High-street scrooge Mike Ashley, best-known for the Sports Direct chain and his decade-long stewardship of Newcastle United, has succeeded in taking over the GAME group. GAME has been a presence on the UK high street since 1991, when it was founded as the Rhino Group. As Kotaku UK reported last year, recent times have not been kind to the once-ubiquitous retailer.
Ashley's company, Sports Direct International, has now sealed a £52 million takeover of the business, after winning over another 16 per cent of shareholders to its cause. Ashley's group already has a 38.5 per cent stake in the business, meaning this will get it comfortably over the 50 per cent threshold of having a majority. In other words: game over for GAME, and and a new start for Sports Direct.
This will be unsurprising to anyone who follows Ashley's modus operandi, but Sports Direct has signalled that store closures, store mergers and redundancies may be a part of GAME's future. The group also owns House of Fraser, among many other British high street retailers.
It's easy to be snarky about Ashley, particularly if you have any fondness for Newcastle United. On the other hand, recent years have seen not only the decline of GAME itself but the closure of its only serious rival on the UK high street, Grainger Games. These are seriously tough times for retail in general and game retail especially, because over the last decade the games audience has not only moved towards digital in a big way, but has also always been the kind of audience that embraced internet bargain-hunting. From that perspective it's kind of surprising GAME has lasted this long, though doubtless it's got a lot to do with poor old grannies getting fleeced for little Johnny's Christmas present once a year.
Anyway: rest in pepperoni, GAME. Long live GAME 2.0? That remains to be seen.