This weekend, countless UK Switch owners will flock to their local GAME store to pick up a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, despite the fact that the rest of the country – not to mention much of the world – is currently in the grip of a coronavirus outbreak which is forcing people to remain indoors for fear of spreading the infection.
However, like US store GameStop, GAME – the UK's only video game-focused high street retailer – has stated that it will remain open to deal with the hordes of Nintendo fans who seek a copy of the popular life sim.
GAME has instructed its stores to remain trading and staff are becoming increasingly concerned about how they are going to cope with the increased footfall for games like New Horizons and DOOM Eternal – two of 2020's biggest releases so far – as well as handle the impending UK school shutdown, which will reduce staffing numbers as parents have to remain off work and could potentially increase the number of younger players entering stores in search of games to keep them entertained.
Speaking to our friends over at Eurogamer, one GAME store manager – who wished to remain nameless – said:
My colleagues and I are increasingly getting worried by the seemingly lack of action or concern from our head office. This is before we even consider the new releases and the increased volume of phone calls as people enquire as to whether we are open for the new titles so it's likely to be a very busy weekend.
The big concern from staff is that by remaining open during what will be a very busy period they are increasing their chances of picking up the virus from a customer. One GAME staffer told Eurogamer stores were supposed to be supplied with hand sanitisers, but this hasn't actually happened as yet:
In our store we are bringing our own where we can or colleagues have been kind enough to share to make sure we are as clean as possible, and I've been told from friends in GAME stores across the country it's the same there too.
It would seem that the whole thing echos the aforementioned GameStop situation in the US, where the company is putting profits before the health of its staff. GAME – which has yet to comment on Eurogamer's findings – runs a network of social media accounts via its stores, one of which informed buyers that digital was always an option.
While the UK government has yet to force shops to close, some GAME staff are hoping the management will take the step anyway in the fullness of time – such as another unnamed source from the shop floor:
We are all hoping that they make the decision soon before the government essentially forces all non-essential companies to shut but right now that doesn't feel like it's happening. I'm only continuing to go in because the company nor the government have made any assurances that we'll get paid if we go off and we all have bills to pay.