As many of you may now know, GAME has gone into voluntary administration. Reports are coming in that people with vouchers or who have points as part of their customer loyalty scheme are only allowed to use them provided they adhere to certain restrictions. For example, you’re only able to use the value on your voucher towards a game if you agree to spend four times as much. Definitely a rip-off but apparently under Australian law, if a company goes bankrupt they’re not entitled to give you anything (at least when it comes to vouchers or credit). Definitely glad I don’t have any GAME vouchers then, although I am a member of their loyalty scheme.
I’m not really surprised that GAME was the Australian video games retailer to go down first out of what I consider the major three (EB, GAME and JB Hi-Fi). EB has an established presence and JB Hi-Fi doesn’t only deal with video games. This meant GAME was effectively competing with EB for market share as a dedicated video games store and they expanded quite aggressively over the past few years, with stores popping up all over Australia. Alas, that may have only made matters worse which is why they’re now in this predicament.
It is a pity since there is now going to be less competition in the Australian games retail market - a couple of things that I liked about GAME were that it had a customer loyalty scheme (which only now EB has decided to jump on the bandwagon) and they guaranteed free shipping when you bought a game online. I’ve bought a few games from them online thanks to their cheaper prices when compared to EB or JB.
Of course, an even bigger threat to these bricks ‘n’ mortar stores are online stores and digital distribution systems such as Steam and to a lesser extent, Origin. The advantages of systems such as Steam are that there’s a large range of games, they’re often quite a bit cheaper and you can download them from anywhere. Only those that still have a stigma against buying online or that don’t want to authenticate their games would suffer from using Steam (oh and those that want physical items in their collector editions too ). Just like books and music though, online games seems to be the way of the future, whether you like it or not. Even though I’m generally for it, it does have its drawbacks (having been on the receiving end of losing game progress due to disconnections is extremely annoying!).
I’m hoping there will still be physical video games stores in the future but maybe they’ll only be able to cater to the rich – to the people who could afford to have the space in their homes to store physical books and discs! For the rest of us, we will be storing it on our computers.