GAME CEO: "As an industry we will pull through"

Shepherd admits stock issues generating "both anger and support"

Ian Shepherd, CEO of retailer The Game Group, has said that he expects the games business to "pull through" its tough times on the High Street.

Yesterday GAME announced that it would not be able to stock forthcoming titles from Electronic Arts, including the first blockbuster of the year, Mass Effect 3.

It also became apparent that Mario Party 9 from Nintendo would also be absent from store shelves, following troubles with Ubisoft's PS Vita launch titles and Namco's latest Tekken title.

"Well, a tough day for colleagues and customers, after an excellent Vita launch performance last week - certainly ups and downs at the moment," wrote Shepherd on Twitter.

"A lot of feedback, both anger and support - understandable. No-one wins from this, but I'm sure that as an industry we will pull through."

The Game Group told investors yesterday that issues with Electronic Arts were a "temporary" problem, but in a note to staff admitted that there are issues with credit from suppliers.

"We gave the industry commitments - we committed to integrity and openness in our dealings, and working with everyone equally. We committed to only stocking products on which we could get the right credit terms, regardless of the title or supplier," it said.

"We will not stock products if the terms are not right for our business - we will not sacrifice long-term credit requirements for short-term sales opportunities."

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Latest comments (44)

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus6 years ago
Mr. Shepherd is really trying to put on a brave face.

He's also totally fucked. When you're a dedicated games retailer, and you can't stock the biggest hit of the quarter, you are just watching vultures circle you as they wait for you to die so they can enjoy their lunch.

Does ANYONE see any route out of this for GAME that doesn't involve being wholly acquired (GameStop?) or put into administration?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher Bowen on 1st March 2012 8:57am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Indeed. A brave face for potential rescuers, which is a very smart decision (though not like he has nay choice about it). But I agree with Christopher - when you can't stock the biggest hit of the quarter (as well as many other games that would add to your profit margin) you're just killling time until you die.

Perhaps, if the UK economy wasn't so bad, they could squeeze through. But I don't honestly think they can - the UK has become (even more than it once was) a nation of bargain hunters. Without the gift-giving season, there's no reason for casual gamers (and their relatives) to wander through Game's doors and ask for help from their staff.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st March 2012 9:12am

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Luke Salvoni Senior iOS Developer 6 years ago
Unfortunately, I've been saying for 6 months that Game & HMV will not be here by Christmas, which still seems to be the general direction. Both companies have not been doing enough to combat or join the booming online retailers or doing enough to draw crowds to their stores - this has become more apparent when comparing the 3DS/Vita launches versus the PS3/360... perhaps it's down to the target audiences or perhaps it's due to more & more people buying physical goods online or through digital distribution services.

Regardless, they should have been out creating partnerships with such service providers to stand a chance at surviving the post seventh-gen wave of consoles, which heavily introduced digital distribution methods.
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Show all comments (44)
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
Broken business model.

Game will go the way horse drawn stagecoaches did as viable inter city transport.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart6 years ago
Unless I am mistaken the technology to deliver gaming consoles down a broadband line has not been invented yet.
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd6 years ago
@Graham OnLive & Gakai!

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Niall McGuinness6 years ago
it's a sad state of affairs indeed.

The other issue is that many GAME/Gamestation's consumers have been forced to go online (myself included) to get specific products that won't be available on the high street because of what has happened, this in relation to the Mass Effect 3 CE.

Faith and commitment to the high street will have taken a massive knock, consumers may favor online not as a direct result but I'm sure it will contribute.

Personally, it was the first time I've ever pre-ordered online, and with my increasingly busier schedule, this may be the way forward for me, how many others are going to feel this way?

If they are having stock difficulties could we see them rallying to embrace the digital distribution services like OnLive and Gakai? I remember reading on this very site that the top brass in GAME said they could see themselves having a Car Phone Warehouse retail model where they the sell hardware with contracts.

Whatever happens I wish them the best of luck
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Ben Furneaux Principal Designer 6 years ago
"As an industry we will pull through" seems a little rich to me — GAME have done little in the way of supporting 'the industry' as a whole.

The industry will pull though, it just won't be taking GAME with it.
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Martin Mathers Copywriter/Journalist 6 years ago
@Tameem: He said CONSOLES, not the games to play on them. And as popular as online shopping is, there's still a huge chunk of people who only buy on the high street.

Were I to based my knowledge exclusively on what I see in front of me instead of having a extensive background on gaming, I wouldn't have a clue what OnLive or Gakai were - they're not obvious, they're not being pushed as viable platforms in the shops I go into that might theoretically sell it. As such, they don't exist to anyone but the minority of gamers who actually care. Is that what we're regressing back to? A time when gaming's for the exclusive minority, rather than for everyone? Because if you're going to suggest that streaming gaming content is the future, maybe they should actually start marketing it as such.

Genuinely sad to see such a state of affairs, but equally sad to see a lot of people so keen to put the boot in and declare them 'fucked' rather than trying to see a practical way out of it. Still, such is the way of things... it's all black and white, right? Oh, wait... :D

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Martin Mathers on 1st March 2012 1:11pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
What Ben said.
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Dominic Jakube Student 6 years ago
So the commander at GAME is called Shepherd?
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Russell Watson Senior Designer, Born Ready Games6 years ago
Also what Ben said, was my first thought also.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Martin

The problem is, there is no practical way out of it, unless they totally revamp their philosophy.

Rather than push second hand games to the detriment of new, they could reduce their pre-owned section, and stop doing stupid pre-order offers, like the BF3/MW3 trade-in late last year. Rather than slooooooowly closing stores, they could speed up the rate at which they shutter shops and dismiss staff - painful for staff, but it cuts overheads. Rather than ignoring the digital marketplace, they could start selling shrink-wrapped Steam and Origin codes for less than the physical discs, thus helping both the industry and taking a cut of a pie that they're blindly ignoring.

All of these things are financially viable choices, which would have the backing of investors and the industry. Is Game doing them? No. It's almost like they *want* to die.
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent6 years ago

I'm with Martin Mathers on this one.

Also, a high street shop cannot hope to survive by selling time/credit cards. Not only are the margins for such things TINY, it's also too easy for online to undercut – they don't have the bricks and mortor overhead, and what they're selling is easily distibutable letters and numbers. My local newsagent sells international phonecards, but if they didn't sell toilet paper and cat food and sandwiches past their sell-by date, they wouldn't have a business. Probably.

Also, what interest might Valve or EA have in using a middle-man to sell their digital games? It only means less profit.

And what Martin said is right; outside of this very vocal industry we work in, outside of the small percentage of gamers who read any kind of games journalism, no one has a clue what OnLive or Gaikai are. We could talk all day about how there's fifteen to twenty years of internet infrastructure between streaming games providing the same experience as local, but that's for another thread.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Howdle on 1st March 2012 2:13pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Dan

Time cards? I didn't say time cards. Look at Skyrim on the PC - it's a very shiny box, with a map. And a code that you register on Steam. Sell the code - nothing else - and a lot of the overheads from physical product selling disappear. No more "Oh, we don't have room to stock everything". The margins may be tiny, but the associated costs are also reduced. And here's another thing - online is already undercutting physical prices. So why don't the publishers use their clout and set up an agreement with Game - Game can be the sole vendor of serials, both on the High Street and online. It's not like exclusivity deals don't already exist - the pre-order market is full of them

EA and Valve are already using middlemen to sell their product - They go by the names of GameStop-Impulse and Go onto and you'll see them selling Steam and Origin registerable codes to shoppers (Payday was 5 bucks a couple of days ago). Look at GameStops digital distro client and you'll see them selling Valve games. These things already exist on the internet - but Game could have the exclusive High Street rights to such a thing, which helps Game continue to survive, and publishers have a presence on the High Street.

It may not save Game, but it would certainly help them.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st March 2012 2:38pm

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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic6 years ago
Plenty of good advice in this thread, let's hope they pay attention to some of it!
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Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios6 years ago
Online undercuts physical sales because publishers (although potentially in an illegal manner), are allowing sites like Steam to have crazy sales every single day. Entire publisher catalogs on sale at an astounding 90% off.

The only thing that could be legitimate about it is the fact that the sales on digital products is made possible because they don't have to cover the overhead of a box/manual/mapblahblah combination like they would in stores. Of course if it was legitimate, every other digital distributor would have these major sales every day, but I don't really see much of a uniform sale structure across the digital distribution service industry.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Slightly off-topic, but as noted elsewhere, Valve takes a 30% (or so) cut off digital sales on Steam, so even with the deep-discounting during sales, publishers and Valve walk away with a nice profit. Possibly the reason why you don't see other digital distribution services with such huge sales is because a) they take more of a cut than Valve, and b) they don't have the market presence to be able to warrant the extra sales vs cut in profits.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago
Jumping on the 'I'm with Ben' bandwagon.

Industry pulling through sure, GAME pulling through? Good luck! :P
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Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios6 years ago
@ Morville - Is that 30% off the top regardless of the sale price, or do they alter royalty percentages based on an individual sale?

@ Tom - When it comes to daily deals and weekend sales, I'm referring to the fact that they have a daily sale, every single day without fail, a midweek madness sale, and then a weekend sale. Which means somebody (at steam) is going to the publishers and requesting these sales. I agree that Steam is one of the best things to ever happen to the PC market. In my opinion they've single handedly pulled PC gaming out of the dirt and made it worth developer's time again, and I love that. I just never see that many promotions on other websites at once, which means either the marketing management of those other services are not taking the time to request the sales, or they're requesting them and being denied by the publishers because they would rather let Steam do it instead (which is illegal).

It's hard for a brick and mortar to follow Steam's methods because digital distribution doesn't have to guarantee sales to cover overhead related to logistics such as manufacturing, shipping, stocking, etc. A classic case is GAME. They stock their shelves with used console games mostly. From what I've read, their business model is a cut/paste of GameStop in that regard. PC gaming sales in brick and mortar stores are pretty much dead, except for super crazy massive triple A titles like MW3, BF3, SWTOR, etc. Chances are they weren't going to be able to guarantee the sales that EA was requiring to send supply.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Joshua

Regarding Valve's cut, I'm not quite sure. It took awhile to even find that 30% number (although it's now on the Wiki page for Steam). Valve are very tight-lipped about such things to the general public, which is fair enough, since they're better than other services, even so. I don't have any idea what EA take as a cut for third-party games on Origin, as an example, and doubt that any of the companies involved will spill.

Anyway... You assume that somebody at Steam/Valve is going to publishers to request sales all the time, but I doubt it works like that. More likely is that Valve had a meeting with the publishers of the games they sell, saying "We want to do this [the Daily Deal], we've got numbers that prove that the games will sell more because of the deal, who wants in?" And then there's probably two-way communication, to determine when/what goes on sale. As Tom says, there's a lot of tie-ins to DLC and sequels, so it's not like publishers would need a lot convincing, and there's a lot of smaller games on the Daily Deals, which their publishers are no doubt thankful for (Dead Mountaineer's Hotel, anyone?).

@ Tom

Nice to hear more about how it works - and loving the Steam-love. :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st March 2012 4:19pm

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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart6 years ago
Everyone is getting distracted by PC games sales. They are irrelevant. Steam at peak only has 4.6m people logged in most playing Skyrim/CS/MW3/Football Manager. This article is about the 2.5 million people who walk into a GAME store every week and buy console games. You are digressing. The Steam model is a drop in the ocean and not the answer.

The answer is the UK high street to go away and new consoles. The bankers know that that's why they have given GAME a year to restructure. They could of pulled the plug but haven't and won't. The price though was tighter credit facilities meaning for big games where GAME has to stump the credit they can't and EA won't budge. The only loser is EA game sales and the lost revenue to GAME is small (say £25m sales assume margins of 3% that's only £750 operating profit). So yes ME3 a big game this quarter but GAME can live without it. Like they say they won't sacrifice their future for short term sales.
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Steven Pick Lead Graphic Designer, Atomhawk Design6 years ago
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Graham

Whilst we're getting distracted by PC sales, you're getting distracted by console sales. There is no "this OR that" with the industry - PC sales are relevant, just as console sales are. Whilst the PC sales that Game are losing are being picked up by Steam, the lost console sales are picked up by Amazon/Play and, on the High Street, HMV. Moreover, your number is flawed - 2.5 million people may walk into a Game store every week, but there aren't 2.5 million console sales every week.

As for the only loser in the ME3/Game situation being EA... Well, how many people went and bought the deluxe edition from another store? EA aren't losing on this one. I also question your numbers regarding retailer margins, but don't have numbers close to hand to really dispute them (curently :) ).


FYI, the "30% cut" point comes from this article

"Publishers earn a gross margin of around 70% on Steam, compared with 30% via retail stores."

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st March 2012 4:50pm

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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 6 years ago
For real Ben.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
@ Graham - I disagree. I think Game will lose more from this than EA will. EA will get their games to the people who really want them anyway, whether from online or other high street outlets - and a title like that, you can bet, will be in every supermarket as people do their weekly shops. They'll lose some sales, sure - but not that many.

Game, on the other hand, won't get anything from those sales. That may, as you say, be a drop in the ocean, but that's not their biggest loss. Their biggest loss will be the loss of face for not stocking it, and the fact that people will go there, see it's not there, and go elsewhere. People will be left wondering why Game didn't have it, and a lot of those will either order online next time, or go elsewhere first instead of risking another "Oh, sorry, we don't have it" episode.

@ Kingman - I do believe I started the "I'm with Ben" bandwagon:) I've never had a bandwagon before, so I claim this one as my own:) Get yer own bloody bandwagon:)

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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 6 years ago
I can't be the only one to see the irony in the name can I.

Mr Shepherd...commander..well...come on!

Anyway. He's correct in that no-one wins. I had planned to go to game and trade in my Golden Abyss for Mass effect 3 as I had it on the play for a fiver offer. Now it's going to be hunt the bargain all over again. Though I do have a standard edition ordered from amazon for my nephew. Guess he's flat out of luck now.
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Prior to this event, I had envisioned that Game would at least survive as a online game specialist with some forecourt stores. However, this recent debacle is totally ruinous because it instantly eroded that one crucible of trust with regards to pre orders and collector editions for various games.

For the average gamer, collectors editions probably dont mean too much, however for a few fans it is nice to find out if there was that little extra to get hyped up about (we know its a bit of the con with the price markups, but still.. there is that OCD aspect towards a collection)

In any regard, this really means that in the future, Amazon, Zavvi or Play are the go to guys for 2012 games. I never ever want to have the hassle of a canceled pre order , no matter what "Mea culpas" comes out of Game, and it really only takes once (to be burnt badly) to lose once custom (forever)

err Game on!
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London6 years ago
How about print on demand? You could "stock" an entire back catalogue on a server in the back of the shop and just burn a disc and print out the cover when someone buys a copy, or even flash the game or DLC or whatever to a USB memory stick that locks to a particular Steam / Xbox Live / PSN account when you first activate it.

The retailer gets a cut of the sales, and the platform owner gets casual customers who wouldn't be willing or able to download the game over the internet at home. Aside from the latest blockbusters and chart titles you wouldn't need to keep any physical stock, so there's no problems with returns, credit or shelf space, but you still get the advantages of a physical shop with staff on hand to advise you and a physical product you can hold in your hand and give as a gift.
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Steve Ball Software Engineer, Ubisoft Montreal6 years ago
"I'm sure that as an industry we will pull through" ... If he is talking about the games industry as a whole, it doesn't need to pull through, in general it is doing fine... If on the other hand he is talking about the standard boxed/packaged games market, sold by brick & mortar stores (a la GAME), then I think he is wrong...
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Private Industry 6 years ago
I dont see EA losing there either, people will get theit ME3. The looser is Game and its reputation who having now several games for pre order but not stocking them in the end. I wouldnt pre order anything anymore with them, but then again I didnt buy any game there in the last 6 month or so.

Thats not very secure John having burners that can burn retail copies, especially with a retailer like Game they would probably burn 50 copies and sell them and tell the publisher they sold 20. Also employees might just burn them for themself and so on, you get the picture of lots of bad things that can be done with that :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 1st March 2012 6:34pm

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Sean Scaplehorn Programmers 6 years ago
It's a real shame to see Game falter, but they've done it to themselves. I feel it's just a matter of time before the company goes down.

I always used to enjoy popping into Game to scan the new releases, but these days it seems like the chart section (if you can find it amongst the miles of pre-owned dross) consists of the same games it did 6 months ago.

Game also seem to be the worst value place to buy games. Take the PS Vita launch. Game didn't advertise prices or any bundles for the Vita in store until literally a week or so before launch, and when they did they gave absolutely zero incentive to buy from them by having the most expensive deals around.

It has got to the point where I now don't bother entering Game (or Gamestation for that matter) because I know I'll see nothing worth buying and leave empty handed and disappointed.
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Jack Lee6 years ago
Although John's print-on-demand idea is pretty blue-sky, I think it's a great idea. Logistically, there'd have to be a lot of authentication between the retailer's printing mechanism and the publishers, so it'd require a decent infrastructure investment (which GAME doesn't seem particularly capable of at the moment), but I think that's a fascinating distribution idea. Think if Gamestop threw their weight behind something like that; they could definitely muscle publishers in to such a thing. I wonder how a retailer could package said burned game after it was produced... blank DVD cases that they can slide freshly printed cover art in to, I suppose? It's a neat idea, if a little unlikely in the foreseeable future.
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Chris Aikman Freelancer 6 years ago
The sad fact is that Game just can't compete as Sean (kind of) said above. They're being undercut by online and even super markets at every turn and focus too much on second hand which offers people a raw deal. Sure you get a trade in bonus if you have a points card but it's not a lot (as a former employee I can't recall the exact amount) and you could get more just selling something second hand to your mates if you don't like it.
Their online presence is a joke as well with a terribly designed website and lack of any incentive to order online from them rather than any other retailer. They've not embraced modern marketing and sales at all and it would take a miracle for them to come back in that area.

As for their "successful" Vita launch I seem to recall seeing somewhere else that they didn't have any of Ubisofts titles in stock for release which is a big blow.
One can't help but wonder here though if EA are doing this partly just because they're still unhappy (and not completely unjustly but that's another debate) about second hand sales.

I'm not happy to see Game in this position because I do still enjoy browsing in store and being able to just pick something up and take it home on the day if I really want it.

Even if (big if) the monetary loss from this didn't affect them much the loss of face is a huge issue. Claiming to be the biggest retailer in the UK then not being able to stock some of the biggest titles is a huge loss of credibility.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart6 years ago
People live in a bubble. The internet consumes them. They wake up check their email/social and hit the forums and they think that is what the rest of the World does. GAME's revenues are £1.4bn and a fraction of that is internet sales. Those sales will be here 12 months from now.
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Private Industry 6 years ago
If their revenue is 1.4bn than they make something very very wrong with their money to end up like that.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Graham

Game's revenues do *not* appear to be £1.4bn.

Profit and Loss Account
Total sales decreased by 8.3 per cent from £1,772.4m to £1,625.0m and like for like sales decreased by 6.7 per cent. These results compare well to the wider pc and video games market, which showed a year on year on decrease of approximately 10 per cent across the markets in which we operate. Average sales per annum per sq. ft. decreased by £49 to £1,116."

"Profit before tax
We achieved a profit before tax and non-recurring items of £37.8m compared to a profit before tax and non-recurring items of £90.4m for last year. Profit before tax was £23.1m compared to £84.2m."

( That is from found at which is actually sub-headed "Consolidated statement of comprehensive income for the year ended 31 January 2011")

As another point, it took me a full 2 minutes to find this financial statement. By Googling.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 1st March 2012 10:39pm

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Tony Johns6 years ago
Take a moment to feel for the Australian game retail market, every time when a game is banned from Australia, even if it is a big market one like Mortal Kombat from last year, because the Australian Government is so slow in implementing the R18+ rating, many Australian game retailers were unable to stock the game all because their country refused to allow the game into the country.

and all those massive numbers of pre-orders had to be cancelled.

I know it has got no relation to what is happening at GAME, but I do know on the Australian games market point of view that there have been many times when a big game has come out, but the retailers lost allot of market support because that they were not allowed to have the game in stock for some reason beyond their own control.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany6 years ago
"As an industry we will pull through"

Maybe, but as a game shop we'll have to see... without games from EA they'll have quite the hard time, not to forget all those costumers that preordered Mass Effect 3 Collector's edition whose exclusivity for UK was in their hands... you only have to check gaming websites to see how in rage they are at the moment.
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart6 years ago
@Morville Consensus forecasts for GMG 2012 sales are £1.4bn. Normalised 2012 EPS -3.7p improving to -.9p for 2013. This took me 15 seconds.
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@ Alfonso - rage does not even come close. Lets just say if one had to pre order a brain for the Game group, and then cancel it last minute. This will be the same mass effect
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Graham

Interesting. Forecast based on what? Certainly not previous earnings. Is this like the dot com bubble?

Btw: "As of Feb 25, 2012, the consensus forecast amongst 14 polled investment analysts covering The Game Group PLC advises that the company will underperform the market. This has been the consensus forecast since the sentiment of investment analysts deteriorated on Nov 16, 2011. The previous consensus forecast advised investors to hold their position in The Game Group PLC."

( )

Also, rather than just spouting figures, it would ease this discussion along if you could reference pages. :)


Interestingly, that £1.6bn figure is a decline from the year previous year, which makes me suspicious about any investment firm that thinks it's even going to hold steady, let alone increase (as the FT reference above points out, there's a belief that it'll underperform).

"The retailer generated sales of £595 million from its overseas business in the year to 31 January 2011, while reporting an operating loss of £15.7 million. The group turned over £1.63 billion last year." ( )

You have to be very special indeed to run a business so firmly into the ground.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 2nd March 2012 2:58pm

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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart6 years ago
@ Morville Sadly I have to 'spout' (as you quaintly put it) since I have access to institutional research systems the public don't and can't link on pain of death. Though if you subscribe to private investor products like you can get it. Broker forecast are no longer the preserve of the pin stripes. That said, trading announcement states Jan 2012 sales are down -12% so that indirectly gets you to my £1.4bn consensus forecast.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Graham

Mmm... Perhaps "spout" was the wrong word. No offence taken, I hope, as none meant.

The problem is, I do get tired of how people are so very... blind to certain things within the gaming media/industry. A good example of this is the article which you quite rightly called out for confusing gross profit lost from Game not stocking ME3 with net profit already assumed to be lost within their last financial year. I cannot rightly believe someone within the film industry, say, would allow such a blatant mistake to stand.

I also understand that you can't reference what evidence you have for your commentary, but I believe a certain amount of "peer review" is good within commentary and analysis. Generally speaking, a lot of what the games media produces wouldn't stand up as an undergrad essay, so references are very useful for fact-checking.

Lastly, I was eyeing - it may be I will end up as a subscriber of it, since it seems quite interesting to me. :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 2nd March 2012 11:23pm

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