AM on March 21, 2012


The big question now is where will you get Playstation Network Top-ups.

My husband and I have been discussing this for the past month and we're both pretty disappointed. Looks like we'll either be going to supermarkets (which don't have old or unusual games) or ordering online.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:20 AM on March 21, 2012


That's why the argument against piracy confuses me a little - in the old days, we'd lend a CD to a friend which they'd tape, meaning the record company would more than likely lose a sale. And the second-hand music market has always been big - most of my CDs came from record exchanges or library sales. How is selling pre-owned games different? Some of the anti-piracy measures like key codes might have affected the market, but it's been going on since games took off.
posted by mippy at 7:21 AM on March 21, 2012


Another article I read a while ago - I'd link if I could remember - said that Gamestation were unaware of the retro game market and didn't capitalise on it well enough with their pre-owned stock. Which probably explains why I picked up American McGee's Alice for 99p in the Reading store when it would go for about £30 on eBay.
posted by mippy at 7:22 AM on March 21, 2012


I'm surprised by that, mippy. My ex managed a Gamestation store for quite some time, and always said that pre-owned and retro was the only thing that made them any money.
posted by corvine at 7:34 AM on March 21, 2012


...the retro game market ... American McGee's Alice...

D:
posted by griphus at 7:35 AM on March 21, 2012


The market for preowned games has just been shrunk. Physical media may have its downsides, but it takes a little bit of power out of the hands of the content creators.

You're thinking "content distributors". Content creators, I think no.
posted by mhoye at 7:43 AM on March 21, 2012


RIP The high street.

(Though a friend of mine in the computer games business predicted this years ago, with games going over to digital distribution)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:34 AM on March 21, 2012


From my very ignorant perspective, it looks like the game manufacturers have done nothing to help Game over the last few months, but actively helped hurry things along by refusing to provide new titles. While that's clearly understandable, is there not such a significant overall benefit to the industry in having a nationwide retailer that they should have bent a little?

Interestingly, as part of its battle to stay alive, HMV sold an equity stake in itself to its music and DVD suppliers (Universal, Warner Brothers, and EMI among others). Presumably the suppliers bought in because they want to maintain the last (pure play) way they can move their physical product onto retail shelves. But the fact that no game manufacturers bought in when they had a chance suggests they don't see much value in keeping retail stores afloat.

Are the economics of online game distribution and online media distribution that different?
posted by emergent at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2012


Are the economics of online game distribution and online media distribution that different?

Games usually start at a much higher price point than movies or albums, but they also don't keep their value nearly as long. A DVD might come out for $25, and in a few months it'll be $15 and possibly stay there forever. An album distributed online for, say, $12 will probably be the same price for as long as it's up there, barring any sales. A video game will debut at $60, and by the next year/year and a half you'll be able to get it for under $20.
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on March 21, 2012


Gamestation were always a bit clueless about the retro market, though this did vary depending on the individual store employees and their personal knowledge. Back when I was a hardcore collector, I would stop into 2-3 different stores multiple times a week and clear them out of any new ”old” stock they had that was half-way desirable and not wildly overpriced. A couple of stores even used to hold things back to give me the fist sift though any new trade-ins.
Over the course of a decade or so, I must have made thousands reselling the dupes of those I already had, and continually upgrading my 'keeper' copies. Of course, the funds I made were always 'reinvested' in other items I 'needed', though usually via eBay rather than physical stores.
The day they stopped selling anything pre-PS2 was the last time I ever set foot in one.
posted by anagrama at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2012


If you look at the Big Picture, this was completely inevitable.

Having workers standing in a store, waiting for customers to help, is economically inefficient. You need to pay them enough so they don't reek of desperation, and since customer don't come in on a predictable basis, you need to hire more than the bare minimum and that means there will be moments when some of them aren't working full-out - also a no-no in the twenty-first century.

If it's a job that a bookish person without a specialized skill might actually want to have, then it's a job that's going away. Whether you work in a book store, a record store, or a newspaper, in twenty years there will be almost no one doing your job - at least, in the US and the UK.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another strike against the consumer.

Agreed, zoo. We are rapidly losing secondary markets across all media - there are fewer second hand bookstores, music shops, and now fewer ways to get games other than from the distributor - at the price they want, and when they choose (or not) to sell it to us.

I only buy second-hand games for my Xbox. Depending on how this plays out, I may end up selling my console before took long and getting out of gaming altogether.
posted by wingless_angel at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2012


(Oh, and as a bookish person who is very thankfully possessed of a specialized skill, I cannot express the sadness I feel in seeing the demographic I love best in Western civilization being thrown to the wolves...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2012


I think the last time I actually bought something from Game, the year began with 19. Since then, it's been online all the way, and mostly used media from Amazon Marketplace or eBay.

Given a choice between pushing through hordes of rude teenagers to find that the PC selection is the size of a postage stamp and finding exactly what I want online, for a really good price...

It's a wonder they survived this long.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2012


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