GAME, the U.K. and Ireland’s recently stock-troubled leader in high street games sales, has bought out biggest rival Gamestation. The smaller chain was purchased from previous owner Blockbuster for £74 million ($148 million) and will continue to be operated as a separate brand.
It’s a surprise move, given that both chains have co-existed for a number of years now, and speculation is that the purchase is a pre-emptive strike on behalf of GAME, intended to close the window of opportunity for other video game retail groups such as GameStop to buy into the U.K. market.
What all this means for gamers however, remains to be seen. Given GAME’s notoriety for uneducated staff, inflated prices, and a frankly vampiric approach to trade-in deals, a huge number of U.K. players have probably just proclaimed the high street dead to them and vowed never to shop offline again. It’s a completely understandable standpoint. The reason Gamestation has thrived where so many other chains have fallen to GAME over the years is its understanding and respect of the market. Knowledgable staff comprised mainly of serious gamers, a dedication to retro gaming (my local branch currently has everything from a Game Gear to a TurboGFX 16), and the best prices on the high street have provided the antithesis to GAME for a long time, and are the reason they’ve been so endeared to the hardcore fraternity.
While GAME is stating that Gamestation will remain Gamestation, fears of things going horribly wrong are definitely understandable, particularly in regards to pricing. With the cost of the buyout combined with estimated restructuring costs of £8 million ($16 million), it’s probably going to be a fair while before Gamestation customers allow themselves to breathe easy again.