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What’s going on with the Sports Direct Game acquisition?

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has bought a 26% stake in Game Digital, the struggling UK video game retailer. What does it mean? 

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Mike Ashley Sports Direct Game

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has bought a 26% stake in Game Digital, the struggling UK video game retailer. What does it mean? 

This week, it was announced that Sports Direct has bought a 25.75% stake in Game Digital. The implications of that move may not be immediately obvious, but here are three things we know about Mike Ashley, the billionaire UK businessman and founder of discount sporting goods retail empire, Sports Direct:

1. Mike Ashley loves pies

Sorry, that should read: Mike Ashley loves having his fingers in lots of pies, as in, he likes to be involved in lots of different businesses. (He then presumably eats a lot of pies to celebrate.)

But in all seriousness, Mike Ashley is into pretty much everything. Here’s a list of all his business dealings that we know of, starting with the ones you’re probably most familiar with:

  • Sports Direct – Founder, still major stakeholder (through holdings companies)
  • Newcastle United Football Club – Owner
  • Glasgow Rangers Football Club – Major creditor, owns retail business
  • Fashion retailer Matalan – 25% stake
  • Sportswear manufacturer Donnay – Taken over
  • Clothing manufacturer Kangol – Taken over
  • Outdoors equipment manufacturer Karrimor – Taken over
  • Boxing brand Lonsdale – Taken over
  • Sporting manufacturer Dunlop – Taken over
  • Sporting manufacturer Slazenger – Taken over
  • Sportswear retailer Lillywhites – Taken over
  • Online golf retailer Direct Golf – Taken over
  • Umbro – £9m stake
  • Blacks Leisure Group (Blacks, Millets) – 29% stake
  • JJB Sports – Went bust (website now redirects to Sports Direct)
  • JD Sports – 19% stake
  • Fashion retailer FCUK – 11% stake
  • Department store Debenhams – 16% stake
  • Supermarket Tesco – £43m stake
  • Department store House of Fraser – 11% stake
  • Discount store MegaValue – Founder, still major stakeholder (through holdings companies)
  • And now, Game Digital – 26% stake

Holy shit that’s a lot of businesses, and those are only the ones we’re aware of that pertain to his UK retail operations. Ashley and his holdings groups – Mash, after a portmanteau of his first initial and last name – also own large amounts of property and hold investments in a number of global businesses.

You might not be aware that Ashley’s modus operandi is to either purchase a stake in a business he is competing with – “he likes to park his tanks on peoples’ lawns,” according to a quote from an unnamed banker in the Telegraph – or purchase a business that is on the verge of folding, and roll it up into his general Sports Direct empire. Pretty much all of those ‘taken over’ businesses in the list above were either bust, or were millimetres from it, allowing Ashley to pick them up at a rock bottom price.

That’s why the likes of Dunlop, Slazenger and Karrimor can now only be found for sale at Sports Direct. It’s also why the sporting equipment produced by these manufacturers is a shadow of what it once was. It would appear on the face of it, from a purchaser’s perspective at least, that very little money goes into R&D at these acquisitions, and Sports Direct are often peddling technology from several years ago with a new coat of paint.

(I’ve tried Dunlop’s golf equipment since the Sports Direct acquisition and it is abject, worthless crap. But it’s cheap crap, sold in a cheap shop, so people will keep buying it – you get what you pay for.)

2. Mike Ashley loves a bargain

What’s apparent, from many of those acquisitions, stake purchases and takeovers, is that Mike Ashley likes to buy things when they’re cheap. It’s an ethos that’s served him and his customers well in the Sports Direct retail environment – everybody loves a bargain, after all – so who can blame him for sticking to that simple mantra?

Often, though, the business is on the point of collapse when Ashley swoops in with a takeover, as is the case with many of the sporting goods manufacturers listed above that now only work to serve Sports Direct.

Acquiring stakes in businesses like Tesco, Debenhams and House of Fraser has also taken place while those businesses have been suffering and their stock was low, but not so low as to allow Sports Direct a full buy-out.

So the primary MO, then, of taking a failing business and recreating it in his own image won’t work with a retailer like Game Digital. Game isn’t a manufacturer; there’s nothing that business produces directly, so don’t expect to see video games being punted in Sports Direct at a discount price any time soon.

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More likely, Ashley is hedging his bets. If he buys a stake in a business like Game while its stock is low, and it ultimately goes up, then he’s won. He makes money, Game carries on, and everything is rosy in the garden.

If the business continues to fail however, he’s then in an excellent position for a further stock acquisition and ultimately a takeover bid – like with the French Connection acquisition earlier in the year – and then he ultimately can rebuild the store in his own image (complete with zero hours contracts and giant, monolithic mugs, probably).

Sports Direct mug

3. Mike Ashley is a bit of a ‘lad’

While the man himself has been testifying at a court hearing – in which Ashley allegedly promised to pay a lawyer £15m if Sports Direct shares doubled, which they did, but no payment has been made – an interesting picture has been painted of Mike Ashley’s business habits.

On one occasion, he drank 12 pints with vodka chasers, then threw up into a pub fireplace at a business meeting. That was part of a drinking competition which evidently, he won, but is quite remarkable in a business setting. He’s also been known to “sleep underneath the tables in the middle of meetings he found boring,” according to evidence given at the same hearing.

And what does this have to do with the Game Digital stake acquisition in particular? Nothing for definite, really, but I’m secretly hoping that he made the 26% purchase of the UK’s last remaining major retail gaming outlet after one of his now-legendary laddish drinking meetings.

Because the alternative to a drunken escapade?

The alternative is that he’s following the standard Sports Direct acquisition model, which could be a very ominous sign indeed for Game’s fortunes that the vultures are circling.

Enjoyed this article?

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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New Nintendo Switch releases (June 1-6, 2020)

The Outer Worlds and Clubhouse Games headline this week’s lineup of new Nintendo Switch releases.

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New Nintendo Switch eShop releases
Nintendo / Thumbsticks

The Outer Worlds and Clubhouse Games headline this week’s lineup of new Nintendo Switch releases.

For all of Nintendo’s innovations, the company is always happy to revisit and reinvent past glories. Ring Fit Adventure is this generation’s Wii Fit. 1-2 Switch is Wii Play. And Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training is, erm, Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training.

Nintendo DS owners may recall Clubhouse Games/42 All-Time Classics, a delightful collection of parlour and board games released back in 2006. The Switch gets its own version this week with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (or 51 Worldwide Games in Europe). It’s another elegantly presented collection of low-key pastimes that are perfect to play with friends and family.

After a short delay in orbit, The Outer Worlds also lands on Switch this week. Obsidian Entertainment’s sci-fi RPG was well-received on its original release late last year, conjuring up some of that Fallout: New Vegas magic for many players. Virtuous, the company behind the recent Switch versions of Bioshock and XCOM-2, is handling the port. We’ll have a review for you on Thursday.

Other new games include retro-platformer sequel Awesome Pea 2 and the dungeon-crawling Knight Squad. WayForward’s Shantae and the Seven Sirens also get its European release.

We’ll keep this page updated throughout the week with any late changes. In the meantime, here’s the full lineup of new Nintendo eShop releases as it stands.

New Nintendo Switch releases: June 1-6, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020

  • Do Not Feed The Monkeys

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

  • Liberated

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

  • Awesome Pea 2

Thursday, June 4, 2020

  • Aqua Lungers
  • Depth of Extinction
  • The TakeOver
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens (EU)

Friday, June 5, 2020

  • Bridge Strike
  • Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics/51 Worldwide Games
  • Knight Squad
  • Outbuddies DX
  • Pinball Lockdown
  • The Outer Worlds
  • They Came From the Sky
  • Strawberry Vinegar

Saturday, June 6, 2020

  • Potata: Fairy Flower
  • Super Holobunnies

More from Thumbsticks

Visit our new releases page for regular Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 updates. You can also follow Thumbsticks on Facebook, Google News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

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New PlayStation 4 releases (June 1-5, 2020)

Here’s our guide to every new PlayStation 4 video game released on the PS Store over the next week.

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New PlayStation 4 game releases
Sony / Thumbsticks

Here’s our guide to every new PlayStation 4 video game released on the PS Store over the next week.

At the time of writing, there’s just a handful of new PS4 games confirmed for release. It’s not unusual for the time of year – typically E3 would only be a few weeks away – and many PS4 titles may have made way for The Last of Us Part II, which, at one point, was due last week. In any case, here’s what we know. We’ll update this page as more titles are confirmed.

Fans of retro-style platformers can look forward to going on another perilous adventure in Awesome Pea 2. It looks like another simple but lovingly crafted game from developer Sometimes You. The sublimely executed Game Boy style visuals are also very appealing.

If you miss the great outdoors, Tour de France 2020 and Pro Cycling Manager 2020 give fans of lycra and velocipedes the chance to race across France at reasonable speeds.

We were also expecting Game Freak’s Little Town Hero to be released on PS4 this week, but it seems the game has been bumped to June 23. Likewise, Rock of Ages III: Make & Break appears to have been pushed back to June 21. Again, we’ll update this page should things change.

Here’s the full list of new PlayStation Store releases for the PS4, PS VR, and PS Vita as it stands.

New PlayStation 4 releases: June 1-5, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020

  •  No releases

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

  • No releases

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

  • Strawberry Vinegar
  • Awesome Pea 2

Thursday, June 4, 2020

  • Tour de France 2020
  • Pro Cycling Manager 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

  • Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio
  • The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle (Expansion)

Catch up with next week’s new Xbox One releases.


Bookmark the Thumbsticks new releases page for the latest games. You can also follow us on social media via Flipboard, Facebook, Google News, and Twitter.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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New Xbox One releases (June 1-5, 2020)

Here is next week’s lineup of brand new Xbox One releases. One title is quite literally awesome.

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New Xbox One game releases
Microsoft / Thumbsticks

Here’s the full lowdown on next week’s lineup of brand new Xbox One video game releases. One title is quite literally awesome.

There isn’t a huge amount to be excited for on Xbox One next week, but we promised you an awesome game, so let’s talk about one.

Awesome Pea 2 is the follow-up to Sometimes You’s enjoyable 2018 retro-platformer. The original was a slight, but occasionally tricky game, starring a heroic vegetable. The sequel promises a larger serving of everything, including dungeons, enemies, and loot. The pea-souper visuals also return, beautifully recalling the dingy display of the Nintendo Game Boy.

Other new releases include Strawberry Vinegar, a quirky visual novel about making food to save your soul, and We Were Here Together, a mysterious puzzle adventure set in the wastes of Antarctica.

The latest addition to the Thumbsticks ‘Big Book of Bland Game Names’ is called Cyber Protocol. It’s a fun retro-style puzzler. Finally, the long-awaited Eco Lifestyle expansion comes to The Sims 4.

Each new release can be purchased from the Xbox One digital games store and Microsoft online store. Here’s the full lineup.

New Xbox One releases: June 1-5, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020

  •  No releases

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

  • No releases

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

  • Strawberry Vinegar
  • Depth of Extinction
  • Awesome Pea 2

Thursday, June 4, 2020

  • Tour de France 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

  • Tcheco in the Castle of Lucio
  • Outbuddies DX
  • The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle (Expansion)
  • We Were Here Together
  • Rigid Force Redux

If you’re looking for some video game bargains, read our roundup of this week’s rockin’ Xbox One sales.


Bookmark the Thumbsticks new releases page for the latest games. You can also follow us on social media via Flipboard, Facebook, Google News, and Twitter.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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New Super Lucky’s Tale is coming to PS4 and Xbox One this summer

New Super Lucky’s Tale is on its way to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.

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New Super Lucky's Tale is coming to PS4 and Xbox One
Playful Studios

New Super Lucky’s Tale is on its way to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year.

Playful Studios and PQube have announced that the super okay New Super Lucky’s Tale is breaking free from its Nintendo Switch bastille and will be released on Xbox One and PS4 this summer.

Pitched as a love letter to classic 3D platformers, New Super Lucky’s Tale was first released as plain old Super Lucky’s Tale in 2017, where it was an Xbox One X launch title. The revised and expanded “new” version debuted on Switch in 2019 to warm reviews and nods of moderate appreciation.

The foxy 3D adventure platformer is getting a physical and digital release on PS4 and Xbox, but there’s no news on if the game is being updated to take advantage of the increased hardware power.

You can see Lucky in action in this accolades trailer. If you own a Switch, you can also download a free demo to sample it for yourself.

Summer is a slightly vague release window, so we’ll make a prediction and see how close we end up being. Let’s lick our finger and stick it in the air… June 25, 2020? That’s our entirely random hunch.


Bookmark the Thumbsticks new releases page for weekly updates on the latest Xbox One, Switch, and PS4 games. You can also follow us on Facebook, Google News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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June’s free PlayStation Plus games are War-full

Sony confirms the two free PS4 games coming to PlayStation Plus in June 2020.

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PlayStation Plus
Sony / Thumbsticks

Sony confirms the two free PS4 games coming to PlayStation Plus in June 2020.

June’s free PS Plus games are perfect for players who would like to shoot things, with the choice of a historical epic, of a futuristic, erm, even more historical epic.

First up is Call of Duty: WWII, the ‘boots on the ground’ FPS from Sledgehammer Games. The 2017 game is as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it’s one of our favourites from the franchise’s recent history. And it’s available to download right now.

It’s joined by the infamous Star Wars: Battlefront II, the game that caused millions of voices to cry out in terror at its microtransactions. With two-and-a-half years of changes and content updates under its belt, the game is much improved and probably the second-best Star Wars adventure of the generation.

June’s free PS Plus games are available to download from June 2 – July 6, 2020.

PlayStation Plus free games – June 2020

  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Star Wars: Battlefront II

May’s PlayStation Plus games – Cities: Skylines and Farming Simulator 19 – remain available to download until next Tuesday.


Bookmark the Thumbsticks new releases page for weekly updates on the latest Xbox One, Switch, and PS4 games. You can also follow us on Facebook, Google News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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