The UK retailer's woes are a combination of a changing market, poor financial planning, and bad karma, says a Paradox Interactive executive.
It's been a rough few weeks for GAME, the premier brick-and-mortar videogame retailer in the UK. As if failing to stock The Last Story, Mass Effect 3, and Street Fighter X Tekken weren't bad enough, it now has the supernatural influence of karma to deal with. The ancient Hindu concept can best be boiled down to "what goes around, comes around," and Magicka publisher Paradox Interactive executive Fredrick Wester believes that GAME has an awful lot of bad mojo coming its way. According to Wester, GAME has a history of shady business practices, and its demise - while hurtful to many consumers - will ultimately pave the way for a freer, more creative games trade in Great Britain.
In terms of dedicated physical game stores, GAME does not have much competition in the UK. Wester accuses the store of taking advantage of that fact. "GAME has basically been bullying people around and now it comes back to bite them on the ass," he says. The Paradox CEO cites the fact that EA and Nintendo have been unwilling to offer any assistance to GAME, despite the fact that the retail chain provides a good chunk of their sales in the region. "One of the biggest problems is they haven't behaved nicely to other people, so it's karma," explains Wester. He thinks that GAME could still save itself - but only if it closes up underperforming shops, liquidates most of its assets, and sells itself to U.S. analogue GameStop.
In addition to bad karma, Wester discusses the rapidly changing landscape of game distribution as a culprit behind GAME's troubles. Digital distribution, he argues, will make short work of most physical retailers, but closed systems like XBLA and PSN may not be far behind. "Why didn't XBLA and PSN become like the App Store when they came out four year's (sic) before?" he asks. "It's because they don't have the same openness to new content, they have multiple filters before you're in." The chaff-to-wheat ratio in open digital markets is dauntingly high, but Wester thinks that the potential for creative titles outweighs the monotony of hunting for them. "Angry Birds would never have made it to XBLA, Minecraft would never have made it to XBLA."
While the future of GAME, restrictive marketplaces, and physical games are all difficult to predict with certainty, Wester is a successful industry vet, and likely has some insights that the average gamer does not. If GAME did indeed bring about its own predicament through bad behavior, it serves as a harsh reminder for retailers in other parts of the world: Respect your customers and suppliers, because there are other avenues for acquiring games.