According to a recent press release, the website dateagamer.co.uk has contacted Game (I know, weird name, just “Game”, but hey they are European), operator of both the Game and Gamestation retail chains and offered to partner with the struggling retailer. Under the proposal, Date A Gamer would create “dating zones” in approximately 600 British locations of the retailer’s 1,300 European stores.
Spotted Dick. That’s right. I said it. For those of you not familiar with it, Spotted Dick looks like this:
It is a British steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit (usually currants) and commonly served with custard. That's sponge cake with fruit to us Yankees. What, my dear and gracious reader, does Spotted Dick have to do with gaming? About as much as online dating has to do with retail game stores. So imagine my confusion when I received a press release detailing a potential partnership between an online dating site and Europe’s largest gaming retailer.
Date A Gamer would set up branded “holding areas” in each shop where single gamers could “mingle and hook up.” The dating sessions, two per day and lasting an hour each, would be free for the 150,000 plus members of the dating website. Allegedly, this translates into a potential “millions of pounds” in shared revenue with the retailer.
Date A Gamer founder and UK entrepreneur, Tom Thurlow believes the co-branding opportunity represents an “attractive” answer to boost Game’s markets, which have been hit hard by competition from online-only retailers such as Steam and Amazon.
Thom Thurlow, speaking just prior to the press release said: “We are always looking for innovative new ways to reach out to single gamers and I expect that this is the same with Game, especially given the company's current financial issues.”
“By setting up 'dating zones' in-store, Game will offer something its online rivals cannot hope to copy and drive thousands of potential new customers through its doors.
“Given the choice I reckon many gamers would love the opportunity to socialise in a video game store.”
Thurlow is still “waiting to hear back” from the retail giant about the offer but says he remains “optimistic” about a partnership.
Dropped a Clanger
Okay, most of what you just read was right from the press release. I had to put it here so you have a frame of reference when I start exposing the connection to Spotted Dick. We will get to that in a bit. First, let's explore together the viability of what this starstruck marketing Brit proposes. Activate grumpy gamer filter, set crotchetiness to 11.
For all intents and purposes, the retailer in the story is Europe’s Gamestop. You have a huge PC and Console gaming retailer that suddenly falls on hard times. According to the genius in the press release, they are on the brink of financial ruin because of Steam and Amazon.
No you idiot. They are on the brink of financial ruin because the business model is changing and more importantly they do not offer a comprehensive service or value gain over any other retailer.
Listen, back in the day when Goldeneye was innovative, Age of Empires was fun and Quake II required a degree in Computer Science to optimize, we needed a retail outlet. We could schlep into Electronics Boutique (now EB Games, wait, now Gamestop) or some such local chain and find comfort. Going to a major retailer like MicroCenter or Fry’s was a good way to get scoffed at by and older and more distinguished computer professional.
You could saunter into a gaming retailer and discuss at length the best strategy for the new Zelda game. You could get some advice on how to properly work the Gameshark device you bought for hacking cheats into your N64 cartridges. The thirtysomething nerd that managed the place was your kind of people. It was like having a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold winter day. Comforting.
Somewhere along the way the internet exploded. Gaming became mainstream. Now a blockbuster game title will outpace a Hollywood blockbuster movie in both budget and sales. Not just by a little but by orders of magnitude.
Bob’s Your Uncle
As this happened gaming retailers gradually became just another store. If Game’s stores are anything like Gamestop, they are probably populated with ignorant and ill mannered teenagers that know almost nothing about gaming. They suggest whatever games are on the upsell list for the week and inundate you with requests to pre-order, pre-sell, pre-register, pre-cook, pre-cambrian, and pre-wrap everything at the counter.
They get offended when you suggest that no, Homefront is NOT going to be a new heavyweight. The clerk glares at you with the hubris of youth when you suggest that you actually own consoles and games older than he is...and maybe you know a thing or two about gaming.
Combine the lack of experience and knowledge, crappy customer service, and the fact that their main product can be bought for the same price at almost every other retail store on the planet now (I recently saw Xbox360 new release titles at the Rite Aid where I live in Amish Country Ohio) and you get a retail chain on its way out. The only competitive advantage they have maintained is in the used game market. The bulk of their profit comes from there. As we have seen recently, developers and publishers have made the future of DRM clear and we can expect an end to the used game market in the coming years.
Now, take that mental picture of crap and disservice, (maybe you have had a personal experience and can just call on that instead of imagining) and add the typical retail game store environment. There is always at least two whiny Timmies verbally taint punching their mother for a game they can’t afford. There is always at least one parent trying to find out which console has “Call of Halo” and then wanting a detailed comparison of hardware. There is always at least one parent holding up an “M” rated game and asking, “Will this be okay for my 8 year old?”
So in the middle of this Dante-esque vision of an inner circle of hell, do you want to chat someone up on a blind date?
No. No thank you. Nothing like having to try to be heard over two 12 year old prepubescent boys insisting that,”Jimmy’s Mom lets him play Saint’s Row!” to set the mood for romantic sparks.
So back to our hero from the UK. You and I sussed out the stupidity of this horrid retail combo in about 5 minutes. Why couldn’t Tom Thurlow figure out that this is a stupid, idiotic, hare brained idea?
Blow the Gaff
Why on Earth would he suggest a “partnership” with a company on March 19th, when on March 14th the investment group OpCapita announced its intent to acquire Game and began negotiating with creditors? Why again, after earlier in March, Electronic Arts and Capcom refused to sell any product to the retailer over concerns about their credit? On March 15th Microsoft and Activision ceased supplying their games as well. Game has been discounting in stock merchandise all month in an attempt to minimize debt for impending bankruptcy and acquisition.
So again, why would this brilliant little “entrepreneur” choose now to unveil his brilliant marketing plan?
Because he doesn’t give two shits (or I guess in the U.K. it would be shites) about Game or their predicament. Game’s month long circling of the bowl is big news in the gaming industry. The fact that major developers refused to fill orders actually caused a shutdown of the companies websites and the refund of hundreds of thousands of pre-orders deposits. It’s a big deal.
In the middle of this interesting cyclone of gaming news, along comes Tom Thurlow with his dating site and press release. I have no doubt that he legitimately sent an offer to Game’s headquarters. I also have no doubt that is 100% fertilizer. This was an attempt to cash in on some cheap publicity. By dropping a press release like this he gets picked up as news related to the fall of Game and his website gets promoted.
I almost decided not to write this article at all. I mean, in a certain sense he accomplished his goal because here I am writing about it, and there you are reading it. But no, I thought, no. Screw him and his website. How could he make such a preposterous proposition of dating at a gaming retailer? What kind of guy was this?
Know Your Onions
Well I did some digging. He is a Timmy.
Okay, so this was from his Tycoon.com profile. He was only 17 there. This is what he looks like now:
Yeah. He is 22 years old and started his “entrepreneurship” when he went to get a signed copy of a Harry Potter book for his sister. When he got in line, he bought 10 copies, got them all signed by J.K. Rowling, and then started a business selling signed first edition books to people.
This parlayed into a few shallow reality TV shows as he was somewhat a novelty as “The 17 year old Entrepreneur.”
So, the male British Kardashian decides to swoop in on the carcass of Game and feast on the fetid flesh to further his dating website. Ew. Okay, capitalism is ugly sometimes. Maybe he is just driven.
I looked into his site dateagamer.co.uk. Well, it turns out that is a big steaming pile of Wookie excrement as well. I registered an account there and took the site for a spin. After uploading an angry panda pic and claiming I was from Buckinghamshire (postal code HP18 9RT) the site matched me up with other “gamers.”
The 30 top matches close to me were an average age of 43. Interestingly enough, not a single one listed gaming in their hobbies. In fact, I couldn’t find anyone in the first two pages of results that even mentioned something about gaming in their profile!
Dig a little deeper Walla. What do I find? Date A Gamer “The UK’s #1 Dating site for Gamers and Geeks” is actually run by a company called White Label Dating. They are a “dating platform provider” who is “behind over 7,500 dating sites spanning everything from traditional dating to casual, niche and international sites, including our own sites as well as those of our partners.”
Awww Balls! You mean this Timmie, er...I mean Tommie Thurlow doesn’t even run the site? He just lends his C list celebrity to a crappy excuse for a gamer dating site?
On top of that the site doesn’t even provide a place to date gamers! It looks to me (though I have no evidence beyond my own observations) that perhaps many of the developer’s “7,500” sites are crosslinked. So when you register your account on “Date a Candlemaker” you also get listed on “Date a Gamer” Brilliant!
If you have hung in there this long, you may ask yourself why I devoted this time to uncovering a douchebag trying to get some free press for a misrepresented site that he probably doesn’t even care about?
Because gaming is our turf. Sure it has gone mainstream...but not THAT mainstream. We still have to deal with some a-hole firing off a news story about how Call of Duty caused a school shooting or GTA IV is causing gang violence.
When we turn on the news and cringe as some reporter completely misrepresents our means of entertainment and fellowship, we long for one sensible gamer to be in the studio and set the record straight.
Allowing some douchebag to take a half assed swing at marketing a crap product by filling the press pipelines of our precious gaming industry is out of the question. So Tom Thurlow, eat dick. Eat a big heaping can of Spotted Dick.
To be honest, I spotted dick the minute I read the press release.
About the Author
Eric “Walladog” Buwala lives, breathes, and embraces the lifestyle of the grumpy gamer. Crotchety beyond his years and cynical beyond his waist size, he spends most days starting sentences with “I liked it better the way it used to be” and “remember when...” Amazingly, he lives in Ohio with his wife, who inexplicably has endured his presence for over twenty years, seventeen of them as his spouse. His two children, ages 7 and 14, refer to him as the “Very Grumpy Bear” and the “Angry Wookie” respectively. He holds a private pilots license, advanced scuba certification, and an enlarged liver. He retreats to his cold, dark, damp man cave frequently enough to maintain a ten-thousand point addition to his Xbox Live gamerscore each year, but still cannot find a game he won’t complain about.