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GAME must be saved - if we want to save our games

Opinion: If the high street retailer foundered, it could have irreparable consequences for the games industry, writes Steve Boxer...

The obituary pencils are being sharpened following the latest bad news emanating from GAME and Gamestation: the specialist high street retailer won't be stocking Mass Effect 3, by far the biggest console release of the year so far.

This follows a dire run in which the chain nearly went bust but managed to negotiate a stay of execution from the banks. Whose dead hand can be seen in the chain's inability to buy stock, as rumours persist that some or all of its credit insurance has been withdrawn.

If GAME and Gamestation became the latest victim of the inability of this country's bankers to do anything but pay themselves obscene bonuses, it would be a tragedy and a travesty. Sure, the retailer has issues it needs to address - it has already announced that, wisely, it will slim down from 610 to 550 stores in the UK, and has closed the gameplay.co.uk website (which had become a thoroughly irrelevant backwater on the Web, anyway).

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As punters, you may feel GAME's prices are too high, or that discrepancies between its website and its retail outlets are annoying. But if you're someone who actually loves videogames - and we presume you are, otherwise why would you be reading CVG? - then you stand to be adversely affected if GAME were to disappear.

UNDER FIRE

GAME and Gamestation are the last major specialist games retailers on the high street, and they face unprecedented assaults on several fronts. Chief among whom are the Internet-based retailers, which, thanks to a loophole in the law, are often able to mail games from the Channel Islands without charging VAT, thereby undercutting physical retailers on price. Then there are the supermarkets, which have started selling games in recent years - which can buy in such bulk and pare margins so tightly that they, too, have the edge on specialist retailers. Along with them is the rise of digital downloads - which are an attraction option when you're not looking at full-blown games.

GAME and Gamestation offer something that none of those rivals can: the chance to try before you buy, getting your hands on games and hardware before it goes on sale and enabling you to make buying decisions accordingly. That wouldn't be so important if, say, there was a single show on TV that demonstrated games before they were released and discussed their ins and outs in an informed manner. There used to be plenty of shows like that, but in recent years, the world of television has disappeared up its own arse, where it found reality shows and decided to lodge permanently.

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