UK retailer GAME group, which also includes the Gamestation high street outlets, has dramatically announced that it is ending its relationship with huge industry publisher EA.
According to a report on the Eurogamer website, a memo sent out this morning to staff across the company confirmed that the retailer would be cutting its ties immediately, with the last EA title to be stocked in its stores to be SSX, slated for release this week.
All pre-orders for EA games have also been cancelled, including those for Mass Effect 3. According to Eurogamer, customers will not be offered cash refunds, but instead issued store credit to the value of their order.
The pre-order situation was apparently confirmed by EA, with an update to the official Mass Effect 3 website warning customers to check that their pre-order is with an authorised retailer: either Amazon, Play.com, Zavvi or ShopTo. “For customers who have pre-ordered the N7 Collector’s Edition please re-order your copies through these retailers,” reads the notice. “If you have placed a deposit for a pre-order or are uncertain that your existing pre-order will be guaranteed, please contact your local retailer.”
Aside from the issue of whether it is morally and legally acceptable to refuse refunds for a service that will not now be provided, the current problems show the depth of the crisis currently racking the retailer. We’ve recently reported on market trouble calling into question its ability to service its debt, and now it appears that GAME is unable to keep distributors sweet and games on the shelves.
It seems profoundly unlikely that the retailer would have chosen to cut out a market behemoth like EA, which can count several of the world’s best-selling franchises including Fifa, Battlefield, Need for Speed and not least the Mass Effect series among its properties. While the company is yet to comment, some commentators have seen this as the beginning of the end for GAME.
While we’re hardly the biggest fans of high street gaming chains, we can’t help feeling sorry for the thousands of people currently employed by GAME; it can’t be easy to watch your source of income circling the drain, especially when getting another job is currently a very dicey proposition.
Industry publication MCV is also reporting that GAME will not be stocking the upcoming Mario Party 9. This will complete a trilogy of missed Nintendo releases for GAME, which also failed to grab stock of Tekken 3D and The Last Story.