Simon Urquhart talks about the retailer's latest initiative

Uncovering the Dixons Gaming Bunker

Dixons Retail is looking to strengthen its games offering with the addition of the Gaming Bunker. PCR checks out London’s newest destination for PC gamers.

Retailers don’t need to sell games in order to be a part of the gaming scene. That’s the belief of Dixons’ Simon Urquhart, category manger of PC gaming peripherals and components, and one deeply rooted behind the firm’s latest initiative: the Gaming Bunker.

Games retailers have long struggled in a market that has witnessed consumers increasingly move online in order to get their hands on the latest game releases. Digital alternatives such as Steam and Green Man Gaming offer both convenience and highly competitive pricing at a level the traditional High Street retailer simply can’t match. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of indie and free-to-play titles has further fragmented the games market to an inaccessible level for many.

Over the last twelve months alone we’ve seen the likes of GAME, Blockbuster and HMV all slip into administration, and whilst all three brands have survived to live another day, it has come at a price. Store closures, job losses and even the latter stripping out its games offering have been the result of an increasingly difficult market.

But whilst retailers are reluctant to give up on boxed games, Urquhart believes the High Street should be widening its scope and focusing its collective efforts on additional areas of gaming. That’s where the Gaming Bunker comes in.

“The Gaming Bunker is a driving range and pro-shop for mice, keyboards and headsets.”

Simon Urquhart, Dixons Retail

Based at Dixons’ Tottenham Court Road store, the 500 sq ft Bunker is a dedicated gaming space, which features ten LAN networked PCs complete with the latest hardware and gaming accessories.

Each loaded with some of the most popular, current PC titles, the appeal of the bunker is clear: allow consumers to get hands on with the latest gamer- orientated gear.

Urquhart likens the experience of the Games Bunker to that seen within golf and the notion of the pro-shop. Whilst etailers offer elements of convenience that the High Street struggle to compete with, retailers have their own tricks up their sleeve.

“You wouldn’t buy a set of golf clubs without swinging them first – the Gaming Bunker is a driving range and pro-shop for mice, keyboards and headsets,” says Urquhart.

It’s a metaphor that certainly rings true for the bustling Bunker. Each machine is custom built with a variety of the latest high-end components and finished with a selection of gaming peripherals aimed at all kinds of gamer. It’s a simple idea but one that meets an ever-present need. For as long as PC gamers remain faithful to their high- spec machines, there will always be a desire for the newest accessories, whether they’re for the entry level gamer or the battle-hardened veteran.

It’s here that both the Gaming Bunker and the typical High Street retailer thrive with their capacity to provide the ‘try before you buy’ approach. Whilst an online review may suffice for last week’s big games release, it can’t provide the level of interaction that would leave a gamer comfortable with spending £100-plus on a high-level gaming keyboard.

The converted home theatre display houses many of the market’s leading brands, including the likes of Razer, Turtle Beach, SteelSeries, Logitech, MadCatz and Roccat. Filled with recognisable brands, the Bunker is a haven for PC gaming enthusiasts.

Whilst still in its infancy, the Bunker has already received such positive feedback from consumers that expansion of the initiative to additional locations could happen sooner rather than later. Urquhart hopes that the distinctive black exterior of the Bunker is one that can be easily transferred to additional stores – one instantly recognisable by gamers.

Not strictly limited to peripherals, there has been much talk by retailers over other areas of the games market and how they can ensure it remains a profitable endeavour. One such topic of conversation has been the use of games to boost additional areas of business.

Gamers may not be buying games in the same way they used to; it doesn’t mean retailers can’t reap the benefits. Manufacturers continue to bundle the latest games with new hardware in order to buoy sales. The Gaming Bunker mimics this approach by using games – rather than simply selling them – in order to boost the appeal of its gaming offering.

Anyone is welcome to head down to the Bunker, stick on a headset and take on a few friends with a round or two of League of Legends – and it’s an approach that Urquhart has seen pay off first- hand.

That’s not to say Dixons has abandoned the boxed games market. Whilst a walk through the brand’s Tottenham Court Road store may emphasise some gaps in its games offering, Urquhart maintains its an area that is set to expand – and one that will be boosted by the presence of the Gaming Bunker.

The category manager also believes that consumers’ interest in the Gaming Bunker will extend to other areas of the brand’s business. As PC gaming becomes a more complete experience aimed at an increasingly wider audience, Urquhart believes Dixons is in a perfect spot to benefit.

“In addition to its vast gaming offering, it is hoped that the Bunker could soon host a variety of events including eSports tournaments, product launches in partnership with partners.”

Looking to the future and Urquhart predicts a bright one – not just for the Gaming Bunker itself, but for PC gaming in the UK’s capital.

eSports is undoubtedly the fastest growing concept within gaming right now and it’s something that Urquhart is keen to interact with in order to bolster the Gaming Bunker’s presence with the wider games community as a destination for PC gaming. In addition to its vast gaming offering, it is hoped that the Bunker could soon host a variety of events including eSports tournaments, product launches in partnership with partners.

The Gaming Bunker is an initiative that is primed for success as it gives gamers a reason to choose the Currys/PC World brand over etailers and other High Street retailers.

In addition to showcasing the latest gaming products and inviting gamers to try them for themselves, the Bunker’s ability to host events and engage within the gaming community make it a destination for gamers within London – and one that boosts PC World/Currys’ gaming offering.

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