All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

In July 2012 GAME Australia closed its doors for the last time. 700 members of staff, 90 stores, 20 years. All lost. Gone. But two years previously, when the UK’s Chief Executives sent its best men to save GAME from the doldrums, no-one could have predicted how quickly it would all go wrong. This is the story of how one retailer tried to reinvent itself, but came tumbling apart at the seams.

May 2011. GAME’s newly redesigned Parramatta store is a pitch-perfect exercise in ergonomics; carefully dotted with display units, slick in silver. The latest products adorn the shelves, thoughtfully organised. A glorious debut. On a small raised stage in the centre of the store, surrounded by the Australian press contingent, stands Ben Grant, GAME’s Marketing Director, dressed in his trademark black. He clears his throat.

“Who is GAME?” he asks. “Don’t you mean EB Games?

“Well, I’m fed up of hearing that. We’re GAME and I’m very much proud of that.”

Five metres to Ben’s right is Paul Yardley, GAME’s Managing Director. Brought on initially as a consultant it is now his job to rescue GAME’s struggling Australian operation. This transformed Parramatta store is part of the plan.

On Paul’s left, ‘Phil and Ed’, a comedy duo. The first stage in a marketing blitz that will ultimately land GAME in some serious trouble. At least that’s what GAME hopes. They want to make waves, land a headline or two. ‘Phil and Ed’ is just the beginning.

Behind everyone, standing at the counter, watching it all transpire, is Parramatta’s store manager Travis Jones. He has no idea what the hell is going on, and he’s not entirely sure he likes it. His store has become an experiment. He’s not sure if that’s a good thing.

Just over one year later, Travis Jones, with stubborn tears in his eyes, will lock up GAME’s Parramatta store for the last time. He will head to Parramatta RSL for beers with a group of store managers who have just done the exact same thing. They will drink their sorrows until they drop and GAME will be no more.


All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

November 2010. The sun beats down on Elizabeth Bay. Ben Grant is still dressed in black. In between drinks, he tells us the master plan. GAME’s stores are dull. No-one cares. Worse, no one really knows who GAME is. That’s set to change, he says. The UK has sent some hotshots to the rescue. These men have dragged other territories out of trouble into calmer waters. They’ll do the same with the troubled Australian market, believes Ben. Things are about to get interesting.

Hotshot #1: Gordon Graham, a gruff Scottish Operations Manager. A man Travis Jones affectionately refers to as “a mean old prick”. The man who single-handedly saved GAME’s Irish territory from the abyss.

Hotshot #2: GAME’s brand new Managing Director Paul Yardley.

But Paul Yardley had already been in Australia for three months before his appointment — time he mostly spent sunning himself on Sydney’s beaches. Paul had just entered his 30s. After spending four years working for Deutsche Bank as an investment banker, he took a sabbatical, headed to the other side of the world, and quietly wondered what the hell he was doing with his life. He found his answer in a chance phone call.

In his past life at Deutsche Bank, Paul Yardley had spent the past three or four years getting to know the executives who ran GAME PLC. When he heard GAME’s Chief Executive was on a visit to Australia, he figured catching up for drinks was a decent idea. The conversation soon turned to business. GAME’s Chief Executive was frank.

“Australia’s a struggle,” she said.

“Why?” That was Paul’s first question. Surely Australia, with a population of 22 million and an engaged set of potential consumers, was the perfect market for GAME. What could have gone wrong?

That’s what she wanted Paul Yardley to figure out.

“She said, ‘Can you do a bit of consultancy work?” says Paul. “’Go look at GAME for three months? Figure what it is that we’re not quite doing right, see if the business in the right place?’

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I’m very happy to do that’.”

Paul Yardley’s days of sunning himself on the beach were about to be over.

Store Wars

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

Paul Yardley scratched his head. As far as he could tell, there were roughly five major things GAME was doing wrong, almost all of which were the result of one major issue. GAME had far too many stores, and too many of those stores were being fundamentally mismanaged. Too much stock, not enough sales, poor management. First order of business: close the offending stores, clean up the mess.

In its rush to expand rapidly, he concluded, GAME had been taken advantage of. They had an overwhelming amount of stores, paying extravagant rental rates for mediocre retail space. According to Parramatta Manager, Travis Jones, GAME’s previous Managing Director was essentially being paid to open as many stores as he could in as short a time as possible. It took the previous owners of the Game Wizards brand almost 20 years to establish 15 stores. In 30 months, GAME increased that number to an incredible 125. Ben Grant claims the UK wanted 200+ GAME stores in Australia as part of a global expansion plan. And they wanted them fast.

“GAME saw that the market in this country was big, and EB pretty much had it to themselves at that stage,” explains Paul Yardley. “There was a big attractive market, with $110 price points. So they thought, ‘Brilliant, here we go.’”

Here we go indeed. But while GAME was busy expanding, so too was its main competitor EB Games. Both were caught up in bidding wars for retail space throughout the country, allowing the Westfields of the world to play one against the other.

“We were losing so much money that it made sense to say to the landlords, ‘Look, we know we owe you for another three years, if we pay you six months rent, can we walk away?’”

“The property market was very, very full,” says Paul. “Westfield had eight people begging for every site they had. So you ended up in this bidding war, and I think all the landlords were saying, ‘OK, GAME, OK, EB Games, I’ve got one site in the centre. I want a games store there. What’s your best offer?’”

Ben Grant agrees.

“The arrival of GAME into the Australian market resulted in EB Games accelerating their store expansion plan,” he admits. “The landlords did very well out of the property expansion battle between us.”

Paul immediately set about the painful task of deciding which stores were financially viable, and which needed to be closed immediately.

“We took the business from 130 stores down to about 90 over a six-month period,” says Paul. “It was quite painful.“

Painful because of the job losses, admits Paul — Managing Directors typically don’t want to be part of a shrinking business — but the majority of the financial pain came from the exorbitant cost of closing stores. GAME were bound to multiple overpriced locations for three years, getting out of these contracts proved costly.

“We were losing so much money that it made sense to say to the landlords, ‘Look, we know we owe you for another three years, if we pay you six months rent, can we walk away?’

“We’d have that debate, and eventually they would say yes.”

Closing the stores was the first order of business. The second order of business was to whip the remaining stores into shape and make sure capable hands were manning the deck.

And that’s where Gordon Graham comes in. The man Travis Jones once called a “mean old prick”.

Travis And Hotshot #1

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

Travis Jones was a little sick of wearing a shirt and tie to work. That’s one reason why he quit his job at EB Games in Shellharbour. The other was poor management. EB Games put more focus on Key Performance Indicators than customer service, and that was difficult to take. Working at GAME was far more suited to a man like Travis, who took real pleasure in making sure customers walked out of his store with a smile on their face.

“GAME always told us the customer came first,” says Travis, and that suited him fine. “Before you stack a shelf you serve every customer. You make sure they feel comfortable.”

Travis admits that life before Paul Yardley was a little more relaxed. He was usually left alone to run his store, and visits from the previous Operations Manager were few and far between. Very little scrutiny was placed on how things were run.

But that all changed when Gordon Graham came on board.

“A lot of the staff members were scared of him,” says Travis. “He had a presence.”

Gordon Graham was ‘hotshot #1’. It was his job to fix what Paul Yardley believed was the second major issue with GAME’s business in Australia — the stores themselves. What did they look like, how were they run? Were the right people in charge of these stores?

Thankfully, Travis made the cut.

“Gordon was very strict in making sure everyone hit their targets,” says Travis. “He kept an eye on that. The feeling you got when he came over was this guy is fucking serious. A lot of the staff members weren’t used to that because the Aussie guys who were running it before were so laid back they didn’t give a fuck!”

But Gordon Graham gave a fuck — he gave several fucks. And despite feeling intimidated by his presence, most managers grew to respect his style. Gordon Graham expected the world from his managers, but was quick to reward success.

“He was definitely fair. Gordon rewarded good work quite well. At the end of the day we all understood that this guy knew what he was doing. We all respected that.”

The Bitter Pill

In a warehouse in Sydney 10,000 copies of the latest Just Dance gather dust. GAME, across 90 stores, is selling roughly 200 copies a week. It’s endemic of an ageing business model, endemic of the poor purchasing practices of GAME’s previous management team.

If GAME was to have any chance of surviving in Australia, changing the way it dealt with local publishers and distributors was essential. The constant overpurchasing of retail units had resulted in all kinds of difficulties.

“Historically we were buying too much,” admits Paul Yardley. “But that’s the way publishers tend to work, or used to work I should say. THQ were good at this.

“They’ll sell you 10 million, and you sell five. Then the publishers say, ‘well, that’s terrible isn’t it — what are you going to do about it?’ We say, ‘Well, alright we have to pay for it, right?’ Then they say ‘I’ll do you a deal, you put it on the front of your window for a week and I’ll take off $10 a copy.’

“So you end up being forced to do these things because you bought too much in the first place. You’re constantly in debt. Then the publishers say, ‘OK, if you buy 10 million of the next game, I’ll half the price of the last stock you couldn’t sell.’ So you end up in this sort of spiral. It’s a bit like being at the drug dealer where they give you the first hit for free.”

Paul Yardley wanted to change the conversation. Again, it was as easy as taking the right people out for a drink.

“There’s roughly, I don’t know, 12 people here in Australia who run the games industry,” says Paul. “If you have a beer with them once every three or four weeks, you don’t necessarily get everything you want, but you’re at least able to ask for certain things politely. They’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’ll give you that, but I won’t give you this.'”

The tough part of the conversation was obvious — GAME would now be buying less of what publishers and distributors were trying to sell. That was the bitter pill. The sweetener was a slicker business model, where GAME would consistently sell through the stock they purchased. Retail, as a whole, was changing, and GAME was helping drive that change here in Australia.

“Retailers started to understand that when we bought four million we sold 3.8 million,” explains Paul. “Brilliant. Perfect. Because they don’t have to worry about the next shipment and how we’re going to pay for that.

“Whereas before GAME were screaming, ‘Ship it in! We’ll sell 10 million!’ Then we’d come back, saying, ‘Give us some discounts! We can’t sell them!’”

A Brief Encounter

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

Travis Jones pauses for thought. He chooses his words carefully.

“Ben Grant definitely has… uh, a different kind of mind when it comes to marketing.”

In 2010, GAME’s Marketing Director Ben Grant had very little to lose. He had already handed in his resignation. Ben Grant initially arrived in Australia in 2008 on a 12-month contract; GAME had acquired the Game Wizards stores, and Ben was asked to come over to Australia and help drive this new commercial undertaking. Two extensions and three years later, he was ready to go back home to England. Ben Grant missed his family.

But the proposition offered was impossible to pass up. Paul Yardley and GAME’s UK Directors gave Ben a blank slate — reinvent GAME’s image from the ground up, build GAME’s brand awareness to the point where they could no longer be ignored, to the point where no one would ever mistake them for EB Games again.

“The brief I was given was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he says.

It was a dream assignment, but Ben’s budget was almost non-existent. It was the challenge that motivated him: How could he maximise brand awareness with minimal investment?

Ben’s first step was GAME TV, hosted by Phil and Ed.

Phil and Ed were invented characters, played by actors Steen Raskopoulos and Seamus McAlary. They lived and played in Ed’s mother’s basement and were intended to appeal to GAME’s core audience, to represent a new, edgier GAME — a brand with personality and presence. Interesting concept, but patronising in practice. Some saw Phil and Ed as a harmless bit of fun, but many gamers were offended by the idea of two basement-dwelling man-children representing them.

But Ben Grant’s intention was to elicit some sort of reaction, positive or negative, so he pressed on. There were harmless campaigns like the Battle Of The Clans or the Sonic Quest, but Ben was intent on stirring the pot. As far as he was concerned, the more controversy the better. The likenesses of Phil and Ed were used on some fairly juvenile reward cards — strategically positioned holes allowed owners to get a little ‘creative’.

And then there was the notorious ‘WTF?!’ campaign…

A dancing dwarf, a couple of regular joes, a playboy bunny, a gardening grandmother — all exclaiming “What the F–” at GAME’s trade-in deals. It was attention-grabbing by rote but smart positioning. According to Ben Grant a number of these campaigns resulted in complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which, of course, was precisely the reaction Ben Grant was looking for. He wanted to market the GAME brand as a bit crazy, a bit edgy, a bit out there.

“I would much prefer to have had 100 per cent positive press coverage, but this resulted in a lot of free media coverage and articles,” says Ben. “People were talking about GAME for the first time.”

And Ben Grant was just getting started.

GAME Swinging

“The GAME swingers thing?” begins Travis Jones. “That was really fucking weird, and it should never have happened.”

“Everyone who worked for GAME was thinking, ‘What the fuck is going on. Has it really come to this?’”

GAME Swinging. It was the culmination of Ben Grant’s reinvention of GAME. An attempt to maximise exposure with minimum marketing dollars, a last gasp shot at rebranding GAME as something completely separate and distinct from its competitors. It backfired. Massively.

But GAME Swinging was supposed to backfire. It was designed to fail, right from the start.

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

The concept for GAME Swinging was relatively simple: a series of speed-dating events focused on gaming and trading games. Male and female gamers would meet up, swap games and maybe even swap phone numbers. It seemed like harmless fun.

The actual event itself, however, was far from harmless. GAME Swinging began, as you’d expect, with some gaming and a few drinks. Later, however, a series of clearly paid male and female models spontaneously began removing their clothes and wandered around the venue naked. A promotional video for the event ended with a male and female model leaving the event, heading up to a hotel room and suggestively closing the door behind them.

By the end of the video, no one was ever in any doubt — what initially seemed like a curious, if misguided, dating concept was actually a calculated attempt at grabbing shock headlines. Today, Ben Grant is happy to admit as much. His goal was to create controversy, to generate media headlines and mainstream outrage.

“GAME Swingers was a PR stunt,” he admits. “We wanted make the national news and cause enough public outcry to get the event closed down.”

From the beginning, says Ben, the GAME Swinging event was designed to achieve a handful of distinct goals: get the GAME brand on national television, distance GAME from EB, and shock consumers. But Ben’s ultimate goal was to generate multiple letters of complaint that he could then send to the media to prolong media coverage and get a “second bite of the cherry”, as he puts it.

Ben even ascribed a financial target to the GAME Swinging operation: he wanted the event to garner $1 million dollars of free media coverage. In the end, according to his estimates, GAME pulled in roughly $500,000 — half of what Ben had initially hoped for.

“Would I do it again? No,” he says.

“I would have tried something else more controversial that would have obtained double the media coverage, with an even bigger shock factor.”

But by the end of Ben Grant’s media blitz, he was mentally and physically drained. He left Australia and headed back home to his family in the UK, having built GAME’s brand awareness from 18 per cent to 50 per cent in just over a year.

“Ben Grant tried his best to promote GAME in different ways,” says Travis Jones. “I give him real credit for that.”

The Dance

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

Late 2011. A meeting room in the UK. GAME PLC is in the midst of a dangerous gambit. Paul Yardley refers to it as a ‘dance’. Like most PLCs, GAME UK owed a large sum of money to the Bank, but that wasn’t the problem. GAME PLC was starting to show the stresses that came with steering a retail giant through a declining market in the midst of a global recession. That was the problem.

Soon those stresses became visible fractures; the bank was concerned. GAME wasn’t exactly proving itself to be a profitable company that could pay its bills on time. The dance went sour.

“It was around about that time the UK noticed their dance partner was eyeing up the girl behind them,” explains Paul. “They started to think, ‘OK, now we really are in trouble.’”

GAME’s credit, like anyone’s, was tied to a number of financial covenants. There was a golden ratio: to manage its debt GAME PLC had to prove a certain level of profitability. And it had to cough up a certain amount of cash for expenses.

And therein lay the issue — heading into 2012 GAME, as a global company, wasn’t profitable enough to maintain those financial covenants. It was struggling. Majorly.

“Initially the banks were friendly,” explains Paul. “They listened carefully and GAME outlined a plan to restore profitability to the group. All the way through this we really, honestly believed this was just a game of poker. The banks would say, ‘You’re going to break your covenants’. We would say, ‘Well, yes, we might, but we’ll come good again in six months time.’”

But the stakes were high. The dance became tense. GAME’s lenders, in the first quarter of 2012, sent in financial services firm PwC to double check if GAME’s generous business forecasts actually held water. GAME PLC was put in the difficult position of having to work in the same offices as its potential administrators. One false move and the accountants working across the office would have their heads on a silver platter.

“There was this mob of accountants sitting in the UK offices saying, ‘be nice to us or we’ll tip you over the edge’,” explains Paul.

And all the while, looming on the horizon, the spectre of store rent, paid quarterly in the UK. It was an expense that always had the potential to sink GAME. There were over 600 stores across the UK. A lot of cash to pay in one hit; an almost impossible sum of money.

And, in the end, it was this store rent that took GAME PLC to the cleaners.

“GAME UK went to pay the rent and the bank just said ‘nope’,” says Paul. “It was very much a moment of ‘insufficient funds’.”

“At that point you haven’t got an option. If the bank won’t give you any money and you can’t pay your rent. You haven’t got a business anymore.

“So the UK had to call in the administrators.”

The mothership had just gone bust.

A Moment Of Clarity

You would expect chaos. Meltdowns. Staff walkouts. You’d expect instantaneous storewide sales across Australia. In truth, no one knew what to expect when GAME PLC went into administration. Most assumed that when the UK went pop that, in turn, GAME Australia would go pop.

A reasonable assumption, but what actually happened was this: Paul Yardley drove to his office, sat down on his chair, took a deep breath and exhaled. At his desk, in the midst of the insane situation he had just inherited, Paul did some thinking. The Australian banks are still dealing with us, he thought. We have money in the bank. We can pay our rent, and we can buy stock. We still have a business.

“We had this moment of clarity,” says Paul. “We realised we didn’t have to do anything day one. We could keep going.”

But there was fallout. Paul Yardley and his team had been busy transforming GAME into something approaching a profitable business, but that process required a cash investment. If GAME was to survive it needed a buyer, someone who would continue to fund GAME’s reconstruction. But, before that could happen, it was the responsibility of the management team to reassure everyone — business partners, staff members, themselves — that recovery was possible.

“I spent a lot of the first few days telling everyone ‘We’re still here’,” says Paul. “We’ll find an answer.”

On the frontline, however, everyone’s confidence was shaken.

“Although none of us wanted to believe it,” says Travis, “we all knew the UK situation would affect us in Australia. We were told numerous times that it wouldn’t, but it scared the absolute fucking shit out of me. That was the start of everything, when everyone started wondering, ‘Are we going to be OK?’”

The answer to that question depended solely on Paul Yardley’s ability to find a buyer for GAME Australia.

Falling Down The Crack

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

Crack picture from Shutterstock Paul Yardley spoke to multiple interested parties, 10 in total. At one point, the management team got together and discussed the possibility of buying GAME themselves, but that was eventually deemed impossible. In the end, three major parties seemed genuinely intrigued in GAME, and Paul truly believed a solution was in sight.

“We had some good healthy discussions with a number of people,” says Paul.

But one buyer suddenly left negotiations — that was a blow. Then, later down the track, the second prospective buyer pulled out. GAME’s bargaining power was significantly reduced.

And, finally, May 13. GAME’s final prospective saviour walked away. All was lost. GAME was too risky a proposition. For those who didn’t understand the cyclical nature of games retail, GAME was simply too much work for too little reward.

“There were three things that anyone coming into the situation had to get their heads around pretty quickly,” explains Paul, “and this was hour by hour stuff.”

“One. If I’m not from the games market, if I’m new to this, what I’m seeing is a declining market. I’m investing in a company that’s telling me it’s going to turn around in a few year’s time but I’ve got no proof of that. Will I gamble four million bucks on that?

“Two. Let’s say I buy into the gaming market. I’ve got a business that’s been through a pretty tough six months and lost a lot of good people. Do I have the appetite as a buyer to rebuild this thing? A lot of people were like, ‘That sounds like a lot of fucking hard work actually’. Quite high risk.

“Three. GAME is a funny size really — 90 stores. If I’m, say, Anchorage Capital, I can buy Dick Smith, which has 400 stores. I could put in $20 million and make $200 million. Or I could put in $4 million into GAME and make $20 million. Both are going to take the same amount of energy.

“I think we fell down the crack in a way. Just an awkward size at an awkward point in the market cycle.”

May 13, Paul Yardley has two very difficult phone calls to make. The first is to GAME’s lawyers. He double-checks the figures, triple-checks his options. The last thing he wants is to be charged with insolvent trading. As a Managing Director, that may be the one thing that follows him to his grave. Paul Yardley is now out of options. He saves the most difficult phone call for the next morning.

May 14. Paul Yardley calls PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). We know you’re outside waiting, he says. You can come in now.

It was official, GAME Australia was in administration.

“You make that phone call,” he says. “You actually sign a piece of paper. You sign a piece of paper that says GAME is bust. And then you’re depressed.”

No Longer In Control

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

“I think everyone sort of knew something bad was about to happen.”

Employees in the back are busy packing boxes; buyers are on phones, frantically negotiating with distributors. Reluctantly, Paul Yardley stands up in the middle of GAME’s head office. He watches as productivity slowly grinds to a halt. He begins to talk; he explains the situation as plainly as possible. He scans the room for a reaction. Fear, exhaustion. Before the day is out there will be tears.

“Everyone had worked so hard,” says Paul. “It was like being in the trenches and you’ve just lost the war. It’s not an episode I care to repeat in my corporate life.

“You sign a piece of paper. Then you call a staff meeting. You say, ‘this morning we’ve had to put the company into administration, we’re very sorry. And I’m very sad to be standing in front of you telling you this. Here is Mr PwC who will now tell you what’s going to happen, what that means for you. Because I won’t be here any more.’”

At that precise moment, Paul remembers one specific conversation. A few weeks back an employee came into his office. “Will I lose my job if we go into administration?” he asked. “I don’t know,” Paul replied. “But there’s a good chance you will.”

“My wife lost her job four weeks ago,”” the employee continued. “How am I supposed to cope when my family has lost both sets of incomes within two months?””

The memory sent Paul reeling.

“There’s not a lot you can say to someone in that situation,” says Paul. “Those discussions and conversations weigh very heavily on you. You walk round the office and people are crying. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I really wouldn’t.”

Two years after he first agreed to help reel GAME in from the brink, one year after GAME’s reinvention, Paul Yardley walked out of head office. No longer responsible. No longer in control. No longer in charge.

“You go from the busiest, most mental time of your career and all the pressure of administration to nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

He headed directly to the nearest pub and ordered himself a stiff drink.

‘I Read It On Kotaku’

Travis Jones wasn’t angry, just disappointed. Alright, maybe he was a little bit angry.

News of GAME’s administration spread fast. Before Head Office had a chance to inform its 700 members of staff, most had heard or read the news elsewhere.

“It was on a website before we heard it from GAME,” says Travis. “Actually I read it on Kotaku. They didn’t say anything to us about what was going to happen. They denied it until the day it happened and I felt that was very unfair. I think everyone saw it as a bit of a kick in the nuts.”

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

It was the opposite of what Travis had come to expect from GAME, a company he still refers to as the best he’s ever worked for. To this day he resents the idea that GAME may have been hiding something from its store managers, the staff who kept GAME afloat during incredibly trying times.

Paul Yardley blames the lack of information on, well… a lack of information. GAME’s final potential buyer pulled out on May 13. Paul made the call to PwC the next morning but, up until that moment, he genuinely believed that GAME could be saved. Part of it was an attempt to keep spirits up, but he did, as he puts it, “believe his own hype”. Paul didn’t think GAME would go into administration until the day GAME actually went into administration.

But that didn’t make things easier for staff on the frontline. The situation was bad and it was about to get much worse. With GAME in administration it could no longer guarantee its customer’s pre-orders, of which there were literally thousands.

The highest profile launch around that time was Diablo III. A large majority of customers had paid this game off in full, and GAME couldn’t provide the game or offer consumers a full refund. The laws of administration define customers as debtors, and if they wanted their money back, they would have to head to the back of a very long queue. The harsh reality was most of these customers would not be getting their money back. Not then, not ever.

And it was the job of GAME’s store staff to inform customers of that fact.

“It was hard dealing with that many complaints,” says Travis. “There was so much frustration and anger.”

At the time, Travis had roughly 25 fully paid-off pre-orders in his store and countless others that were partially paid. Travis and his staff had to bear the brunt of this. Every day, there was an incident. Every day, they had to suffer volleys of abuse from frustrated consumers.

“We were getting yelled at by customers demanding $10 or $20 back when we were all about to lose our jobs,” says Travis.

There was one incident Travis will never forget: “He was an absolute pearler.”

“He was my customer, so he came directly up to me. The guy had $50 down on a game for his son; a decent amount of money. I tried to explain to him that GAME was in administration, that we couldn’t give him the game or his money back. I said, ‘If you want to register to get your money back, you should head to our website…’”

“We were getting yelled at by customers demanding $10 or $20 back when we were all about to lose our jobs,” says Travis.

At that precise moment the customer lost any semblance of control. In front of his wife and kids he exploded with rage, screaming, shouting, threatening violence.

“I said, look, mate, your kids are here, calm down, it’s not my fault.”

The customer then calmly and casually walked his wife and children out of the Parramatta store — before charging back with another stream of abuse that threatened to turn physical.

“He ran back in saying he was going to jump the counter and punch my head in! I had to get security in to drag him away!”

It was a difficult situation for everyone involved: for the consumers, who lost money, for GAME’s staff members who had to manage the situation. The games industry had become increasingly dependent on the pre-order model for a multitude of reasons — to gauge interest, to measure the success of marketing campaigns — but it proved a dangerous game to play in a volatile retail environment. With distance and perspective, Paul Yardley admits the pre-order model GAME and other retailers used (and still use) is heavily flawed.

“It’s a lesson for everyone about retail in general,” explains Paul. “Any money you’ve given to a retailer before you’ve taken something out of the door isn’t protected. You rank below everyone in the list of creditors.”

As someone who has worked at the highest level of retail Paul’s advice is simple.

“The games industry loves having pre-orders because it’s the best indicator of what will sell,” he says. “But paying them off? It’s terrible. Because it puts you at risk.

“My advice for people would be this: unless you’re very sure of the standing of your retailer, don’t risk it. Don’t ever pay anything off in full.”

20 Years To Build…

All The King’s Men: How GAME Australia Fell Apart At The Seams

With GAME finally in administration, PwC made a final sweep of any potential investors but, in Paul Yardley’s words, he had already “bled the market dry”. Internally, at head office and in stores, everyone was preparing for GAME’s inevitable liquidation. Within two days there were redundancies at head office. Before the end of the week GAME went from 90 stores to 60. Massive storewide sales sent the message to consumers: GAME was going out of business and it was only a matter of time before every single store in Australia closed its doors for good.

In the end it took PwC eight weeks to close GAME completely.

“Twenty years to build, eight weeks to close it down,” says Paul.

On the last day of trade, Travis Jones made sure all of his full-time staff were rostered, he owed that to them he thought. Morale was low. They packed games into boxes, they tossed a football around in an attempt to lighten the mood. Towards the end of the shift, Travis brought in some beers. They sat around and clinked some bottles.

[related title=”More Australian Feature Stories” tag=”mark-feature” items=”5″] “We just tried to celebrate the fact that GAME was GAME and it was going under,” says Travis.

Paul Yardley took longer to let things go. He distinctly remembers two particularly harsh weeks in the middle of winter, directly after GAME’s closure. It took six months for him to put the events of the last two years into some sort of perspective.

“You reflect, you twiddle your thumbs,” he says. “You feel very depressed for a while. And I don’t use that word lightly because I don’t think you should.

“Up until November 2012 it still felt very fresh and raw. But now everyone has their new jobs; I realise it could have been worse.”

Travis Jones was one of those people with a new job, in retail, in a new store, but he’ll never forget his last day at GAME, as he locked up the flagship Parramatta store for the very last time.

July 2012. Just over a year before, Ben Grant stood on a small raised stage and said GAME had to “adapt or die”. Somehow, GAME Australia managed to do both, and it almost felt inevitable — but for Travis it genuinely was the end of an era.

He’ll never forget his last day. The boxes packed, the display units dismantled, GAME’s flagship store felt like a strange tomb — a historical relic, a last testament to a retail model in transition. In the end there was nothing left but storage space.

“Walking out of my store and locking up the padlock for the last time, I did get teary. I had so much care and respect for that store and I worked harder for that company than I have for anybody.

“For me, memories of GAME are always going to be good.”


  • Out of all the Male & Female models they brang to Game Swinging AU were thier any legitimate gamers there? because I remember they had submission forms of interest for that event it would of been a dick move to ignore them all.

  • I could have told you how it happened in a much more concise fashion.

    They charged a shit-load of money for new games, and a shit-load of money for second-hand games. They were the most over-priced and sterile store you could have ever visited.

    • If that is the case – perhaps you should write for kotaku US? Kotaku Australia typically doesn’t write uninformed and shallow nonsense.

      • I guess as a consumer I am not at all uninformed about their high prices. Perhaps you should write for AU Kotaku comments section, it’s generally full of vitriol.

        • Congratulations. You have failed both a grammar and a hypocrisy test! You can now apply for a job with Kotaku US. Well done!

        • I don’t see you shouting at Dick Smith, Myer and David Jones for even more overpriced games. Keep bashing and you have the potential to be the next Bashcraft. I call for your new nickname, Hate’n.

    • exactly, they came in and tried to copy EB but as a gamer i havent shopped at EB in years as they started focusing more on sales numbers and less on value. EB used to be a fun place to go chat, find some good games and get 2 games traded in and get a new game free.

      Game tried to copy EB as it currently is with its expensive games, bland stores and constant crap sales.

      The last time i went to shop at game it was when i wanted to buy Gears of War 3, big w had a good price and i asked them to match it, they said they couldnt so i went else where.

      • I would suggest that GAME was consistently more expensive in both new and second hand games. I think the article sums up GAMEs view on Australia – a $110 game marketplace.

          • umm?
            “There was a big attractive market, with $110 price points.”

            Haydens comment was pretty much a direct quote you ardtard, it definitely makes it true…

          • And you’ll be better off because you couldn’t be bothered.
            I’m guessing you never went into a GAME store.

        • My best mate worked at Game. Their biggest competitor was a JB Hi-Fi that was two doors down in a shopping centre. I told him they were selling some game (can’t even remember what it was) for about $20 and he looked at me in shock.

          Believe it or not, some businesses sell games at a high price because it’s all they can afford. Sometimes the entire corporation doesn’t think that’s okay. So try being less of a cynical dickwad and lighten up.

          • Wouldnt happen to have been the Eastland store would it? If so then unfortunately they never stood a chance. The JB there is very good for games, both new and pre owned. Not to mention there was a Gametraders AND an EB in the same complex.

          • Heyyy, Eastland is where I used to do all my game shopping. GAME refused to price match a few times because it was too close to their cost price. GameTraders would offer 20% off on any pre-order, which was good, and never seemed to have an excuse for not price matching; thankfully they understood how to keep customers. Unfortunately they went through an apparently similar process to GAME of brand restructuring (thanks to the bigwigs with big ideas, and the stores being franchises), changed owners, went downhill, and eventually closed.

            The week GAME closed was awesome for buying games, because JB curb stomped them even harder by having their 50% off games sale (which I imagine made it hard for GAME to sell the last of their stock (even though it was still more expensive than any other store (including EB)!))

            Another store that used to be good for games every now and then was Knox Toys R Us. Unfortunately they’ve reduced their entire gaming section to a mismanaged shelf. We’ve lost a lot of gaming retail space lately, what with the closure of GAME, the majority of GameTraders stores, and then Myer, David Jones, and TrU halting the sales of video games. But the thing is, with the exception of TrU, these stores have generally been notoriously bad with high prices.

          • Oh, and the GameTraders Ballarat store owner was a complete knob, and I’m surprised his store lasted at all. I went there in 2004 to buy a SNES controller and he spent a good while harassing me for wanting an original controller instead of his new third party controllers.

          • I remember that guy, My partner and I went to his store once after moving into the area and never went back instead going to GameTraders in Highpoint, the guy there is really good at remember people from different areas, then GAME opened in wendouree and we always use to buy games from them and not EB but they did get expensive but we wanted to support our retailer of choice so we did then one day we went in to buy a game and they where gone, that was a sad day see the old Wendouree store closed and dark. But then again we never though it was going to survive with the location they picked.

          • I totally agree that GAME wasn’t up to scratch at the time you visited it. Post 2010, when managment changed, Eastland GAME was well run. Price matching was no problem and the prices were consistently less than EB.

    • But their sale prices were f***ing awesome. And I guess we now know why after reading this article and seeing how much stock they were purchasing.

      • I remember back when they had some sale in 2010 (I distinctly remember GAME sales because they weren’t doing a sale every month like EB so they were more of an event) where I bought Borderlands and Street Fighter IV, the amount of NEW COPIES of Mirrors Edge they were trying to sell (a game I bought new at Kmart for $20 a few weeks earlier) was staggering, it makes sense now since reading this article though!

    • Despite hayden’s post probably being overly pejorative, can’t say I disagree with the conclusions. Game in my neck of the woods was horrendously expensive, about 20% greater than even EB, irrespective of whether buying new or used.

    • Was Game the only retail store you ever went into? All game stores charged just as much for their new games and second-hand games it wasn’t overpriced i actually quite often found games cheaper then EB were selling them for.

    • Hayden, i for one agree completely. High prices, few shelves and lights so white you would swear blind it was a hospital. Not to mention the very pushy sales staff who seemed to be on you the instant you walked in the door.
      I dont know why others are picking on you for your opinion honestly. Just because we all read a touching story about their closure doesnt mean we suddenly have to change our opinion of their franchise.

      • I think some people may be taking my post to be an attack on the original article, which it’s not. Seems to be a bit of a group mentality going on sometimes.

      • The staff at GAME Wendouree where not at all like that, they where welcoming and never pushed you to buy anything from them. They would talk to you about anything and where very friendly, buy I don’t know about other GAME stores because as said I live in Ballarat and we only had the one.

  • Excellent piece. I really wish most of the US articles would step up to the quality of the stuff that gets written on this local site. Well done.

  • Great article Mark. Thanks for putting all that together, it’s great to finally have a bit of a picture of what happened!

    • I agree! I very much enjoyed reading this and getting a profound insight into the retail industry and the downfall of GAME.

  • There’s was a TV show called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. I can’t help but feel that title is relevant when every single poor decision was “fixed” by another poor decision. Yes, everyone involved probably thought that it was in their best interests – from rapid expansion to the brand awareness exercise – yet pretty much all of that seemed to come back and bite them in the ass.

    I rarely shopped at GAME when it was open. JB offered better prices, EB and Gametraders offered a better range, big box retailers were convenient. GAME just didn’t have a competitive edge anywhere. EDIT: I guess they were best for trade-ins. Not something I really gave much thoguht to though.

    Then came the marketing campaign that seemed like they were a brand that didn’t understand their audience. Instead of going for controversy and having two manchildren playing in their mother’s basement (do Aussie homes even have basements? I’ve never seen one), they should have been all embracing. That characterisation shouldn’t have been how they sold themselves, it should have been how they made the competitors look like.

    But instead they relied on the cheap “controversy” route.

    A real shame. They had many opportunities to turn things around and like Todd Margaret, lost every coin toss.

  • What have we learned? That Ben Grant is poison who shouldn’t be allowed to touch anything, if you want it to survive.

    • In the business world Ben Grant is a massive success, he improved Brand awareness by 32% in a year on a tiny budget.

      To us, Gamers he’s a joke who insulted us constantly but to the business would the numbers are all that matters.

      • Ben Grant is an idiot and text book how not to run a shopfront business marketing campaign. If he applied half the brain power he had to actually marketing the company instead of thinking up stupid shock marketing stunts, something positive might have come from the money spent on the 2010-11 campaign.

        Yes he may have improved brand awareness 32% however the problem was that that awareness was all negative. Shock marketing works great for things like television, film and other short term media because it is just that, short term, and only needs to get people to think about the brand or watch a single show to generate advertising dollars, not maintain a relationship with the customer long term and produce sales.

        A business needs to maintain brand awareness long term and in good standing.

        Yes, everyone who may not have known about GAME before Ben Grant certainly knew about GAME after, the only problem is that all the publicity was negative and negative publicity will never translate into sale dollars or people walking into your stores.

        The man is an idiot and should never have been given a green light for the marketing that he pulled.
        Brand awareness in the “business world [where] the numbers are all that matters” means translating the awareness into dollars and positive image.

        That’s nothing even close to what he achieved.

        • Interesting comments Dave – some good educated points made.

          I assume you are talking from first hand experience of dealing with GAME on some level?

          Having read all the comments, and worked on the publisher side of the industry myself – I am not sure a long term brand awareness campaign was relevant to a business that was clearly trying to turn things around quickly? The long-term campaigns also take long times to implement (ie. longer than 12 months).

          If you wanted to quickly gain brand awareness with a small budget, what would you do?

        • you are also an ardtard, did you just start first year business and think your a marketing guru? firstly lots of companies use shock value that are reputable, virgin and dicksmith as examples.

          secondly at that point there WAS NO long term future… so how do you look to maintain something that doesnt exist yet?

        • Dave, your comments are mostly on the money, with the exception about Ben being an idiot. He is stacked with lots of IQ, but was placed under enormous pressure from Paul and the UK directors to gain brand awareness. As you suggest, he should not have been allowed to spend the marketing budget the way he did, as all it did was to increase brand awareness, but this did not convert to increased sales. Blind Freddy could see that coming. I know this frustrated Ben at the end, and he left when the last-throw-of-the-dice from a marketing perspective was ineffective on the bottom line.

  • Amazing article. I still remember when I was job hunting going in and handing my resume to my local GAME, not knowing what was happening, and the guy just said “Sorry dude, we don’t have jobs either”

    I always went to game. Their prices were way cheaper than EBs and they had awesome deals for trade ins. I actually made money when I traded in Final Fantasy 13. And the workers were awesome. I only ever went in maybe once a month but they always remembered my name and we’d talk about what we were currently playing.

    The brand awareness was a huge thing though. EB is a household name which parents, even if they don’t game, know of. Mum was always asking if I meant EB when I was talking about GAME.

  • I managed the store at Knox. That Ezio figure up there? My photo, and my store. The empty store is mine too.

    This article definitely opens up some old wounds; and brings back a lot of great memories, and also the sad ones. It’s the best and most detailed account of what happened, a lot of it which not many people knew was going on.

    It was a horrible time, I felt bad for everyone involved, the head office, the staff, but most importantly, the customers who we’d dealt with for so many years. Having to call 150 people and tell them no Diablo, and no refund, was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Closing the store on a days notice was even harder, but ultimately not being able to tell the people we’d been seeing regularly for so long that we were about to be gone was the worst. There were so many cool people that we didn’t get to see, thank, and say goodbye to in those last few days. That’s what sucked the most.

    Fantastic article Mark. It was a great read to remember it all, even how shitty the last few weeks were. I still miss going in to work there every morning.

    • Dude — thanks for the pic. Let me know if you want a credit on the story, I remember you sending these in, but I couldn’t find the email. 🙂

    • Here here. I too ran a GAME store for many a year. Was a great time for me, but it all ended in a pile. I got out just in time, 3 weeks before they went into Admin. I was at Warringah Mall. I also opened and setup the Maquarie sotre. When we started, it was more relaxed, not very professional, but that didn’t matter, we killed it. I was there for around 6 Years and saw the decline over that time. Its a shame, my teams were dedicated to providing games, for gamers. We all were fully into the products we sold. Wish I could get back into the industry, maybe away from the frontline retailing though. I kept in contact with the guys after I left in my old store, and yea, the stories that they told me about Diablo were tough to hear. Must have been a nightmare for the staff left. The shame for me was, most of us store managers were gamers, committed to seeing the company succeed. I think the industry is poorer for not having these passionate, involved people in it anymore. I think its safe to say now, I smoked bongs at the conferences, EVERY YEAR!

    • I applied for a job there about three times, and never got a call back.

      So, uh, thanks I suppose. Saved me from another job hunt.

      • Hiring was always one of the things I hated the most. The ad would go up, and by the end of the fist three days we’d have, no joke, over 400 applications. Don’t take it too personally dude 😛

    • Well shit, now i feel bad. Nothing personal, but through no fault of your own you just couldnt compete with JB on price or the EB upstairs’ selection of used games. Also your location was right in the middle of the complex, and i rarely walk in that far unless i need milk from the supermarket…….Sorry!

      • It was always an uphill battle for us, but we did pretty well considering everything that was going against us. I mean, considering everything that ended up going down, it was still one of the best performing stores in Victoria.

  • It’s pretty much a guarantee when you see a locally written ‘proper’ article that it’s going to be a good one, this is no exception. Fascinating reading.

  • I find it hard to believe the points being made about their over-purchases and conversations with their publishers to get credit. I assumed they would do what everyone else does, that is, buy their stock “sale or return”, so every unsold unit is fully refunded by the publisher. I can’t imagine anyone would be foolish enough to buy stock on “firm sale”. Seems dubious.

  • To be brutally honest I was quite happy when GAME went under. Why? They went out of their way to gouge Australian gamers.. they even admit it early in the article:

    ““There was a big attractive market, with $110 price points. So they thought, ‘Brilliant, here we go.’”

    They came into the Australian market at a time when they could have undercut EB prices by 25-40% and still made a hefty profit. The good will garnered by this would have won them huge kudos and brand loyalty. Instead, they just continued what EB had been doing and ripped us gamers off… so,a big FUCK YOU to GAME was ordered and delivered as far as I’m concerned. All they had to do was charge us the same price they were charging their UK customers (or even a 10% premium on that) and they would have had lines out the door.

    I do feel sorry for the employees of GAME, but as an organisation, I was more than happy to see them die a slow painful death.

    It took JB Hi-Fi to have a bit of balls (plus online distribution) and now we’ve seen games drop in price significantly. Eventually, even EB will die once people are more happy to purchase their games via digital distribution. There’s no need to walk in and by a copy from EB / GAME, when you can just purchase it from the distributors website for 50% of the price.

    Bye bye GAME, don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

    • Yeah, I see this as an explanation as to why they couldn’t save themselves rather than why they went under. GAME Australia was a conceptual mistake as much as anything else.

    • Where are these “distributors” websites that sell for 50% of the price?

      As far as I know 50% of the price is Ozgameshop not Distributors.

      Blanket Argument: Distributor sells physical game for $90 so EB need to sell it for $100, Can’t budge on the price Distributor won’t allow it. Digital prices are the same because the physical retailers won’t allow a discount.

    • Current gen games typically have a gross margin of around 25%. That is if you see game on the shelf for $100, $25 is the retailers margin. Undercutting EB by the numbers you say would have sent GAME to the grave MUCH quicker.

    • The most tragic part for me was really GAME taking over Games Wizards and pretty much killing what was a nice independant gaming chain.

      The shop I went to just wasn’t the same ever since the rebadge and new staff came in =(

    • I feel sorry for their employees but GAME made it very clear what they were about when they arrived on the scene.

      In my local mall at the time in Corio (northern Geelong) they set up about 5 metres away from the EB games which was already well established.

      EB saw them coming, the week they opened EB had tables upon tables filled with new games for $20, $25, $30, $40.

      GAME, by contrast, was a sterile white store, all the game cases were behind those clear plastic boxes which set off alarms if you try to leave the store, the ones some video stores use, there were no specials to speak of, everything about that store pushed the customer away.

      It took them six months to have a sale I reckon, and it was decent, but EB was having a different sale every other week whereas GAME would have a sale every three months.

      I’d only bought 4 games from them and a PS2 controller by the time they closed them down in the first wave of GAME closures, after that purge there were no GAME stores in Geelong whatsoever, the closest being in Werribee.

      After that GAME did get on my radar one more time when they offered this incredible trade in deal where you could trade in any two games and get a new game for $1!!! I got Mass Effect 2 and Splinter Cell Conviction under that deal, amazing – but in the back of my mind I felt it was setting them up for a big fall.

      People criticise EB games for their practices but fail to see what they do right, their constant barrage of specials means that for the gaming enthusiast there’s bound to be something take your interest there from time to time, added to that their trade in and price matching policies make them a good target for the bargain hunter, it’s those two core crowds that are the backbone of their “mum & dad” audience that would otherwise be buying their games from Big W.

      The fact this article even spells it out, they came to Australia to take advantage of the $100 price point, never mind that most of that seems to be taken by the distributor! They were totally unprepared for the story of Australian retail in the past 3 years – the rise of the frugal consumer

  • They had high prices, they shut down a good Australian chain (my first ever game purchase was from a Games Wizards store… such great memories…) and they had asinine marketing campaigns. Personally, I went out of my way to avoid buying games from them.

    • I agree alot of their advertising campaigns made customers of GAME AU look like sexist perverted man-childs and tried to pass it off as terms of endearment with their customers however we all knew they saw us as cash cows.

      That however wasn’t my issue with Game AU mine was their aggressive sales tactics of their store hands, tough return policy and unusually garish looking shop setups with the cheap purple and grey displays that just looked so artificial and counter-intuitive.

  • Really it was the poor economic climate in the UK that killed GAME Australia as they were bankrolling the Aussie stores.Also over expanding particularly in the UK when they bought a major competitor but failed to consolidate their stores and ended up competing with themselves, plus a extended console generation didn’t help.

    In Australia they were over-priced, over-staffed and badly managed.They were always in locations near EB-Games and JB Etc.

    When the UK arm went into administration I urged my GF who worked for them to update her resume and start looking for work, as I could see the writing on the wall and wanted her to get in early and not have to compete with all the others who I knew would soon be made redundant.

  • I think the opportuity is there for someone to come along and really take it to EB.

    JB is making a fist of it, but in all honesty, I don’t think they’ve really grasped the opportunity properly. EB charges RIDICULOUS prices for games. They shouldn’t be doing as well as they are. It’s actually baffling to be honest, that they’re not going under themselves.

    I think JB would have a chance of knocking them off if they opened dedicated Gaming stores. Concept stores.

    Otherwise, an investor with money to burn needs to back someone knowing there’ll be loss initially, and really undercut EB. Take the hit initially to turn it around later. Only hire staff who are actual gamers, and offering good trade in prices is a big one.

    If someone can come along and offer great trade in prices and then sell those trade ins at an appropriate price, I think that would be the killer blow.

    • I don’t see why JB would do that. They’ve got a majority market share, without the risk of only carrying one product category.

      • the thing is JB hifi often sells their games close to if not at cost price around launch and then they go straight back to RRP once the next game is out, the problem here is that its driving the cost down of a product that is getting increasingly more expensive to make, im not saying we should be being charged $120 for a game like we once were but the prices it is now ($80 – $100 RRP) are completely fair, and honestly if you wanna keep seeing AAA games being made you need to be prepared to pay this price otherwise all we’re going to get is bland updates of last years game plus a bunch of extra greedy microtransactions. If you dont want to pay $80+ for a brand new release game, there is loads of amazing indie titles available for much cheaper online and you can help the little guy not starve. but as fantastic as these titles are they are never going to be of AAA size and scope because it just costs way too much money to make games at such a level.

        TL:DR dont be cheap and support the games industry or you’ll get more microtransactions in your AAA titles.

        • I’m going to be blunt here: your comment about the relationship between pricing and mircotransactions makes absolutely no sense.

          Paying full retail is not going to prevent micro-transactions in and of itself. Developers include micro-transactions because its an additional revenue stream. They are going to charge the maximum they can get away with for the base game, and include micro-transactions anyway because that makes them the most money.

    • Physical games retailers are going the same way as CD and DVD stores. Distribution is already moving online. All the next-gen consoles will be digital first, pushing you to buy as much as possible from Microsoft, Sony (or Apple, or Steam…) directly.

      In less than five years buying a physical copy of a game is going to be one of those quaint things people used to do. EB is going to go the same way as HMV and Virgin, and JB will continue to do what it does best: discounting as hard as possible to ensure there’s no oxygen in the market for anyone who doesn’t have their reach and volume.

      Why the hell would anyone want to get into this business?

    • Problem is is that if you read JB’s financial reports, the commentary still regards their games division as a minor factor at best, despite being their most stable (though not most profitable) trade. JB has been great for games retail in my opinion in the last 6 years, but i dont think they have the will to capitalise on it.

  • This article makes every other article on Kotaku look like crap.

    You guys need serious quality control, and this article should be the benchmark.

    Amazing article with a lot of obvious research and true reporting.

    Well done Mark, Kotaku stays in my bookmarks bar.

  • I would also like to add, Travis was a friggin Champion. Really good dude that did his job really well, like many of us other Store Managers. Respect. Many a fun time with him at various events and gatherings.

    • Yeah, Travis is fabulous, but I would love to know his thoughts about what happened to the $240,000 worth of stock from the Parramatta store that never made it back to the National Distribution Centre at Castle Hill on the day of closure. It’s still a complete mystery.

      • Whoa, cant say I have heard of that one. I managed to get out 3 weeks before they went into administration and was out of the loop for the end part. That is surprising to hear however.

        • I can verify BlindFreddy’s claim. The NDC guys told me there was a $240K discrepancy with the Parramatta store; only about 10% of the stock came back. However, the responsibility of securing the stock fell on the PwC representatives (administrators) as they let go all the managers/supervisors of the logistics team on the day that the last stores were closed. They chose not to keep any of them to finalise the return of stock to the NDC, which was stupid (and I told them that).

  • Great Article. I remember hearing that Game wasn’t offering refunds to customers but had no idea of the rest of the story.

    Such a said thing..
    I couldn’t imagine being in that situation having to fire someone like that. Wasn’t aware of any of that marketing stuff. I just walked into the local forum one day and was like lol a pink store. Their staff seemed friendly and approachable. Still have a photo on phone where they sold brood wars for $2.

  • Maybe if at one point they suits put in charge had actually asked gamers why they weren’t coming in store they might have succeeded. I guess that’s the kind of wooly headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten.

  • Awesome article! Travis is one of the most hard working, honest and straight forward dudes you will ever meet, I’m proud to know him!

  • Mark that was a great read. Keep it up. Very well done.

    To share a ‘GAME story’ my local store is gone (of course) and its retail space now belongs to one of those crappy imported knock-off cheap plastic toy shops.

    Sadly the purple GAME signage remains though (not the cardboard and standees and stuff). What do you call that sort of sign, I think it’s glass and is back-lit? They are in every shopping centre everywhere.

  • The stores were sterile and boring, but in the early days they had more going for them. They did do utterly brilliant trade in prices and deals most of the time. I remember them consistently giving me around 50% more on most trades than EB were offering. Maybe that was a problem too – perhaps they were too nice? I also remember the model where they’d send you a voucher of X value to spend as well, depending how much you’d traded in or purchased. I remember getting vouchers for $60-$70 every couple of months. I wasn’t even a crazy spender there, for the most part.

    Then they changed it and tradeins were suddenly terrible, and they brought in the new card that held value on it, but far, far less than they used to give. I remember spending a fair amount of money, checking my card and finding out I had something like $10 on it, which compared to the old system, was terrible.

    I also noticed a trend around the same time at both my nearest GAME stores that the people who worked there, knew me and were very enthused and interested in games all vanished. They were replaced by other people who didn’t seem to know the first thing about games, and didn’t seem terribly interested in knowing either.

    They lost me when they changed their trade in values, rewards system and the staff who gave a shit vanished. I’d stopped shopping at GAME for some 6 months before the closed their doors. They’d started to remind me of EB Games.

  • The thing with the Game Swinging event is that it could have been handled so much better if it was handled honestly. There was a place in Perth called 1up Microcinema that started running Mario Kart Speed Dating nights once a month which were great and It’s what I thought the Game Swining event was supposed to be.

  • I work at a Vinnies on the NSW/Vic boarder and every Saturday am reminded that GAME went belly up. We got their bags as a donation and after at least 6 months are still using them. It’s a shame, but no one was ever in our GAME. You’d go into an empty store staffed by 2 people and walk out because it was somehow creepy how they stared at you like a starving lion.

  • Another great company gone. Before work I would go into game at Victoria ave in Castle Hill, would have great discussions with the staff. I’m now good friends with a few of them, battlefield and CoD on a Friday night.

  • “There’s roughly, I don’t know, 12 people here in Australia who run the games industry,” says Paul.

    Sounds about right. The three people at JB who decide what games they will sell, the three people at EB who decide what games they will sell (and if THOSE three don’t like it, there is 0% chance that game will came to Australian shelves at all). Add the six distributors who sell overseas games to the six retail buyers and there’s your dozen.

    Every single one of these people did nothing for the games industry except leech money off developers and customers, and I’m glad GAME met its demise. It’s only a matter of time before it happens to every other gatekeeper in between the developer and customer.

  • Brilliant article. My lasting memory of GAME was a usually-empty store, with unimpressive prices and average staff. Still, shame about them going under.
    Then again, their closing-down sale wasn’t unwelcome.

  • Great article. Really interesting insight.

    I liked the closure on that “Game Swingers” thing too. Jesus, what a mess.

    Kinda sad that at the end of the day they simply didn’t turn it around fast enough to save themselves from the crash and burn of the parent company.

  • Am I the only one who didn’t even know this company existed until they closed down? I guess that’s what happens when you live ‘out in the sticks’.

  • RIP Game Bendigo. Memories as an employee, Questions for Headoffice who never told us anything except to close our stores in 14 hours in the year when things were falling.

  • The biggest problem I saw with game at indooroopilly was that EB games was about 50m away and had literally every single game they had at a better price.

    I like the concept of ‘game’ but in practise, i’m not going to spend $10-30 more on a game just because it’s in a shop with lots of incredibly over priced statues.

    I did get a great star wars poster there for $10. Still on the wall. Great price and couldn’t get it anywhere else. If they could do that for everything they had, they’d still be running.

  • Great article Mark. Read the whole thing, every last word. Excellent read, sad and reminds me of my own personal experiences in my own career.

  • I was working there when the first stores opened in Vic at first it was amazing in sense reinvented, customer service was the main priority, they just pumped money into it seriously felt like we were invincible, heaps of staff on at one time but after a while they were cutting staff hours and that’s when I knew things weren’t going to well.

  • I think one of their problems, was that their stores tend to be really badly overstaffed. I remember going to one store on a weekend, where the store should be relatively busy and they had 5 staff members and 3 browsing potential customers, including me.

    • I think at one stage we had a manager, asst manager, 3ic and a full timer plus casuals, that stopped very quickly

  • @markserrels Fantastic article, a good and somewhat sad read.

    I really feel for the people who worked at the retail level of Game, but the upper management and the ads made me feel like I was being pitched to by the guy who always picked on me in school. The ads seemed to be slightly more subtle than “Hey Nerd! Come buy some games or I’ll kick your arse.”

  • Yardley was a joke. He had the chance to direct import and didnt go through with it.
    The reason? We would loose support of local suppliers, the very same people who gave the exclusives to EB the very same people who insisted in charging us more per copy for a 1000 plus order than our customers could buy them for from the UK one unit at a time with free postage.

    He spoke about going on undercover boss but otherwise never set foot in the stores.
    He was a man out of his depth. How can you manage a retail business without stepping foot on the floor?
    Paul if your reading this know that a lot of us think your a joke a very unfunny joke.

    Why no mention of Matt Precious the head of buying in this article? The hilarious way he told a female employee she loved cock and when she complained was forced out of the business?

    But the cake was taken by the old guard who ran the company.
    High Paid jobs for family who couldn’t explain what their role was.
    Unpaid loans to family members.
    Brother of the MD being paid to do fit outs at massively inflated prices.
    This is all fact its in the PWC reports.

    Will miss that job forever, we came so close but fell short due to high level mismanagement here and in the UK.

    Travis was a great guy and should not be mentioned in the same breath as the rest of these idiots.

    • Some very cruel comments about Paul. His hands were very much tied. Gordon and Matt were appointed to GAME Australia by the UK directors, and Paul did not have much authority over them. Ben, Matt and Gordon banded together to undermine Paul’s authority and attempt to remove him from leadership. This is just office politics and they were ineffective. Paul stayed until the end.

  • The only thing I ever bought from Game was my PS3, they did a kick arse trade in deal early in the PS3 life cycle, 500 dollars (499 off) with a PS2 and 10 games trade in. I never returned. Ever.

  • Awesome article @markserrels, took a while to read, but very interesting none the less..

    I can relate to Travis’s experience in retail. Used to work at an EB Games in my earlier years and they were so focused on making sales. I never understood why we had to wear a shirt and tie either. We sure had our fair share of abusive customers too, but at the end of the day it was quite fun working there.

    Being a gamer and talking about games with customers was always a highlight, much like what we all do here online.. I do miss that… These days when I step into an EB Games or JB Hifi, I hardly ever get that rapport with sales people. Just the other month I did a trade-in for DMC at JB, and the “games specialist” was asking me what DMC was about..

  • Fantastic article. A little dry but just entire worlds beyond the usual popcorn stuff on Kotaku. Please more like this!

    I really miss Game. My experiences with stores in the ACT and WA was that the staff knew their product, knew their customers, and (as far as possible for retail clerks) had genuine enthusiasm for their business. Pricing was great – obviously as much as they felt they could get away with, but rarely outright contemptuous of the customer’s intelligence. Stores were laid out sensibly, and both big releases and niche titles were always in logical places. In other words, just a whole world of difference from EB. Those are the strengths they should have played on in their marketing. It’s really a shame all this nonsense had to happen.

  • Great article and some great honest comments too!

    My retail days are far behind me but what memories I do have are of suits that just do not understand their own markets!

    I worked in a Starbucks in the UK where the local store manager demanded that we sing Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer (Starbucks own version of course) whilst we served ALL DAMN DAY just so he and his boyfriend could win a weekend vacation away for the both of them from head office! Just a total disconnect between top level and shop floor workers AND customers! Customers didn’t want to hear it, it was patronising to them and us! We all refused, bit of a staff revolt mutiny and got it shot down, by my point is people that make most of the decisions about which way a fairly defined market should be targeted have no experience nor do they wish to have that experience of actually being a customer and what it was like to be a teenager with 60 bucks in his pocket and you trying to charge double and sometime treble what the cost of a game should have been! Shocking and disgraceful practice! (That was one of the Starbucks that was shut as well haha!)

    I feel sorry for those that lost their jobs, especially when it seemed so many of them loved what they did, but the suits can take a running jump, as a gamer in his early 30s trying to shake off the lonely spotty boy in the basement was as tiresome 15 years ago as it is today! Games damn right stupid marketing campaigns did nothing to help this! They deserved to go on this alone!

    Wasn’t another part of this down fall the stupidly huge bonuses offered to area managers for opening more stores? Seriously look at Darryl Lea, go to the Shire and they has 2 YES TWO shops above and below each other in the same mall, how the F do you expect to sell so much liquorice to cover those rent costs??!!

    Ramble over! Suits suck( even though I’m wearing one lol!)

  • This article is missing a part of the story.

    The part where staff were deliberately informed to push Diablo 3 preorders on the weekend before the company announced administration – thus getting as much money in the gate as possible before announcing they couldn’t honour the preorders two days later.

    If you insert that part right above the quotes about people getting angry about 10-20$, it tells a slightly different story.

      • It was all over the administration annoucement article last year when it all went down.

        Don’t have a specific source but several people claiming to be staff members were corroborating it, and its definitely a fact that the stores were still taking preorders in the days prior to the announcement.

    • Only Paul (MD), Nigel (CFO) and Mark (UK director) could call the administrators in, as they were the directors listed for TGW with ASIC, and up until that very moment the phone call was made, everyone was working to increase sales, decrease spending, and to improve the cash flow in order to pay the bills. So pushing the stores to take pre-orders were aligned with this need. There was nothing sinister about it.

  • This story brings back memories, firstly of working at the belconnen at the game wizards store outside the mall, then moving to the big awesome mall, through the name change to TGW and then to game, left shortly after that for various reasons. Kinda sad still that they had to go under, while I was there all our staff were very into their games, and this is the whole reason I wanted to work there in the first place. Its just something you don’t get anywhere else sadly. Unless your mates with the EB manager through another job you worked at previously.

  • This was a great article, definitely a good read.

    I use to run the Eastgardens store for the last…2 years before Game went? I seriously cannot remember now, but I started in the company when it was still Games Wizards and saw all the changes happen.
    Honestly, working at Game has given me some of my greatest memories and experiences I’ve had so far in my life, as well as meeting amazing people, staff and customers wise, which I still talk to this very day 🙂 My sales team at Eastgardens was full of great people who were passionate about games and giving great service, so that gave a good vibe around my area!

    Travis was an awesome manager, he is defiantly one of the people you’d want to talk to when it came to game, so I’m happy to read this article knowing someone who was passionate about his job and the company had some input to it.

    I think reading the comments in articles like this is always more difficult to digest than the articles themselves, they always seem to be filled with hate and, in some cases, misinformation. Even now it makes me sad reading comments about how Game deserved what it got and shouldn’t of bothered trying.
    I think what some people tend to forget, it was a very tough time for the staff, and a lot of people just didn’t give a damn – in store and online. Things may be OK now for most of us who have moved on from the past 9 months and found jobs, but as I said, still a little sad to see these kind of comments being left.

    The experience has left a mark on me to always be courteous and friendly to retail staff members (unlike a lot of customers I saw in those last few weeks) because that can sometimes make their day better and the staff themselves happier

    Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just as I am…although this turned more into a ramble of thoughts more than anything haha

  • Beautifully put together article – read it in parts over the afternoon.

    I feel like I owe Game forever for instilling my love of video games – two of my hands down favourite games I bought there: Mirror’s Edge for $2 (GOD BLESS YOU GAME) and Fragile Dreams for a high $80, but I never saw it in another store and would never have played it if Game hadn’t decided to take a risk on a strange Japanese game with bad reviews. The salespeople at my local store were through-and-through nerds, and I entertained thoughts of applying for a job there when I was older.
    …aw, now I’m sad.

  • Like a lot of the other commenters, I managed one of the Stores since before GAME bought out TGW, however left before any of the marketing nonsense came about. I like the detail this article has gone in to, however the phrase “20 years to establish 15 stores. In 30 months, GAME increased that number to an incredible 150” sums up a large part of what went wrong.

    The store I ran spent years cultivating a customer base in Northern Canberra. People who would always offer us the business first, who knew that we were gamers as well, and that we actually gave a crap. Within 12 months of GAME taking over, we had 4 other stores in the ACT, none of which had any customer base or local exposure, with only a single store in the region being profitable for most of that time.

    The quote about being ‘historically mismanaged’ is pretty much on the money. After the changeover, almost all pre owned stock had a large price increase over time, with all authority for discounting idle SKU’s removed (Ie: We were basically told no non-sale discounts, even if it meant selling something the company was losing stupid amounts of money on – think Nickelodeon’s games etc).

    Not everything was bad however. We still had most of our old staff, and our customers still, for the most part, liked us – apart from the odd comment about price hikes and gaudy marketing. We still were doing well, and it was an enjoyable place to work, even if we did have to put up with some of the clueless decisions from the head office.

    Over time though, the terrible stock selection and purchasing, tacky marketing, corporate back slapping, and general idleness of the senior management to do anything about it got to me. (and others). The final straw was being told we had x amount of stock for the CE Lich King Warcraft expansion, and then after securing literally hundreds of pre-orders, being told we could only have about 70% of the stock ordered – essentially forcing us to renege the CE promise to almost 100 customers.

    Still, that was some time ago, and things did get better for a while sometime down the track (or so I hear), but the situation they ended up in as caused by the awful management for the first 2 years after GAME took over.

  • As someone who worked at the same GAME store for 2 years and build up an amazing network of friends and colleagues (travis high among them) this article almost made me cry. It’s so accurate and I just hope that who worked at GAME has managed to find something new, something that gives them even a small amount of joy that working at GAME gave us all.

    Thanks for the article.

  • This article is probably one of the best i’ve ever read here on kotaku, good work Mark.

    I was a former employee from 2008-mid 2011 and im so glad i left before the shit really hit the fan. Working for game had its ups and downs in the years i was there, but one thing i wanna add was that Travis is one of the most hardest working genuine guys i met at the company.

    The staff i worked with at broadway/eastgardens/bondi/hornsby, i will never forget, you guys were the best.

    The one thing i miss the most, are the regulars who came in just to chat about games in general. Whenever a new release came out, you guys were there and i wanna thank you for it. All of you guys and girls really made my day when you walked in.

    Thank you!

  • I can’t stop thinking about that father who went postal. The article kinda paints him out to be a douchey customer but maybe he couldn’t afford to re-buy the game for his son? Maybe he’d recently lost his job too. $50 is a LOT of money if you’re unemployed.

  • The main problem was the fact that GAME considered themselves to be high and mighty, and their prices were much higher than EBGames and JB Hi-Fi. Hell, I saw a pre-owned copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for 24.95, and then went to the local EBGames store where a brand-new copy was 19 dollars.

  • Great article and a very interesting read. It really brought back a whole lot of memories and emotions. I managed the Port Central (Port Macquarie) store since it opened and it was a really hard situation to be put in towards the end but the great team stood beside me. RIP GAME Australia.

  • I would have much rather seen eb go out of business, they still over charge people. Game was one of those places I really wanted to buy from, but I couldn’t justify it at those prices, jb hi if was always cheaper!

  • What an amazing article. As one wrote above it opened old wounds and brought forth great memories. Yes I was an an employee of GAME, and damn proud to say I was apart of a great team of staff and store management.
    Travis is a deadset legend who always had time for anyone in the company. Always be a champion in GAMEs eyes. For him to do this interview would have been very tough as the past will always flood back in what was a great company to work for.
    For the support of all those out there for GAME till the doors closed I thank you. It was you that also made working there a bloody good time.

  • Great (albeit sad) read. Enjoyed reading the article. Fond memories of GAME. Got my first ever console there.

    It’s a pity that GAME is gone. Staff there were friendlier and to be frank much better than other stores (cough cough EB). From what I have experienced EB has terrible customer service. They could learn a thing or two from the staff at GAME.

  • One of games biggest problem was the hotshot store managers….. tea tree plaza was pretty bad on this one and a lot of the stores in SA got them too, guys who didnt care about customer service they just wanted geeks to lookup to them.

    I used to run the woolworths down from the Tea Tree Plaza game and had him come through quite a bit and try to chatup girls telling them he worked in the game industry, would walk past frequently and see him tryna BS grand parents into buying overpriced crap at high priced their grandkids would love that was on sale for much less at EB 2 doors down.

    Had 2 great guys who worked there who tried to manage the store really well and got shot down by this guy, one of them had more business experience than the manager, one day asked him why he wasnt store manager and got told it was because he hadnt promised to raise his stats and didnt bullshit customers so this guy on paper seemed to talk to the talk and walk the walk.

    Final straw for my mate came on the launch of mw3 when the centre got opened for a midnight launch and they had some raffles and stuff going and massive lines so they were handing out tickets for places in the line / raffle, store manager snuck his mates into the center earlier, gave them the earliest tickets in line and rigged several of the prize tickets for them.

    Made him spew a bit and then after the store being open 2 hours he got sent home being told he’d get paid for a min shift time of 3 hours, gets home at 2am to a text telling him he’s come down sick and he has to open the shop at 9am….. has one of the store managers mates come in to buy another controller and tells him how they are all at the store managers place playing mw3 and having a blast. Ends up quitting and finds he’s only been paid 2 hours pay for the launch night.

    Went to work for EB and has never looked back, and after this debacle apparently EB blacklisted anyone who had ever worked for game

    • SM #61 open-’08, SM #80 ’08-close of business. I can tell you for a fact that nobody at game was ever blacklisted by another retailer – my ASMs and full timers were actively headhunted by EB and JB, and half the talented, enthusiastic crew I’ve worked with have ended up back in the mix with other retailers because of the fantastic face they put on even when serving a competitor’s area manager. One who is now SM with EB even said that at their last conference they had a standing ovation for “all the talented staff that came from GAME”, although I guess it is easy to be gracious in victory.
      Having your own store was, at times, the job you dreamt about when you were a teenager, and other times a total headache. But I still wouldn’t swap those times or those people for the world.
      17th Floor Saints represent.

  • ASM store #58. This article was brilliant. Reminded if the fun times and all the heart ache at the end. Such a shame about all of the people in these comments though that are of the opinion that GAME was overpriced. The 2 years I worked there we were more consistently cheaper than EB. IN fact the EBs in our area would only have a release special on a game if we were doing it first. Having managed for EB i can confirm this practise from both sides of the fence. Saddens me that people still feel the need to grind GAME’s name into the dust. We worked hard to do the best we could for our customers quite often under far stricter conditions from suppliers and manufacturers. I know arguing this is moot now but hey, we all put a lot of care and effort into our jobs and it hurts to have it thrown back in the form of unsubstantiated opinions.

    Remember the good times. Peace.

    • We were so much cheaper!!! Especially our trade deals, our console deals at first were amazing but later got a bit stupid. I do remember once when resident evil 5 came out we got an email that we couldn’t price match at all and had to sell at $119.95!!!! Once though JB HIFI introduced games we had to be competitive. We did have a good battle with EB we always tried to be competitive and get the sale, I just felt we were hamstrung in a lot of instances to much to count to be honest. It was a lot of fun just a shame it went down the way it did.

    • ASM Store #58, #68, and Manager of #41. I know what you mean J. Its was always hard work towards the end of the line but tbh, GAME was the best company I’ve had had the fortune to work for. Diablo III was the worst time I think as we had so many irate customers coming in and abusing us every day because they had lost a few $’s, whereas we were going day-to-day not knowing if we going to remain open or not.

      I still have a lot of respect for Gordon Graham as he shot from the hip, knew what he wanted and even though he was a pretty strict Ops Manager, was a decent guy (although not everyone felt the same way).

      I feel a bit like a traitor having to go into EB games, but now we are no longer in the high street/malls, we don’t have all that much choice (other than JB).

      People like yourself and everyone else I have had the fortune to work with are what made GAME. Everyone tirelessly working to promote the brand, constant re-stickering 🙂 and calling up throughout the day boasting what figures they had done for the day (you know who you are)……

      I still have fond memories (and quite a few promo discs :)) of my 3 and a half years at GAME and will continue to for some time. Its just sucks how it all turned out.

      Haters are gonna hate, but if it wasn’t for GAME, everyone would have constantly been ripped off by EB. With the competition we brought along, at least there were many bargains and specials to be had (and I still know we had the best overall trade in value).

      Thanks to the loyal customers, who totally understood what we were going through and up yours to those who didn’t give a crap.


  • Eastlands, Tas #49.

    I loved working for Game. Sure, there were some seriously bone headed decisions made by the higher ups, but overall it was an awesome few years of my life that I would not change for the world.

    I still remember the day we were told our store was part of the initial wave of closures. Trav and Liam came down to give us the bad news. They gave us some crap about “high shipping costs for Tas” but you could tell from the look in their eyes that it was what head office was telling them to say and some more serious shit was going down some where.

    I think the only people more crushed than we were, was some of our regulars. The family that gamed together. Sir Trades a Lot. The soft old man who played some hardcore shit. The MILF duo. Creepy PC guy. The college kids who always came in for the Guitar Hero demo unit. The cute goth chick from Subway. The Woolies deli ginger. The list goes on, and to this day, I still see some of them around, and we can stop and have a chat about what they’re playing. They remember us because we gave them great service and advice. We remember them because they made the job worth every second.

      • Those crappy edutainment/casino games ones that we got boxes and boxes of and ended up giving the damm things away and even then people didn’t want them? Yeah, I remember. =P

        • I remember sneaking them into their bags and then they’d come back and tell me they didn’t want them :p

  • I always liked having another option, and more competition, but at the end of the day, my local GAME stores were ALL terrible. Crap range, always at least $10 more than EB, let alone Jb Hi Fi. The staff were useless and rude most of the time. I think I only ever bought like six things from them over the years, and four were from their online store. I did like their online store and doing pre-orders with them. Good prices, early, express post so it actually arrived ON RELEASE DAY at my front door via courier. But their physical outlets? Mostly bad. That, I think, was the real issue they had with their brand.

  • As a gamer and someone who previously worked as a Business Analyst at the Eagle Farm HQ , I can’t wait for the day that EB implodes like GAME and to a lesser extent Game Traders through bad choices and sloppy trade practices.

    You wonder why we pay so much for technology & leisure goods? Look at EB’s business model and stranglehold on the market. Take your money NOW so they can guarantee you something later (which they will have plenty of so there’s really no point), meanwhile they are using the interest on that money to play high-risk/high-return stock-market bingo. And then they have the audacity to charge an inflated price ($100 to $140 depending on edition) for something that costs them a fraction to import in bulk.

    Their latest scam is to bundle DLC codes into standard editions so you can’t return the product for full price. Yes. It’s something they actively pursue from developers to keep trade-back prices low and sale profits maximized.

    I pray for the day that digital download becomes the industry standard so EB suffocates in obscurity. And I will laugh and cackle until my throat is cracked and swollen. Until then i’ll download all my games for less than $40~ from OzGameShop or CJS and let this hate fester.

    • If these “DLC codes” you’re talking about are the Online Pass codes, then remember they’re put in there by the developers/distributors of the game; it’s got nothing to do with EB, JB, or anyone else.

      And I haven’t had a problem returning any of those sorts of games to EB and getting back the full amount I paid.

      • No, not the online pass codes. Pre-order DLC codes are requested with each individual game ordered from the developers. So they sell each standard addition with the pre-order DLC, as a false gratuity, and then deny you full price when returning it by stating it had exclusive DLC. The staff are advised to insist that it can’t be returned until the customer becomes irate or starts to intently question the register biscuit about policy.

        Evil, evil company.

        • It’s pretty well established by now that the average margin retailers make on new video games in Aus, when bought from local suppliers, is around 25%. This was backed up by the recent government inquiry into tech/software pricing.

          I call shenanigans on pretty much everything you said, buddy.

  • As someone who was made redundant from GAME twice in two years (you heard that right) I’m really happy that Mark wrote such an awesome article explaining what exactly happened.

    The first time I was let go from GAME, I was the ASM at the Chatswood store in 2010 (the first round of cullings) and had only been with the company for 2 and a half months. Was a massive shock to learn that the company I had JUST been recruited to was booting me out just like that. Not to mention that my area manager had been reference on a new 12 month lease when he KNEW I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent a month later. He quit the company to go work the shop floor of a bunnings right after signing that document, the bastard.

    The second time was Broadway, and the year and a half I spent there as both a Casual and a 3IC was probably the best retail experience I’ve ever had, and will always have fond memories of that place. Opening the store on the morning of administration was one of the most numbing experiences ever, but at least we got as many of the regular customers into the store for some beers as we could on our last day of trade =D.

  • Haven’t purchased a physical game in a store since 2008. Steam and other online digital stores make Australian shops obsolete. I am surprised stores like EB Games is still in business.

  • Great, great article, informative and entertaining giving us a great insight into the back room shenanigans going on. Please, more articles like this – not necessarily about the declines on a company, but in the same vein as this one.

  • Speaking as someone who did work there I can tell you that the only party that “price-gougued” were the local suppliers. If we (GAME) had been able to source the stock at a competitive price (ie overseas pricing) we would have passed that on to the consumer. Australia always suffers when it comes to fairly priced product. Had the suppliers come to the party GAME may still be there & it would be a more competitive marketplace.

    It was a great place to work & the people mentioned in the article worked hard to keep the business afloat.

  • 21C for one of Games stores for 3 years up to DDAY.
    We WERE pushed to do preorders right up to the day before we went into administration. All of the staff had limited knowledge and area managers were incredibly reluctant to accept what was going on.
    Our prices were not consistently more expensive than EB- anecdotal notes that one game was $19 new somewhere and $25 preowned at Game does not prove anything other than that $19 was a really good special sale price you’d be an idiot not to pick up.

    We ALWAYS did our best to price match for our regulars, and did anything we could to try and beat competitors when we could. Our store was manned by a very minimal team, with micromanaged roster hours, but we grew to be very tight knit and form good relationships with customers. I personally still talk to a lot of them, and I am grateful for the friendships Game helped me build.

    Well written article- there are some insights missing here though into just how deep the shit hit the fan at head office in regards to mismanagement, utter corruption and general ineptitude. The reason why Game went down has nothing to do with pricing or the stores themselves or even Phil and Ed; its ENTIRELY to blame on a head office that would have failed a year 11 high school business course.

  • This was a great read. Thanks for lifting the curtain on a sad day in Aussie gaming. I remember game wizards from my high school days on the Gold Coast.

    • I remember the guys at the MacArthur Square store. They’d be the best to talk to. Genuine gamers. There was that lebo manager who was awesome to chat with, a funny coconut who was always talking about banging some ranga dudes mum, a Norse god in disguise and some skinny brown kid who ate a kebab and had a fit out the back room. You will never get an experience like that anywhere!! I miss those guys and that joint. Not to mention an albino dude with a black name:. What a mess!!

  • Great article, but surprised that it didn’t mention Matt Precious, the other hot shot from the UK, who was Game Australia’s Commercial Director. The best decision he made was to bring Kathryn Jarvis onto his team and the two of them did some fabulous work with the publishers/distributors.

    As for GG – whose bark is much worse than his bite – if you read this, you still owe me the $100 million you bet me and lost!!

  • Great read even now, when I reminisce the old Frankston store VIC that I loved visiting.
    Great people and always a good time (:

    • Yep, It was a sad case of, we were doing okay, GAME UK buys us, does a whole bunch of really dumb shit (some of their buying decisions were horrific in terms of locations and stock), and unfortunately the educated employees were ignored so they never learned. The swingers event, $$$ wasted, the two idiots doing their videos UBER $$$$$$ wasted, those morons did not bring anything to the table. I am angry that they didn’t listen, I am angry my colleagues and I suffered, but I am happy the big guys who think they knew everything and ran around like they knew us and our clients FAILED and suffered consequences, THAT’S RIGHT BIG GUYS, YOU FAILED. No more setting up sales on Christmas eve instead of spending it with families. Wasted too many years on them.

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