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Game plans 20 more in-store gaming arenas

Game is planning to roll out its in-store gaming proposition to a further 20 stores, bringing its total number of gaming arenas to 27.

Following the successful trial of seven in-store arenas, launched under the retailer's new 'Belong' brand, Game is committing to rolling out the format to another 20 stores.

Launched last year in the retailer's Manchester Trafford Centre store, the arena includes ten Overclockers gaming PCs and a virtual reality (VR) pod, encouraging consumers to visit the shop and engage with the latest games and video game technology. Publisher partners can also use the zone to put on community events and promote the latest releases, while participating gamers will be able to compete in leagues or take part in "retro arcade" high score challenges.

Game said the gaming arenas are driving increased footfall and dwell time in-store, while 20% of customers who interact with Belong are new to the retailer.

As well as plans to further roll out the offering later this year, Game also plans to upgrade its online booking and tournament platform.

But the retailer's interim financial results for the 26 weeks ending 28 January 2017 looked less positive, as the retailer continues to suffer from a lack of new console hardware launches and a weaker line-up of new games.

Game reported a 9.1% fall in sales to £499 million, while profits tumbled 26.7% to £16.5 million.

"We continue to prioritise our efforts on taking the necessary actions to respond to these challenges, whilst positioning the business to capitalise on major future market opportunities. Across the group we are working hard to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs whilst implementing our Game Changing strategy to reposition and transform the business, and I am encouraged with the progress we are making," said Game Digital CEO, Martyn Gibbs.

"We delivered another positive performance across our focus retail categories in the half, including digital content, preowned tech, and PC gaming. We also made significant progress developing our live in-store gaming proposition under our new Belong brand, with encouraging results from the first seven arenas, and as a result we are accelerating our investment and implementation of this initiative. Overall we more than doubled sales from our growing Events, Esports and Digital activities."

Sales from its events, eSports and digital divisions grew by 120.5% to £8.6 million over the last six months, with Game reporting the majority of these sales coming from events and digital divisions of multiplay.

Zoe Mills, associate retail analyst at GlobalData, said Game has been too slow to adapt to the evolving market in the past.

"Greater focus must be placed on its in-store gaming venues if it is to weather the storm of declining games console sales. In 2016, the retailer opened seven instore gaming areas — a good start. The proposed opening of a further 20 stores this year will also help the retailer turn its business around and achieve revenue growth," she said.

"Game claims that one in five of those visiting its arenas since their launch in July 2016 were new customers to Game, highlighting that this concept has the potential to bring different consumers to its stores such as PC gamers which historically have not been a core customer for the retailer. The gaming arenas have also increased footfall and dwell time instore ensuring that the retailer will be able to encourage more retail sales."