There was some very sad news this morning as Grainger Games shut 21 of its 67 stores with immediate effect. The chain is primarily based in the north east of England, and it’s one of only three major video game store chains left in the UK, along with GAME and CEX.
Last week, Grainger Games said it was having trouble sourcing credit – basically, lenders have whacked up their rates because they’re not confident they’ll get their money back. Not a good sign. And now with these store closures, which amount to almost one-third of the stores shops, it seems Grainger may very well be done for. The fact that the store’s website was taken offline today is another worrying sign.
I’m a big fan of Grainger Games – I’ve written before about their great customer service and reasonable prices – so it would be a great shame if the chain disappeared from the high street. And it makes me wonder how long video game stores have got left, something I wrote about for GamesRadar not long ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if most game shops disappeared in the next five years – especially if Sony and Microsoft continue to aggressively push digital games. Independent game stores have expressed alarm at the advent of Microsoft’s Game Pass, aka Netflix for games – it’s basically another nail in the coffin for physical retailers. One store owner told GamesIndustry.biz that: “Essentially, it’s made [our Xbox business] worthless overnight.”
Chris Bowman from Console Connections, which is near me in County Durham, said this in the same article: “People still want boxed product but with the price of an Xbox Game Pass, how long will they continue to do so? If Sony and Nintendo were to follow suit, it’s game over.” And with new consoles expected to be announced in the next year or two, I reckon there’s a good chance that all of the major players might start up some sort of Netflix-style game service. I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s essentially taking money directly from consumers without having to pay a cut to retailers or distributors.
I interviewed Chris for a Eurogamer article, and he was very worried about the falling margins on new games and the rise of digital – retro games seem to be one of the few areas that still bring in real money. I really hope that Grainger Games and independent stores like Chris’s can find a way to keep going – it’s important to have places like these where customers can source expert advice. But I worry that their days are numbered.