It came close to disappearing back when the company was sold to GAME by the previous owners, Blockbuster Video, but now it officially has. Rest in piece, Gamestation.
Of course, before you start questioning my comments, I know that the news today doesn’t mean more stores will close, but it does mean a name a brand will be removed completely from the UK. The company that wanted to aim ‘For The Gamers’ will be no more.
Back in 2002, after 6 months of working at GAME I jumped ship to Gamestation. They were opening a store in my hometown and had a full time position going. More hours, still working with games, it all made sense. Back then Gamestation were still owned by Blockbuster. Although they’d been the largest UK independant for some time, they were expanding at such a rate that they were rivalling GAME on a large number of High Streets up and down the country.
Even though I’d only worked for GAME for a short amount of time I noticed pretty quickly that my new employers were more relaxed. At times it felt like a bottles of wine were being popped to celebrate another £1 coin going into Gamestation’s piggy bank rather than GAMEs.
Although it was too big to be called an independant, it certainly still had that spirit. You could tell everyone involved loved gaming, from the highest level down to retail staff.
Working for Gamestation was fun, but with a more leisurely attitude and a rapidly expanding empire to run, cracks were starting to form. While GAME, with their experience had more stability and better organisation, Gamestation, from my point of view, were playing catch up. Simply put, I believe they were finding it a little difficult to keep up with the new stores opening and ever changing retail landscape.
Saying all that though, Gamestation were doing very nicely for themselves. Sadly, their parent company weren’t having so much success. Although Gamestation were helping Blockbuster stay afloat eventually the time had to come to sell up, they needed to raise money to reinvest the into Blockbuster’s main business to try and keep themselves from entering administration.
With such a large footprint it was no surprise that rumours of ‘potential’ buyers started to spread throughout gaming media, such as MCV who played a large part in what was to come further down the line. The strongest rumours, the one I’d imagine people put money on to buy Gamestation were the largest videogame retail chain in the U.S, GameStop. While everyone believes they did in fact come close to a deal, it never surfaced. As we all know, GAME eventually bought Gamestation.
I remember being in work on the day the news broke about GAME agreeing the deal with Blockbuster. A few other members of management happened to be in our store at the time the email broke. We were all shocked, some were even a little distraught. Is this the end of Gamestation we all thought?
It turned out it wasn’t.
GAME weaved the corporate wand, tidying up Gamestation’s procedures. Eventually the Head Offices merged, yet GAME did make the decision early on not to close a mass of stores, leaving a number of town and cities with both a GAME and Gamestation. While this was fantastic news for staff at the time, it would inevitably lead to trouble.
After a few months away from games retail I ended up returning to GAME. It was interesting seeing how the two companies had come together, and while I could tell their were some tensions between different stores, mainly due to the differences that were still in place, such as uniform and return policies. However, like I said, for the most part it all seemed to be working. From a personally perspective from working at both firms I could see the difference in customers. GAME had a large number of gift buyers and parents, while Gamestation had a larger number of ‘gamers’.
When I was offered a promotion to Assistant Manager at a Gamestation store I was happy for two reasons. One for being on better money of course, and two for returning to Gamestation. Would it be like it was all those years ago?
For a part yes, it still had that ‘essence of gaming’. That’s not to say that I didn’t work with gamers at GAME, because I did, but their was just something about working within the Gamestation brand and ethos that made it feel more ‘game-y’.
After spending a few months at Gamestation, sadly it all started to fall apart, and in March the company entered administration, over 200 stores were closed and I found myself unemployed.
When the new owners were announced, OpCapita (the owners of Comet) had picked up the now smaller company, they knew they had to streamline the company. The writing was very much on the wall for the Gamestation brand, because as big as the brand had grown it still didn’t have the pull of the GAME brand. Investors and publishers prefer the the power of GAME’s brand, rather than Gamestations.
And today, even though the company that was once Gamestation had already changed considerably, the name will now be disappearing into history.
So what now? The ‘new’ GAME has to adapt, and going by what I’ve heard on the grapevine they’ve got the right ideas and intentions. They want to deliver the kind of specialist game shop that consumers want. I doubt it’ll stop there, I’ve got a feeling we’ll see a lot of changes to the UK’s largest videogames retailer over the next month or so.
I really do hope they get it right, because even though I lost my job due to administration I still have friends who work within the company. The UK needs a large games retailer, as it’ll help the games industry in this country. It needs the fun, gaming spirit of Gamestation along with the professional approach of GAME to create the ‘perfect’ game shop.
I hope GAME all the best, here’s to a new start. Rest in piece Gamestation, and long live GAME.
Alternative reading – If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to read this one right here. It’s a piece I worked on with one of the staff writers at Eurogamer after the administration.