GAME has a different vision. It plans to use its physical locations and customer base to create experience hubs – places where gamers can play as well as buy. This is not a new strategy and has sat at the heart of what CEO Martyn Gibbs has wanted to do since he took control in 2012. In 2013, the firm hired Dominic Mulroy to help develop GAME’s in-store offering. Mulroy had operated Gamerbase, which was a business owned by entertainment retailer HMV and charged gamers to play on their high spec PCs (but was closed down after HMV’s own administration woes). Mulroy’s appointment ultimately didn’t amount to anything, but it has remained something that Gibbs is eager to explore.
Then last year GAME acquired events business Multiplay for £20m, and in June this year it used that company’s know-how to develop a gaming ‘arena’ in its Manchester store. This was an area within GAME that is dedicated to consumers playing together, throwing parties and even trialling new products like VR. It is also a place for grassroots eSports tournaments, which the company is eager to move into in a significant way.
Today, GAME has announced it is opening more arenas under the new heading of ‘Belong’… which sounds, frankly, a bit odd.
“We spent an immense amount of time, and I am talking months and months and months, researching what the best names would be to put behind what we want to achieve, which is grassroots right through to professional eSports,” Gibbs tells GamesIndustry.biz.
“From all the research that we were doing, and after we had launched one or two of our arenas, it was really the element of ‘belonging’ that those communities were responding to.
“We didn’t want to be specific around a GAME title or something that could be that easily associated with it.”
I decided to visit GAME’s latest ‘Belong’ outlet in Wardour Street – the firm’s first central London location since it was forced to close its Oxford Street store four years ago. The upstairs looks like your typical GAME shop, albeit a little more spacious than we’re used to. But the significant change is downstairs in the basement, where you’ll find an area for Xbox One consoles, another section for PlayStation 4 gaming, two zones for VR demos (one for HTC Vive, the other for PlayStation VR) and 12 gaming PCs running various titles including Rocket League.