Changing The GAME

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.

“SALE!”

“SAAAALE!”

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.

WATCH MORE: Gaming News


Comments

    I personally like Game stores they way they are, its sleek, and there is no clutter like in some EB Games stores.

      [insert remark about less customers compared to that of EB Games or JB Hi-Fi here]

        looks like less because GAME use case safers and don't have go looking for the disc like EB, so rather than waiting for 2-3 minutes like you do at EB, you only wait 1 minute... 2 tops. higher counter turnover, the faster they walk in and out, making GAME stores look empty. They are just moving the customers in and out faster. It by far beats waiting at crappy EB.

    the Game store where I live is always more expensive than EB, and they never have special editions. Having said that, if they can make their stores more interesting, I'll be there.

    Every Game store anywhere near where I live or work all disappeared around the same time. But when I did go to Game, a lack of IDUs or pretty colours wasn't the reason I hardly ever shopped there, it was that their prices were only competitive when they had sales or specials. Exactly like another gaming store they don't want to be compared to.

    Although right before they disappeared I did pick up some good bargains.

    My experience with GAME over here in Perth is very different. Their stores just don't have the range of stock on the floor as your EB's and JB Hi-Fi's. Not to mention their store sizes wouldn't be able to accomodate something like this.

      Yeah, my first thought was 'Carousel store isn't big enough...'

      In fact, the only time I've ever actually bought something from GAME was Portal 2 because of the broken street date and JB not having any stock. The prices are usually similar to EB, and their range is pretty abysmal in Perth.

        Midland GAME used to be ok about 2.5 years ago. Terrible now.

          Ouch, I take serious offence to that, because I work there. If there is ever a problem with something in the store feel free to come in and tell us, we're always willing to take criticism from customers in order to help improve our service. Come in and have a chat with us, we're always working on ways to improve our service.

            I have a GAME downstairs and an EB almost right above it on the next floor here in Armadale WA.

            I find myself in these two stores killing time waiting for someone to finish their shopping or waiting for my sumo salad to be cooked.

            The reasons I don't buy much in GAME are: they are usually the most expensive place to buy games in Perth, they often don't have the games I want in stock (eg. never stocked NBA Jam, haven't had NBA 2k11 in many months, Deathsmiles -what's that?, dont have many of the good PSP and DS games, never had the turtle beach x41's). I really believe (after many months of observing this store) that they purposefully don't stock more than the initial shipment of many new games as they sell their second hand games for around $10 less than the already overpriced new games! Getting a USB charge cable for a DS/DSi/XL should be a simple task -but no, none stocked, prolly because they have a shitload of own-brand ac adapters they gotta sell! No I don't want to pre-order anything today -why keep asking me when I look at you like Im annoyed and say every week " I don't pre-order" -I know your line, why don't you remember mine? No I don't want to buy disc scratch insurance!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! These are the reasons why shopping online is so pleasurable.

      I used to live in Perth, now of in the country, and one of my main gripes with both Game and EB Games was that if you were looking for a game older than a month you had to scan the stacks and stacks of haphazardly arranged second hand and older titles that were jammed in anyway they could fit. After 15 minuites you'd ask a store guy if they actually had a copy and the computer would say yes and he'd wave a hand and say, it'll be over there, in the stacked shelves you were just searching or one of the dozens of bargain bins. There was never a system or any order to managing stock, just a pigs breakfast. I had the same experience at dozens of game stores. There wasn't the expected value add from the specialty shop compared to buying a game from Big W or JB HiFi.

      Specialty book stores like Sci Fi book shops or comic shops, develop a culture and store staff work up rapports with their customers and develop quality customer vendor relationships that lead to sales. I've rarely met a game store sales staff who even looked happy to be there.

      Now I order exclusively online and save on average up to 40% from ozgameshop, I used to think supporting local retailers was important, but not when they put so little effort in.

    Hope they relocate their stores before bringing this new store layout to SA because they're all located in shopping centres in the feral/bogan suburbs.

      This!!!! I would so shop at Game if i didn't think that either my car would be stolen or i would be robbbedstabbedrapeafied in the carpark....
      The again, their flagship store is in Parramatta....

        Where the hell do you guys live?

        Modbury's bad... but it's not that bad.

          I live in the snuggly safe south eastern suburbs :)

          Game locations in SA from memory
          Modbury TTP ;)
          Colonades
          Munno Parra
          Elizabeth

          need i say more....

            Kek! I'm in the eastern suburbs!

      I'm in Dover Gardens. Marion Shopping Center is my closest GAME at a few streets away. We have Brighton, Seaview Downs and Warradale near us and they are all nice suburbs too. If you want bogan, go up to Norlunga/Chrisities Beach Colennades GAME then come back to me.

    It is a step in a good direction, however I still can't see myself buying anything anytime soon without a change to Aussie retail prices.

      Exactly. If they really knew what gamers want, they'd be putting pressure on the distributors and publishers to reduce crazy regional pricing.

        Let's see how that conversation would go:

        GAME: "We need to charge less so we can get a bigger market share and make more money."
        DIST: "Okay?"
        GAME: "Therefore, you need to charge us less, so we can pass that onto our customers."
        DIST: "Why would we do that?"
        GAME: "Or... or we won't stock your product!"
        DIST: "That's fine. You don't have to. Other retailers will do just fine."
        GAME: "Well... fine."

          What we need is a widespread consumer boycott, one that doesn't intentionally hurt the retail business without an obvious greater goal. Sadly though, that'll never happen.

        Then they'd be back to square one. How do you propose that any single retailers put pressure on their suppliers? They won't like that; there'll be retribution from the suppliers and you'll see that company's range decrease, prices increase, or margin decrease.

        The ONLY way for suppliers to charge less is for the market to massively shrink, or for all retailers to gang up on them. But that's collusion and it's illegal :\

          I don't see why they can't put pressure on the suppliers. How many retailers are there in Australia? I would think EB Games, Game and JB would have at least 75% of all video game purchases between them. So any one of those would hold quite a large percentage of the market. I'm sure there is some risk in it for the retailers but I don't think all suppliers are going to be as petty as 'you complained, now you get nothing from us' as it would hurt them as well.

            They certainly would.

            I heard from an insider at [redacted] that when [One of the Big Three retailers] broke a couple of street dates, Nintendo withheld all shipments of DKC after the initial one. At Christmas. It wasn't pretty for their bottom line, and increased their opposition's market share at the crucial time.

            So yeah, they -are- that petty. They know they have the retailers by the balls, so there's absolutely nothing that can be done... unless someone breaks free from the aussie distro's entirely, and runs their own supplier/distributor via import. And that's such a massive risk, such an expensive operation, it'll never EVER happen on a large scale.

      It's too bad that this comes along a few months after the local Chatswood Westfield store shut down.

    Now if this also includes getting competent staff. Not the type who lie to customers saying they have to preoder to get the game on release. And that seem to be incapable of just letting a customer browse without bothering them.

      What game did they lie to you about? I got told that I needed to pre-order to secure a game.

    Hearkens back to the early 90s for me.

    My parents would often visit the local Toyworld to buy presents for me, my sister or our innumerable cousins. The store always had a few consoles on display and would put any game you liked in.

    Of course then there was always someone sitting there hogging it for hours on end.

    i have mostly been going to EB lately, but that is only because EB is 5 minutes from me and the closest GAME is 20min,
    may actually go down and check out GAME when this happens to the one near me

    Hmm, to go down to the local GAME store and pay $80-100 for new releases, or to buy them for $40-70 (incl. postage) from online stores? Tough choice.

      Yeah but if you buy it online you might end up with it a week earlier (okay not always but that's my plan for Zelda on 3DS).

    I like this idea and I'd love to see it in action but when you're selling identical stock, the main driving force behind sales will be price.

    This will get people in store. At least, it will get people in the remaining stores because they did close a lot of outlets down recently. But if they can't find a way to convince people that the value offered is comparable to that from the online stores, they're going to still be in trouble.

    This is a good idea, but it might have just been executed at the wrong time.

    Sort out your prices first.

      Funny that it only takes five words to identify the issue that an entire industry is unable to comprehend. GAME aren't even cheaper than JB or Big W, let alone the strong online competitors like ozgameshop or Zavvi.

        Big W and JB are larger chains selling more than just games - I'd imagine they have more 'buying power' and can get cheaper wholesale, and furthermore can run certain games cheaper as a loss leader to get people into the store.

          There's also the fact they use games as loss leaders. Selling them at lower than cost price, and making up money on other products.

        Unable to comprehend?! Tell me how a retailer should demand better deals for their supplier without being alienated or ostracised. If you can give me a workable answer, I'll forward it to people who can listen.

        Keep in mind that if they simply import stock, suppliers won't deal with them, and they sell goods without warranty, exchange, or guarantee, which is all unacceptable. Then it'll be ozgameshop's price + local expenses and overheads + profit on top.

    I love EB... with their awesome sale signs hanging down over the entrance so everyone has to duck underneath to get into the almost cave-like room with a mess of games everywhere.

    Firstly, major props for using 'lughole' in the article.

    Secondly, this is all very well and good - I admire their apparently noble effort to connect with consumers over more than just price - but if their prices are still 50-100% more expensive than comparable retailers overseas, what motivation is there at all to shop retail?

    The best in-store, brick-and-mortar experience in the world doesn't make a jot of difference to my buying habits if their prices are still orders of magnitude higher than what can be purchased from abroad.

    Good I guess but no amount of IDU's will make me pay double the price for a game.
    At best I might wander in to try out a game I am iffy on before going home and logging onto Ozgameshop.

    I agree with Aidan, you'll find people will go into the store, try out the games, then go home, jump online and buy o/s. Why pay $100 here, when u can get it for < $50 with only a 7 day wait?

    Umm...are people forgetting Gametraders have been doing this for years? They always have interactive stations setup in all their stores. Sure, it's not as lavish as this, but Gametraders stores are franchised and have to be affordable to the persons buying the franchise. This is not a new thing, just an Americanisation of something that is already available. Oh, and JB also have at least one IDU in each store as well.

    They will need more than just IDU's to make a difference. There needs to be reasons to get people in store. Maybe regular competitions with prizes/discounts etc. Have a few IDU's isn't going to change much, it will just ensure you end up a child minding facility for parents.

      I went into a Gametraders the other day after they had updated their store. They had a saturn, n64 and i forget what else playable.

      Everything was expensive! The only thing that interested me were the anime/game replica swords on their back wall and some of the japanese toys they stock.

      Their game prices still suck as far as I'm concerned.

    I think it's a great idea. I've always prefered GAME over EB. I can't speak for every store but my local one is actually staffed by gamers who know what they're talking about.

    So uh, anyone complaining about pricing relative to other local retailers, how about you check the article that Mark wrote a few days ago...? It's got nothing on somewhere like OzGameShop, but at least they're trying.

    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/05/whats-in-store/ This one.

    Are they intending to do anything more than install IDUs? Because I didn't pick up on any other meaningful plans from this article, and while they are a great idea, I have a horrible feeling they will simply turn into babysitters for shopping parents. This would probably make their stores even less attractive for some people.

    I look to an experience from earlier in the year as an example of this. I went into an Apple store to try out one of the new MacBook Pros, and all of them had an attached iPod Touch. Easily half of the seats were occupied by kids under the age of 12 who were playing games on the iPod while ignoring the computer. I did eventually manage to find a spot, but my overall experience was soured, and I ended up just doing my shopping online anyway.

    Hopefully I'm wrong and they a) have a way around this and b) even greater plans to draw people like myself into the store. Otherwise I will continue to do all my games shopping at JB or online...

    My local shopping centre is big, there's an EB Games, a GAME store, Gametraders, some other one which is independent, and other big retail stores like JB and Big W. I tend to stick with EB and JB Hi FI because they are right next door to each other and I can walk in and out easily while I haggle for better deals and bonuses I would of have to preorder for. GAME is tiny, and all the employees are creepypasta so I tend to stay away from it.

    He says this is "driven by our customers" (as all marketing people do) but is that true? Is there a proportion of gamers out there who have been calling for playable consoles in stores? Or are we largely shopping on price and therefore don't want game stores taking up unnecessary retail space with gimmicks and then having to jack up prices to cover the rental of said space?

    The comments in this thread are a little disturbing to me. I work in game-specialist retail for one of the big three, and I have a lot of passion and knowledge when it comes to selling and recommending games. However, just about everyone who's commented above me here seems to be saying that I shouldn't have a job.

    Games at retail will NEVER be as cheap as online because instead of three guys who work at a warehouse, we need to have a shop, and power, and water, and staff, and marketing, and so on. As such, all my passion and knowledge are useless for financial gain; I am doomed to redundancy, because this entire industry, which is retail, is unfeasible.

    It's one thing to say that we should support the devs, because they have so much passion, but other people do, too. Now, I'm not crying poor or suggesting that it's necessarily everyone else's problem that my company cannot be competitive against a minimalist business model, but consider that if this trend continues or deepens, there will be NO avenue for unskilled people to enter employment and gain further skills or build a resume.

    It'll be an interesting time in 30 years when retail is virtually nonexistent outside of Woolworths and K-Mart.

      When retailers are paying more for a game than an individual is, the issue has very little to do with the retailers' overheads.

      Yes, online stores can offer better prices because of lower overheads, but largely we're just getting screwed by price discrimination and until retail stores are able to source competitively priced games, they're at a disadvantage.

      People are forgetting that it's not so much the retailers as it is the distributers for the high prices. But when the prices are so much higher than overseas imports, retailers are the first and easiest target for ire.
      That and EB's preowned practice is kind of messed up price-wise.

      game.co.uk (which correlates to UK shop pricing) and 365games.co.uk have directly comparable prices, take a look - I found no favour in either direction.

      It's not impossible to make the prices directly competitive. Accessories sell far better in person due to the advantage of having a salesperson doing their job and upselling, which (in my short time in retail) is where the significant money comes in. And if you run an operation where you don't need physical impressions of the products or salespeople, then why have a shopfront at all?

      Mate, I feel you. I used to work in retail sales myself (digital cameras, GPS, computers etc) and your point about people with passion is well received. Fact is that times are changing and I believe it's only a matter of time before retail stores all revert to either "flagship" stores that are more or less purely for demonstration and promotion (like Apple, Sony or the new JB in Sydney have done) or a low-price, low-service, economies-of-scale model like a supermarket.

      I could go on for days on this subject.

      Don't forget new releases go for US$60 at bricks & mortar stores in the states so only comparing our bricks & mortar business model to online stores is a load of shit.

    Awesome. I might head down to the Parra store tomorrow and have a look.

Join the discussion!