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I’ve just come back from my local Game store hoping to pick up a bargain, following their recent decent into administration. Miraculously, the Game in Eastleigh has actually stayed open. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the store I once worked at in Winchester which ceased trading yesterday. For all the bad press and complaints (many of them legitimate) that the company received, I’ll miss Game should they disappear from the high street completely. This is my Woolworths, really.

A lot of press coverage has focused on Game’s financial mismanagement. I think even the owners of Portsmouth FC would look at what went on at Game Group and raise an eyebrow. One of the biggest and most avoidable mistakes was having so many stores within such close proximity to each other. I know for a fact that Southampton had two Game stores and a Gamestation within around 500 yards of each other. What’s the point? It’s never going to attract enough new customers to offset the massive rent bill. Going by other comments and articles on Game’s situation, it seems this was a common trend nationwide. 

So is there a place for a dedicated video game retailer on the British high street? I think so, yes. Obviously it will never be able to compete with online retailers or supermarkets in price. Tesco is selling Batman: Arkham City for less brand new than Game is selling it pre-owned for instance. However, where a dedicated gaming store can deliver is in customer experience.

One of the complaints leveled at Game and Gamestation was ignorant and pushy staff. I can’t really speak from experience on the ignorant staff aspect as when I worked there everyone knew their stuff. I can definitely say that the pushy staff complaint was due to orders from on high. It’s actually part of the training DVD you watch that you should approach every customer and ask if they need any assistance. It’s entirely the wrong way to go about things. Anyone with a basic understanding of human body language can tell the difference between someone just browsing and someone who’s completely clueless. 

If stores such as Game, HMV or Gamestation want to thrive, they need to engage with customers in new ways. One way to do this could be through developing a community of gamers at your local store via multiplayer tournaments, game clubs and the like. Make people want to come to your store for a number of reasons besides picking up a game. How great would it be to have multiplayer parties when the latest Call of Duty game comes out at the store where you bought it? Sure, it might cost you a couple of quid more, but you’d meet new people, get tips and advice and have a pleasant shopping experience. It doesn’t have to stop there either. Throw in things like console repair and maintenance or help with getting started on things like XBox Live and you foster good will and trust with people. As someone else pointed out; look at Games Workshop. People don’t just go in there to buy models or paint. They’ve developed a sense of community where people can go and have fun and play some games and they seem to be doing okay. Why can’t the same be done with video gaming?

I don’t want to see gaming stores disappear. As poorly as Game was run, I’d rather have it in a more streamlines, reduced form than not at all. And whilst I doubt that any company CEO’s are going to read this, I hope it goes to show that the situation isn’t hopeless and something can be done to have a national gaming store.

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