The OFT have referred UK retailer GAME’s takeover of their only real rival, Gamestation, to the competition comission. This step is one that I, an ex-employee of GAME, wholeheartedly welcome.GAME used to be everything that Gamestation was, a company dedicated to its customers and staffed by people passionate about the products they sold. I remember at my interview when I first applied for the job at GAME, it wasn’t a normal interview. My manager to be and I talked about nothing but games for 20 mins, none of the usual “What do you feel you can offer the company” guff.
I expressed my envy of him playing with an as yet unreleased Xbox at a conference, and we talked about the games we were most looking forward to over the next couple of months. I could see that there was a real interest in games, and from meeting the regional manger a month or so into my job I saw that this interest extended all the way to the top.
But GAME changed, it became all about the bottom line. My manager left and was replaced by someone who was a manager first and a gamer not at all, his last job was managing a shoe shop. When asked by a customer about a game or accessory, he would spout the latest company message. Which not only made him look like an idiot in front of customers who actually knew what they were talking about, it lost him the respect of his staff. I left not long after he arrived.
The OFT said in a statement:
“This merger involves the loss of competition between two parties who, in some segments at least, appear to be each other’s closest competitors and in circumstances where we can not confidently rely on new companies entering the market to resolve any issues quickly.”
GAME’s chairman on the other hand has said on the other hand:
“We firmly believe that a combination of GAME and Gamestation will not give rise to any substantial lessening of competition and intend to vigorously pursue this position before the Competition Commission.”
He also claims that consumers and employees benefit from the takeover in what he sees as “an increasingly competitive market”, I don’t know which market he’s looking at but it can’t be the same one as I’m seeing. There are no other large specialist retailers of video games, and I hardly think that competition from supermarkets and HMV counts, any gamer worth their salt would rather buy from a company whose focus is games and nothing but games. GAME is only interested in lining their pockets any way they can, and the attitude I was getting from management before I left was “Damn the customer, they don’t know what they want”. Well I sincerely hope that the Competition Commission finds against them and the market is once more opened up to some decent competition.