On June 19th 2012, the once great TGW Pty Ltd t/a GAME was put into liquidation. An incredibly sad day for the employees still with the company after a incredibly tough couple of years. But not entirely surprising.
For some context, I worked for GAME for just over five years, starting as a Sales Assistant at the, what was then GamesWizards store in Belconnen, and eventually exited the company in late 2010 as the ACT Regional manager. A meteoric rise to be sure, but one built out of necessity.
In early 2007, The Games Wizards (TGW) was acquired by The GAME Group UK. It was all sunshine and happiness back then, an exciting time. New owners bought new opportunities for everyone involved. The thought of more stores opening and a larger presence Australia wide pumped all the staff at the time. GAME was on the rise.
And rise it did. They opened an absurd amount of stores, barely spending time developing locations before moving on the the next, making poor locative decisions, being screwed on rent and other conditions in the mad dash to open more and more stores. Whether this was a directive from up high, or just the Executives riding the high of a massive influx of money from their UK benefactors was never made clear to us guys. And that's where the cracks started showing.
Staff were under trained. The infrastructure to support the stores wasn't properly implemented. The IT systems collapsed under the strain frequently. People at head office were overworked and mistakes were made. Communication to stores was all over the place. As a result, staff attrition started kicking in, turnover was high. But morale stayed strong. Passionate people were still at the helm. The core 'Old Guard', myself included, put in Herculean efforts. We believed in what we were doing.
Then, those cracks started to show, then were structural, then the whole thing started to come down.
Financially, we weren't where we needed to be. Pressure from the top started to build. There was radical shifts in how stores were to be run. Hours and spend budgets were slashed. The customer service focus that GAME was to be known for suddenly slipped. Big box retailers and department stores offered deals we simply couldn't without the loss leading goods of the 'Bigger Guys'. Bit by bit, financial data was looking grimmer and grimmer. Eventually, the axe fell.
The UK stepped in, in a big way. The Executive were completely replaced by Big Gun Hot Shots from England. Whether they resigned or were forced, was never really discussed. These guys were about numbers, first and foremost. As a result, hours were cut further, new contracts for employees were written up, support for brick and mortar was dropped for focus on the Online presence and finally, the surest sign of all, stores were closed.
I was lucky, only one of my stores, Woden, was shut down. The heartbroken look on the redundant staff's faces is still fresh in my mind. But no one was surprised. Everyone had seen this coming. Like rats abandoning the proverbial sinking ship, the passionate 'Old Guard' started leaving, myself included. I could no longer abide the decisions being made.
And then, it seemed to pick up. The guys I visited in stores, friends I had made seemed happier with their lot. They had been given incentives and pep talks, they had their morale's boosted once again, some of the passion of old was starting to shine through. Then, the 'Marketing' started.
They hired two comedians to act like tools on promotional material online and in stores. They adjusted the Companies image weekly it seemed. One minute edgy and almost offensive, to bargain bin retailer, to 'Hardcore Gamerz' to satirical, to The Place for Mums. They tried too hard, and spent absurd amounts of money doing so. When I left, I had given them 5 years before the Armageddon clock struck midnight, but barely two after I left, the UK Incident occurred.
It started rather interestingly. GAME UK would not be stocking Mass Effect 3. Say what? One of the most anticipated releases of the year not being stocked. It was revealed that distributors and suppliers were refusing to comply with deals until GAME paid their bills. Which they couldn't and subsequently went into administration. With this, they had to call in their debts. And guess who owed them a lot of money.....
Again, another interesting beginning. GAME Aus would not be stocking Diablo 3 standard editions. What? The biggest game of the year, no copies? And of course, not too long after, GAME Aus went into administration, and has since entered liquidation, thus ending the short reign of one of Australia's largest brick and mortar specialist video game retailers.
Reading through the Administrators report (which I highly recommend you do, if your interested in this kind of thing) there is lots of finger pointing at things like the economy, competition, pricing in the Australian market etc etc. But its hard to ignore the shortsightedness of the decision makers in almost all respects.
I'll miss GAME. I have some amazingly fond memories of my time there. I have made lifelong friends and it as shaped what i am today. Farewell, old friend.