Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HMV launch their new look. Again.

The number of times HMV has launched its new face onto the world, you might think nobody is much noticing. The latest excuse to try and interest someone, anyone, in their declining sector has been the re-opening of the London flagship, upon which deckchairs have been decisively re-arranged:

Deep in the bowels of the garish Trocadero centre, HMV has turned a significant chunk of its store into a paradise for computer game enthusiasts. With sleek black walls, an "over-18s" annexe, and more than 70 whirring computers and giant plasma screens, the so-called Gamerbase room allows visitors to choose and play hundreds of computer games.

Like the world's most technologically advanced youth club, the room is a godsend for gamers - and possibly the first of many across the country.

(Yes, Sunday Telegraph - 'possibly' in the sense of "possibly the first, if you don't count the one in Merry Hill.)

Simon Fox of HMV trots out the justification for dumping CDs and concentrating on Games:
"Big picture, if you look over the next three years, what we have said is that the CD market will decline by 10 per cent per annum, so we need to replace that with higher-growth categories: games, technologies, band merchandise, and this is part of that. We need to respond," says Fox, as he shows The Sunday Telegraph round the store.

"For HMV we are already a natural destination for music and film, we want to become an equal destination for games, and this is about making our stores a real magnet for gamers to come and play and buy," he says.

Lessening dependence on a sector which has seen the closure or sale of MVC, Fopp, Tower, Virgin, Borders and so on might seem to make sense, although entering a sector which has the same sort of problems, perhaps less so. Documents in the recently green-lighted merger of Gamestation and Game [pdf] indicated the main motivation for reducing the number of games-only chains to one was the challenge of digital downloads for games, and the supermarkets eroding margins for physical products. In effect, by turning to games from music, HMV is like a sportsman trying to cope with a bad back by swapping weightlifting for shot-putting.

[Thanks to James P for the link]