That's my half a face, far left.
I'm not a natural writer, but i wanted to put this somewhere, because it upset me so much. Last night I attended the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance midnight launch hosted by GAME at Westfield London, and couldn't have been more disappointed.
The night was a shambles from start to finish. I've never been a fan of GAME. I know this is nothing groundbreaking in the community, let me outline clearly why this is though, just in case the ailing brand decide to try and find out why they have no support from an industry that relies so massively on its sense of community.
The biggest problem with GAME, as a brand, is the overwhelming feeling that it's run by disinterested business men. I've never had reason to believe anything else. Everything from the brand design and decor, down to the pricing and offers. While i don't doubt for a second there are passionate people working in the company, it's always struck me a shop that takes advantage of the 'spoiled brat' phenomena; parents who don't know better paying over the odds to indulge their squealing progeny. It fails to keep up with competing offers in other high street shops, rarely has special offers worth taking up and fails to organise it's own stock alphabetically (!). The staff often seem completely clueless as to what is going on (which is rarely their fault, but that of disinterested managers) and I've seen staff agressively up-selling consoles to parents who are out of their depth.
The events of last night did nothing to change my opinion, in what was, for them, a huge opportunity to change the minds of a good deal of potential customers. It started at 10 AM. Raffle tickets were given out to the first people there to secure their places in line. "Great, we don't need to hang around later, we can just turn up closer to the time" "no, we still need to you queue from 8pm". So if we've already established an order, why would we need to -- Oh, it's for the publicity shots. Fine, GAME need to get something out of it, I can't deny them that, it's a symbiotic relationship at this point. But you would think that GAME would have an interest in creating a rapport with the gamers it pretends to love. You don't create rapport with someone by making them wait in -4ºc weather for 2 and half hours unnecessarily*.
This GAME store happens to be in Westfield London shopping centre, which was, until recently, the biggest in Europe. It's not short of space. But Westfield/GAME didn't want the fans in public view, so we were shoved out in the cold, like the nerd that the jock uses for test answers, but doesn't want to be seen with. I've seen the line they have for the Apple launches at Westfield, they get to queue inside. It did seemed needlessly cruel.
So when we're in the queue literally shivering, my feet have gone numb, (its -4ºc with windchill factor) word gets around the Hideo Kojima isn't doing signings. Now if that's his choice you have to respect it, but GAME has to understand that 99% of the people were expecting a signing. These events are normally an opportunity to take home a trophy, a little artefact of gaming history, a tangible memento saying "i put effort in to make your launch a success, and i got something unique for my efforts". GAME would have been aware of this assumption, but made no effort to dispel it. They knew that turnout would be worse. It wouldn't have been catastrophic, and i'm sure just as many people would have turned up to get a picture with Hideo and Yoji, but they were happy to mislead people to boost numbers. Cynical and misleading marketing at it's worst.
So we eventually get inside Westfield with an hours wait until the event begins. The first 50 have a relatively decent view of proceedings, the rest, well fuck 'em. Again, Westfield has plenty of space, especially after closing time, but they chose to cram everyone into the tiny space in front of the shop, I guess for photo ops. There was no reason they couldn't have set up a branded stand somewhere else in Westfields and made sure everyone could enjoy the launch (with a comfortable wait).
This was my view, sometimes the fans can be their own worst enemies.
So for half an hour they get us to shout and chant about how great GAME is for sorting this all out. "Hey, I'm gonna make you wait in the cold for hours, withhold vital information and generally screw you over and you're gonna thank me for it." Actually, i must apologise, it wasn't just GAME promotion, the company filming it found time to big themselves up, between mispronouncing the names of everyone involved.
What baffled me most is that everyone seemed pretty happy to join in. "Can i get a cheer for GAME!?" (Cheers). It was like a weird shady political rally, or evangelical service. Helleluljah! Praise be to GAME! THE DEVIL OF ONLINE SHOPPING HAS BEEN CLEEAANNNSSED FROM MY SOUL!!!
So we get in, they desperately try and flog us the strategy guide, we're ushered through. I make a valiant attempt to produce a secret pen and Hideo even indulges me, only to find out that the case is wrapped in plastic, and the pen doesn't work. I got a signature shaped mark. I was told off and ushered out. No demo booth to play the game, no further discussion, go home.
I genuinely felt like a Hollywood starlet, offered a free set of head shots for my portfolio, only to be forced into a nude shoot and kicked out the back door. Really sad and really disappointing. It's this lack of respect for the customer that makes me hope for the inevitable implosion of GAME, brought on by their own brand of corporate cynicism**. While i would genuinely feel for the staff, who could also be considered victims of a badly mismanaged company, it would be vindication for my years of vocal disapproval, and that's all i've ever wanted.
*Achievement Unlocked: Spell Unnecessary in one go without checking.
**Fuck the man! RIGHT!?