So then. After crawling along for weeks like that legless torso zombie in the first episode of The Walking Dead, the GAME retail chain has today officially filed for administration. Coming just after the retailer asked to be removed from the stock market (which is a bit like having to call an early taxi home from a party because you've got drunk and embarrassed yourself so badly that you absolutely cannot stay), the move is obviously being seen by many as a cyanide pill shaped like a final coffin nail which also sounds a bit like a death knell when you hit it with a small bell hammer. But is it really?
Everyone knows that going into administration is a Very Bad Thing, but what does this actually mean in real terms? Is GAME finally dead? Is it likely to make a comeback? If you go to your local store tomorrow, will you still find it there, or will there just be a big smoking crater? Is GAME really admitting defeat, or is it cooking something up? Allow me to explain the possibilities (and probabilities).
Administration is a flat-out admission that a company can no longer successfully run itself as a business, and has appointed - or has filed for - a third-party to come in as an emergency interim Chief Executive in order to deal with what's left amongst the wreckage. The administrator works on behalf of the company's creditors (in GAME's case very probably a whole bunch of game publishers who haven't been paid for stock) in order to work out the best way of dealing with the company's assets while avoiding total liquidation, thus allowing the company to continue operating in the interim. From the point of administration, creditors cannot communicate directly with the company in question.
There are several options. GAME could be sold outright. It could be broken down into different elements and sold off in bits, like stripping a car for parts. There's also the option of the 'pre-pack' administration method, whereby a restructuring plan is decided before administration is announced, and assets are sold off immediately. Often in these cases, the company's previous management or directors will step in to pick up the assets themselves, using them to restart the business as a new company. This ensures business continuity and often saves a lot of jobs. And there's currently a rumour that this is exactly what GAME is going to do, relaunching the UK and Spanish company assets under a new brand to be announced on Monday.
Good news? Well not necessarily. You see if true, the rumoured plan to essentially reboot GAME does not include Gamestation, the rival chain GAME bought out a few years ago. The guys working there would still be screwed. And it's debatable how much support the new GAME would get from the game publishers vital to its success. If you were EA, and had (rightly or wrongly) been niggled for years by a chain which built its business model primarily around pre-owned games that cut you right out of the financial equation, and were quite possibly owed a stack of cash from said chain after it went under, would you really be thrilled by the idea of supporting it again a couple of weeks later, when it popped back up under a different name?
So, GAME as we knew it is dead. Gamestation too. That's pretty much the whole of the UK's game-dedicated high street retail gone. Their stores will continue to operate as they currently are until the administration process finishes, but we're talking about a dead chain walking. What will rise to fill the gap, we cannot currently guess. It might be a new chain, it might be ramped up game sales from the supermarkets, it might be a new iteration of GAME itself, or it might be nothing. But whatever comes out of this, our absolute best wishes to anyone directly affected.
(GamesRadar AU Ed: With GAME Australia operating independently from GAME UK, the company's future down under remains unclear. We've attempted to make contact with GAME's Australian office, and will bring you further news as soon as it becomes available.)