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On 16/11/2020 at 10:18, Mr Combo Breaker said:

I've held a grudge with them going all the way back to the Future Zone days when I traded in pretty much every megadrive game I owned for a copy of Theme Park, which was well shite on the Megadrive.

 

I liked the Mega Drive version of Theme Park! Admittedly I hadn't played the PC or Amiga versions so had nothing to compare it to.

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On 16/11/2020 at 17:26, dumpster said:

Also if you used the loyalty lookup and searched for Darth Vader, he had hundreds of loyalty cards all over the country.  Many managers had the same uninspired names that popped into their heads when filling in loyalty incompletes.

I remember one very broed afternoon in the Leicester Debenhams concession I found 'Bary Shite' who was my go to reward card dump.

 

edit: and on incentives, we won a Revenge of the Sith competition for our instore display. The prize was a genuinely beautiful book of A3 character posters for basically every main (and main-ish) character in the movie. I've been looking for it for years online but have found literally no trace of it, so whoever it was who took it off the bus I left it on the very night I recieved it presumably still has it.

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1 hour ago, Nick R said:

 

I liked the Mega Drive version of Theme Park! Admittedly I hadn't played the PC or Amiga versions so had nothing to compare it to.

The control method of Theme Park on console was really well implemented.  I preferred the 3DO game to the Amiga version. You'd use buttons to bring up menus and shoulder buttons to highlight left and right , it felt really smooth.  Can't see how you'd do that on Megadrive though 

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Getting rid of gamestation was a major mistake as was how they handled gamestation by having the stores dump all their retro gaming stock just as the big retro gaming market boom was about to happen.

 

Game made gamestation drop almost all the things that made me shop there.

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2 hours ago, Dig Dug said:

Getting rid of gamestation was a major mistake as was how they handled gamestation by having the stores dump all their retro gaming stock just as the big retro gaming market boom was about to happen.

 

Game made gamestation drop almost all the things that made me shop there.


That’s the problem. The buyout made no sense as, yes they got rid of a competitor but then had drastically over expanded so must have cost them even more in overheads. Another large video game chain only makes sense if they both offer something different, which GAME and Gamestation did to an extent, but if both stores start to be the same in price and what they offer then what point is there? 
 

The best they could have done through buying Gamestation is similar to what HMV did to Fopp and keep the brand alive through a string of stores that do differ in pricing and cater to a more niche/hardcore audience. It would have at least kept the brand valuable and relevant whilst keeping hold of an audience that would otherwise go elsewhere. 

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On 25/11/2020 at 15:10, Dig Dug said:

Getting rid of gamestation was a major mistake as was how they handled gamestation by having the stores dump all their retro gaming stock just as the big retro gaming market boom was about to happen.

 

Game made gamestation drop almost all the things that made me shop there.

 

Oh yeah, some of the prices on my MD/SMS games are embarrassing now.  Master System 3D games especially, my Space Harrier 3d has a £1.99 sticker on. That goes for £60 on ebay now.

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On 25/11/2020 at 14:50, dumpster said:

The control method of Theme Park on console was really well implemented.  I preferred the 3DO game to the Amiga version. You'd use buttons to bring up menus and shoulder buttons to highlight left and right , it felt really smooth.  Can't see how you'd do that on Megadrive though 

 

I'm fond of the MD version, but its controls aren't great; frustratingly so, as it doesn't take advantage of the six-button controller so you're always stuck with a three-button interface which uses chorded Start-button combinations with the A-B-C buttons, rather than supporting X-Y-Z natively. It also, predictably enough, doesn't support the Sega Mouse, which would have been ideal. Not the most convincing port, interface-wise.

 

(contrast with another Amiga/PC Bullfrog port in Syndicate, which is still limited to three-button pad, but moves fully away from the cursor-driven interface of the original, giving the MD version a distinct, more action-y feel as you take direct control of individual agents as if you're in an isometric shooter - genuinely a smart, thoughtful adaptation for the machine)

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During the C64 days I couldn't believe it the first time I went in to the Virgin Megastore in Nottingham and there was a huge games section, which as mentioned previously, before that I'd seen games in very very small independent games shops or computer retailers.

I also remember the first time I went to Game in Coventry (must have been MD era / 92 ish) in this big new shopping centre and it was just complete Awesome, like @dumpster said it was a place you wanted to go and be, I couldn't believe a shop that big existed purely for videogames.

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21 minutes ago, dumpster said:

I remember Escom opening stores and hammering our PC sales.  Again, our commitment was quality and so we couldn't compete on price.  What was interesting was when Escom closed down we got people bringing their fucking awful PCs to us for repair and we had many instances of the processor not being what it said on the case.  We saw some where the bios had been modified so the opening POST screen showed more memory than it actually had, for example.

I worked at a branch of Game in 95/95 which was pretty much next door to Escom.

We used to get people who'd spent a grand on a PC from them come to us for technical support because the £20 game they'd bought from us wouldn't run as their "cutting edge" PC was badly configured or more likely, just shite.

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Yeah, my memories (which may be wrong) were that Escom PCs were dreadful but on paper they had the same processors and memory etc.  We were taking Pentium P90s with 4 or 8Mb of ram, or cheaper 486 DX2/66 things.  If you checked the spec side by side Escom would look the same as our own builds, but could be 200 -300 pounds cheaper.  They were not around that long but we took a hammering on PC sales.  

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I think retail will ultimately return to focus on the customer experience to survive. Although saying that people seem to be just more focused purely on price these days. Perhaps we are all just more tech savvy these days.

 

In store demos are a nice touch though as is the human interaction. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

A positive story about Game for once. Having just got a Series S I decided to sell my PS4 Pro because I'm still planning to get a PS5 as well later next year.

 

Checked CEX who were offering £150 cash for them. I thought I could get more by flogging it on Gumtree when I noticed that Game in York had their phone number listed on their Twitter.

Decided to give them a call and ask, not expecting much I was surprised to find out they were offering £220 cash for Pros.

 

Took it in expecting someone in store to tell me the price I'd been given over the phone was wrong but in the end it was all good and £220 was correct.

 

Took them 20 minutes to test it was working and they didn't give me any of the usual game elite / pre-orders nonsense. Staff were all good and the whole process was painless thankfully.

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  • 1 year later...

My nearest Game has a sign in the window, "this is not goodbye, we're just moving to be replaced by a cardboard standee in Sports Direct".  

 

The Morecambe Arndale Centre is being renamed to "Timpsons Poundland" as all the shops crumble.  Even Home Bargains has gone.

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On 18/11/2020 at 16:21, dumpster said:

My prior experience of targets still haunts me in any job I do.  It's usually really easy to hit targets if you don't mind fiddling the numbers, but when the bosses see people are achieving they are more inclined to bollock those that are not, regardless of how many fiddles are going on.

 

It's hard to imagine now but there was a time (when I left school and started work, mid 80s) that the high street presence of video games was limited to indie stores selling games on cassettes and disks.  There were no release dates or preorders, shops just bought in whatever stock they could and hoped people would buy it.  Then in the mid 80s Boots (the chemist!) had a NES console with 10 games connected that would reset every minute to stop you playing all day, and suddenly there was a new world of gaming, outside of the nerdy computer shop, selling £40 cartridge games in a real store, right next to the lipsticks and Lynx Africa.  When Game and Future Zone came along they really were the major high street prescence of gaming, and am eye-catching display in a chain store could make a massive impact on a titles sales.  Store Managers would be sent to exhibitions where they would be given free consoles at launch, loads of promo games and freebies and so on.  Publishers would really push for the support of managers, "Die Hard Vendetta really is the new Goldeneye, we just need you to get behind it and promote it instore, please take this free copy".  We used to get reps visiting us, begging for space to put their cardboard standee in store, with freebies and promos given in return.

 

 

Game was (rumoured) to have been started by a guy with a wealthy family who got handed a stack of cash and was told "Go and start a business".  The guy liked games (board games and stuff mainly) and Game began as a shop that did game related stuff, not just video games.  When I worked there, the task was to make a fun environment that people would enjoy visiting and we simply had one target for how much money we'd make, and that was it.  Managers had autonomy to run the store as they saw fit. If you hit target you were doing a good job.  We never discussed margin, didn't have pre-owned or loyalty cards  and we didn't really have much business awareness.  All the head office staff I met were enthusiastic about the store and the products and played games themselves.

 

 

Then things got more mainstream and corporate as Lara Croft and Playstation went huge and suddenly all the shelf space in the store was available to the highest bidder.  Every gondola end had to be whatever the operations bulletin said it should be, window displays were all paid for.  Our store displays now had to match the standard layout as prescribed by head office  because the publishers were paying for them on a national basis.  They wanted a relationship with us and Game had realised how important a prominent display was. Publishers needed Game.  One time, the head of the company reportedly had a meeting at Sega about a very competitive deal that Dixons were doing and when Sega said they couldn't match it, the Game guy made a phone call in front of him to pull all Sega products from all branches.  He then walked out but someone chased him down the street (maybe in a blue hedgehog costume, I dunno) and improved the deal.

 

Then Future Zone got bought out by a new UK company that had paid to use the American brand name,Electronics Boutique.  They paid a percentage of profits to the American company for the right to use the name, which seemed a strange thing to pay so much for, because EB wasn't a brand the UK knew much about.  Future Zone rebranded to Electronics Boutique and as both Game and EB expanded they ended up with competing stores very close to each other, usually only a few doors away from each other. EB and Game were serious rivals, we used to make jokes at EBs expense as Game were the bigger store and EB would come in and write down our prices.

 

At the time, to get promoted in Game from 'Trainee Manager' to Manager involved moving to a different store so I moved and opened a new store in a different town. I was 2 doors away from EB.   and my boss told me I only had one target - "Bury them. Bury EB".  That was my only target.  Bury EB as soon as possible.

 

Then, out of nowhere, EB bought Game.  We hadn't seen it coming because we thought we were bigger and better, but it happened and we couldn't believe it. Having been told we were going to Bury EB, our region's managers (ironically) had a meeting upstairs in Bury EB to meet the new owners. I regretted instantly that I'd been openly mocking the EB manager and his boss as they were now my bosses.  I didn't stand a chance.  Despite our two stores being competitors and mine taking the most money the EB manager effectively became my boss and we started doing it all their way.  Within a year, despite keeping the promise of not closing any stores, the vast majority of Game managers had gone and some towns had one manager running both stores.  Game started doing everything the EB way - store layout theming, preowned etc, all branded Game but managed and introduced by EB.

 

The thing that really struck me about that meeting was that you could see my new area manager and the head office staff were businesspeople.  They didn't play games, and sometimes I wondered if they even had an interest.  I didn't know any better at the time but I'd always assumed Game did things the correct way, and it never occured to us that those smaller EB stores could do things any better.  But EB was corporate - they didn't really care what they were selling - they were a business and suddenly I had to learn about loyalty card swipe rates, preowned, margins and all the things you'd assume a business to be doing all along, (being honest, with hindsight).  Suddenly we realised that if you were having a really quiet day and someone came and bought a couple of consoles, you hadn't been saved because  the total takings for the day were only one metric.  Which of course, looking back that's how it should have always been.  Perhaps if Game had been more business aware, Game could have bought EB! 

 

I remember the EB CEO, an  American boss man who failed to pronounce Debenhams every time, despite having store concessions there.  He always said Debenans. This tiny detail really pissed me off because if you're doing a deal with the department store, at least have the courtesy to say their name correctly. Not to judge his character but he had the look of an American businessman somehow.  Talking to him in store felt strange as he had the accent, the expensive shirts, the tailored suit, he exuded professionalism, whilst being a little out of place.  He made me think of the Waldorf Salad man in Fawlty Towers - not that he was rude, but just...  out of place in a northern town. His smile somehow made me think of the rodeo.  I could see him running a family restaurant, or Game, or being the mattress king or whatever - he was obviously good at his job, but it just felt a bit odd to have an American boss in my little shop.

 

I remember the Managers conference of September 11th 2001 and the motivational speaker, an American man called Richard Tate who really, really struck a chord with me.  I got a tape of the session and I've stolen paragraph and verse from his stuff since and passed it off as my own.  Brilliant stuff and a real eye opener into how attitude, staff enpowerment and customer focus was never trained out under the previous regieme and would now be the focus of everything we did.

 

I also recall the launch of Pokemon at that conference. No-one had heard of them before and we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before going into a meeting room and being told, "forget everything you know about sucessful product launches, this really will be the biggest and best thing youve ever seen", and they were right.  We were taught what Pokemon was, how huge it would be and what a major focus of the business the trading card came and console releases would be.  Just then the doors burst open and 10 massive Pokemon characters (blokes in oversised mascot style costumes) marched in as music played, and all ten of them danced through the hall until one tripped and went flying, knocking over a table covered in champagne glasses.  The other Pokemons carried on, crashing into him and causing chaos.

 

Then during the afternoon sessions, word was getting through about the events of that day.  Rumours started around the exhibition halls, and when we all broke for the day at 6pm we found out what had happened to the Twin Towers.  The chairman and a few others had dashed of to try and get back to America asap to be with their families.  Such a weird day.  Breaking news, followed by free beer and a Steve Coogan corporate gig. 

 

So time passed and then EB USA started looking to expand.  The licence to use the name in the UK was due to expire in a year or two and there was no requirement for EB USA to renew the deal with EB UK.  There was nothing to stop EB USA coming to the UK as a competitor and building on the goodwill the brand already had.  So EB UK rebranded all their stores as Game and ditching the EB name.  But this left many towns, cities and shopping centres with 2 identical stores, usually a few doors away from each other. If I remember this also became a time for managers to re-evaluate their futures with the company, because as people naturally left they often were not replaced, with existing store managers ending up running 2 stores. It was apparent that they now had too many managers and too many stores.

 

Meanwhile, there was a young and very cool competitor called Gamestation, a store with a very different feel to EB or Game, they were doing well and had been bought out by Blockbuster video.  When Blockbuster were struggling, they sold Gamestation which was  bought by GAME. This was justified by GS having a different customer demographic to Game so it made sense.  But soon after, Game decided to rebrand Gamestation stores to Game and this meant that Game was as ubiquitous on the high street as Greggs. You'd see towns that had three branches of Game in the same street and it didn't make any sense.

 

Being that the company was so ridiculously predominant on the high street, were they looking to be bought out themselves or what?  There were some larger cities that had more than one branch of Game before all this rebranding, so they ended up with five or six identical stores.  It was overkill. Throw a rock and it will hit a Game store. And with all stores being identical they all appealed to the same demographic. They killed off the competition but ended up with a stupidly huge number of stores.

 

 

EB taught Game the benefits of the loyalty card, the business awareness, margins and so on.  But more than anything, EB loved preowned.  They instructed staff to promote preowned copies over new copies when available, a system that yielded one "new" sale that benefitted the developers and publishers, then countless preowned sales that benefitted only the retailer, sometimes multiple times per copy.  In one of my first posts on this forum I wrote about how we scribbled over the manual of Rocky for Xbox with a UV pen, and checked how many times it came back into the store and resold as preowned.  This was just after the publishers (or devs, I cant remember) had gone bust. 

 

I didn't understand at the time how EB had managed to buy Game, when EB was usually the smaller store.  After the merger we compared sales and my Game store was taking way more money than EB were (2 doors away).  It felt like Pound Bakery buying Hard Rock Cafe. 

 

When EB bought Game we compared figures and because my store was so much better I felt I was the stronger manager with the more successful store.  But EB was all about margin, and mine wasn't as high because all our sales had been new stock, and pre-owned had a higher margin2

. Margin really made all the difference because EB immediately implemented preowned into Game as well and trained us all about the importance of recommending high-margin products over new. With trade-ins, less cash ends up in the till but the store has all that extra stock.  Customers were paying by bringing in stock instead of cash so the store (with its cheaper rents, smaller floorspace and fewer staff) was actually making more profits than we were, you just didn't see it in the bottom line cash totals.  But that profit came at a cost to the industry as every sale of a pre-owned game represented the loss of a sale of a new one. The store made better profits at the expense of the publishers/devs whose games were being sold multiple times, and the preowned was being promoted over new by the largest chain store in the industry.

 

The publishers seemed to finally realise how many new sales were being lost to preowned and they started to include DLC codes and day one bonuses in the boxes, meaning a second hand copy didn't have as much content as a new one.  I took this as a disruptive sign of disagreement from the publishers, basically undermining the focus on preowned and trying to shift sales focus in store back to new product. It really hammered home to me how the publishers used to love us and now maybe things were changing.

 

Now of course, Game is a shadow of their former self, apparently surviving by upselling Fortnite baseball caps and T-Shirts to people who come in to buy V-Bucks on a gift card for whatever reason.  As you go into Game and have a look around it's really hard to see what their USP is, as they flog second hand phones and appear to try and do what CEX already does, only not quite as well.  I'm told that managers no longer get free consoles and staff discount has dropped from 30% to 10% (and a measly 5% on consoles , making most supermarket offers cheaper than staff discount).  There's a vacancy for an Assistant Manager being advertised locally and it's only 16 hours a week. A friend who still knows people who work there says some managers are taking voluntary redundancy.   But back in the day, Game (especially the brand that was Game before EB took over) really was a cool place to shop.  Their Manchester Arndale store was huge and the pink logo and metallic looking carrier bags were perfect 90s material. The cool kids at school bought stuff there and I loved working there.  And that's my very long answer to explain, yes, a promotion to sell as many Xboxes as possible would indeed carry a prize as erection inducing as playing volleyball with the girls of FHM.  Not that anyone on our region managed to get to Florida.  We were too busy refunding them from other stores that were on the fiddle.

 

And just to be absolutely clear, this is all memories and anecdotes  and it's probably riddled with inaccuracies so don't take it as fact or judge anyone because of my comments. Take it all with a pinch of salt, It's a viewpoint, not necessarily a factual account!


A great read!

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On 25/09/2018 at 11:18, ryodi said:

The last GAME in Cheltenham is closing on the 30th September. There used to be a Gamestation, a Gamestation concession in Blockbuster and an independent store as well back in 2010 or 2011. The Gamestation became Game after the takeover and the concession turned into Blockbuster games and both closed a few years later. The independent closed this year and with Game now closing the biggest place to buy new games now is Smyths on the edge of town. CeX still survives  but that is used game's only and is more of a phone / DVD trade in store these days.

 

I don't buy much from Game but as someone who plays Pokemon they usually have a Mystery Gift event every few months for legendary Pokemon which I now have to go to Gloucester to get. Until they close that store anyway.

 

They re-opened in House of Fraser in... September-ish? of last year. It's actually quite a decent-sized space, and when I first took a look there were shelves with actual games on rather than Funko Pops and the like. It's all still very chart-friendly stuff, so you're buying the same things you could buy anywhere else, but I didn't think we'd ever get another store.

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They're relocating both central Glasgow branches to a new unit on Argyle Street. The rent is likely a lot cheaper in the new unit and it's a decent enough location, it's at least a proper shop next door to M&S.

 

A bit of a shame as the one in St Enoch Centre has been there since the days of future zone, I used to get master system games there FFS!

 

There was a time where there were I think five game or gamestation shops within the city centre, which isn't that big an area!

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  • 1 month later...

Walked through ipswich last weekend, GAME has gone! Been shuffled into some sports shop, with a COD poster in the window to announce its in there.

 

The town used to have Gamestation, GAME in the Highstreet, another inside Debenhams, an Indy shop and cash converters, those were good times.

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Yeah, the only video game store where I live now is a concession GAME store in the downstairs basement area of a big sports direct. Absolute joke.

 

One of my dreams, having worked for EB in the past (and mostly really enjoyed it), was to run my own indie game store, with my brother as the day to day manager and me doing the finances and whatnot. But you'd have to be in idiot to open an indie store now, and while there's always the option of starting an online one, that's now a saturated market with a successful one already in my home town of Swansea (The Game Collection). 

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You can't even make a decent living off selling retro stuff these days as every cunt knows what they've got. Long gone are the times of giving 50p a cartridge and selling it for like 13 quid. Rent's too much, wages are too much, all the trappings that go with employing help is too much. It's more grief than it's worth.

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On 19/03/2022 at 13:24, Qazimod said:

 

They re-opened in House of Fraser in... September-ish? of last year. It's actually quite a decent-sized space, and when I first took a look there were shelves with actual games on rather than Funko Pops and the like. It's all still very chart-friendly stuff, so you're buying the same things you could buy anywhere else, but I didn't think we'd ever get another store.

 

They did this with the one in Leamington. Then House of Fraser itself shut down and now we only have a CEX left.

 

Rent prices are ridiculous around here so it's no surprise that a bunch of big retailers don't survive. Fuck landlords.

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I bought a few bits from the Leamington one in that very brief time between them moving in and then moving out, the entire building was being emptied and they were up at one of the top floors completely isolated and surrounded by creepy mannequins. It was a bizarre scene and the chap working there seemed to be just happy to see real people for a change.

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