GAME is currently in the process of transforming their retail outlets throughout Australia, adding multiple playable consoles in-store for a new type of gaming retail experience. We headed over to their flagship store to take a look, and speak to the people behind the change.
“Who is GAME?” Asks Ben Grant, rhetorically.” Don’t you mean EB Games?"
The space resounds in an awkward silence.
“Well, I’m fed up of hearing that – we’re GAME and I’m very much proud of that.”
Ben Grant is the Marketing Director of GAME. And he’s speaking to a group of journalists in their flagship store, Parramatta Westfield. I live in Parramatta, a literal stone’s throw from the Westfield and this GAME is my local – I’ve been in and out of this store hundreds of times, desperately waiting for my wife to finish buying shoes/clothes/my underwear. Instantly I can tell this store has been transformed.
It looks more like a small E3 booth than a traditional retail outlet, gaming areas – Kinect, Wii, PS3 – are dotted around the store, potential customers playing potential purchases. It’s almost otherworldly. In Australia we’re typically enticed into video game stores by the promise of ‘SALES’. In bold, all caps, doused everywhere in red and white. Like an obnoxious toddler – squawking directly in your lughole.
GAME is toying with something a little different. The sales remains, of course, but starting in Parramatta, and expanding to most of their other stores Australia-wide, GAME is bringing what they call IDUs (Interactive Display Units) to allow consumers to play any game they like, on any format, in-store.
In short – GAME is looking to transform the retail experience. To make it more interactive – more gamer friendly.
“The reason gaming retailers exist is to take innovative products and market them to the end user,” states Ben Grant. “We need to do this effectively or we need not bother. We need to engage gamers in a way that they want to be engaged.”
The honestly of GAME during their presentation is almost beguiling. A video clip actually begins with an apology – an apology to consumers for transforming the creativity of the game’s industry into a series of dull catalogues. An apology for taking products that take years of passion and hard work to create and simply sticking a price tag on it.
“We undertook the research and listened to what gamers wanted from a retail store and today we are very proud to unveil what gamers want,” continues Ben, “made for gamers, by a gaming retailer.
“Book retailers and music retailers didn’t adapt to the changing consumer – we have learned from their mistakes. Adapt or die. This change is purely driven by our customers.
“Our vision is to install gaming showcase stores, like this one, across Australia, with IDUs being installed across the majority of our network, allowing hands on experience wherever you see the GAME logo.”
Speaking to GAME’s Managing Director Paul Yardley, we get the distinct impression that he’s aware of the retail backlash that’s dominated headlines in Australia, and the complacency at the heart of that backlash. In a smaller market like Australia there’s typically less competition for dollars at retail. If you want a bank you go to Commonwealth or Westpac, if you want groceries it's Coles or Woolworths. Games? Well, it’s GAME or EB.
Now that online shopping has gone mainstream, you get the impression that GAME, more than any other local games retailer, really understands the changes that must be made.
“Australian retail as a whole has come under fire from all sides over recent months,” he claims. “An often overused phrase across the business community is ‘Adapt or Die’. A misquote of Mr.Darwin, but a lesson that we are heeding as a business in these rapidly changing times. The net result being a truly exciting a quite dramatic development for retail and retail marketing as a whole in this country”.
This new Parramatta store appears to be his, and GAME’s response - a store that attempts to engage with users on a more social, branded level. With EB and GAME feeling indistinguishable from one another, this store embodies a point of difference and a different way of selling video games in this country.
It appears as though GAME has really cast a critical eye over both themselves, and the state of Australian retail as a whole - this rebrand is an attempt to futureproof a business in a constant state of flux. Whether or not these changes will sway an increasingly online educated consumer base remains to be seen.
In a sense, competition at retail isn’t always welcomed by major Australian retailers – but at the very least GAME are making an effort to transform themselves for a new type of consumer.
And that, at the very least, is a solid start.