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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.

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?

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.

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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Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered on PS5 is digital only, won’t feature cross-save

The upgrade path for the Marvel’s Spider-Man remaster on PlayStation 5 is nearly as messy as Control’s.

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Marvels Spider-Man
Sony

The upgrade path for the Marvel’s Spider-Man remaster on PlayStation 5 is nearly as messy as Control’s.

Next-gen remasters like the PS5 Remaster of Marvel’s Spider-Man are becoming a complicated business. We’ve already seen controversy spring up over limited eligibility in accessing the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 “free upgrade” of Remedy’s Control.

After a session responding to queries on Twitter, Insomniac has confirmed some of the limitations of the PS5 version of their acclaimed game.

On free upgrades to the original for PS4 players…

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered likely has no free upgrade for PS4 owners, since physical media for the former version will play the original via backwards compatibility and it has its own trophy list.

On cross-generational saves…

Insomniac confirmed that there will be no cross-gen saves for the remaster.

On a physical release for the Miles Morales: Ultimate Edition…

The remaster will be digital-only and currently the only way to get your hands on it will be to get the pricier PS5-only Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales: Ultimate Edition for £70. No other route or upgrade for now.

Where you will get a free upgrade…

The yet to be released Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales will allow for a free upgrade to a PS5 version. However, since the Ultimate Edition isn’t available for PS4, there’s currently no way to access Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered without (re)purchasing Spider-Man Miles Morales on PS5.

It’s a fair number of caveats, then, but unlike the Control next-gen version – which will be replicating the existing PC version – the Spider-Man remaster is a more significant endeavour.

“The remaster for the PS5 is no simple up-res,” details the Playstation Blog. “Many of the game’s art assets have been completely updated to take advantage of the PS5 console’s horsepower. You’ll see better-looking characters with improved skin, eyes, hair, and facial animation (including our new, next-generation Peter Parker).”

“You’ll also see ray-traced reflections and ambient shadows, improved lighting, more pedestrians and vehicles stretching further into the distance, and the same optional performance mode offered on Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, allowing you to finally play the game at a targeted 60FPS frame rate. We’ll be supporting near-instant loading, 3D audio, and the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback. Lastly, we’re adding three amazing new Spider-Man suits, new photo mode features, and even new trophies for those of you looking to Platinum the game all over again.”

That kind of overhaul does help to justify the lack of a free upgrade. Still, it’s hard to see how Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered isn’t going to spark something similar to Control’s controversy with limited access and the above limitations. It’s just another chapter in the increasingly confusing saga of next-gen upgrade announcements.

Ray-traced reflections, though? That should make for some pretty puddles.


Follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook for further demystification of the next-gen upgrades.

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Save up to 85% in four new Xbox One video game sales

This week’s Xbox One Deals with Gold and Spotlight sales are joined by discounts on video games from Activision.

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Xbox One - Resident Evil 2

This week’s Xbox One Deals with Gold and Spotlight sales are joined by discounts on games from Rockstar and Capcom.

If you didn’t manage to pick up an Xbox Series X pre-order, console yourself with some discounts on a range of excellent Xbox One titles.

This week’s Deals with Gold includes cuts on some recent(ish) AAA games like Kingdom Hearts Ⅲ Re Mind, and Devil May Cry 4. The remaster of Final Fantasy VIII is also a favourite in the Thumbsticks office.

Publisher Rockstar is also offering decent savings on titles like Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto V, and L.A. Noire. And Capcom has slashed up to 75% off games from the Resident Evil franchise.

A 25% reduction on the bill for Untitled Goose Game is our pick from this week’s Spotlight selection.

This week’s Xbox One deals are available until September 28, 2020. Here’s a quick rundown of the best bargains on offer. Each game is available from the Xbox digital games store and Microsoft web store.

Xbox One Deals with Gold Highlights

  • Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise – 75% off
  • Almost There: The Platformer – 85% off
  • Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition – 70% off
  • Devil May Cry 5 – 20% off
  • Devil May Cry HD Collection – 50% off
  • Final Fantasy VIII Remastered – 50% off
  • Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster – 50% off
  • Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age – 50% off
  • GreedFall – 75% off
  • Headspun – 33% off
  • Hover – 67% off
  • Hunt: Showdown – 60% off
  • Kingdom Hearts Ⅲ Re Mind – 25% off
  • Monster Energy Supercross 2 – Special Edition – 75% off
  • MudRunner – American Wilds Edition – 70% off
  • Othercide – 25% off
  • Romancing SaGa 2 – 50% off
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 – 85% off
  • Warhammer: Chaosbane – 65% off
  • World of Final Fantasy Maxima – 50% off
  • XenoRaptor – 40% off

Xbox One Spotlight Highlights

  • Crashbots – 60% off
  • Crimson Keep – 75% off
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ – FighterZ Edition – 85% off
  • Ikaruga – 50% off
  • Metaloid: Origin – 30% off
  • Minesweeper Genius – 67% off
  • Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath – 40% off
  • One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 – 40% off
  • Radiant Silvergun – 50% off
  • SEUM: Speedrunners from Hell – 70% off
  • Storm Boy – 80% off
  • Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands – 40% off
  • Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition – 80% off
  • Tumblestone – 85% off
  • Uncanny Valley – 80% off
  • Untitled Goose Game – 25% off
  • Yet Another Zombie Defense HD – 75% off

Rockstar Publisher Sale Highlights

  • Bully Scholarship Edition – 60% off
  • Grand Theft Auto IV – 65% off
  • Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Edition – 50% off
  • Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Online Edition & Great White Shark Card Bundle – 35% off
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – 33% off
  • L.A. Noire – 50% off
  • Red Dead Redemption – 67% off
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 – 50% off
  • Rockstar Table Tennis – 60% off

Resident Evil Franchise Sale Highlights

  • Resident Evil – 75% off
  • Resident Evil 0 – 75% off
  • Resident Evil 2 – 50% off
  • Resident Evil 3 – 50% off
  • Resident Evil 4 – 60% off
  • Resident Evil 5 – 60% off
  • Resident Evil 6 – 60% off
  • Resident Evil 7 Biohazard – 50% off
  • Resident Evil Revelations – 60% off
  • Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2 Bundle – 60% off

For more video game savings, visit our dedicated sales page. You can also follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook.

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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Doom Eternal on Nintendo Switch is still coming

Panic Button Games’ port of id software’s acclaimed demon shooter is still coming to Nintendo Switch.

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Doom Eternal system requirements
Bethesda / id Software

Doom Eternal on Nintendo Switch is “very close” according to its developer.

Panic Button Games’ port of id Software’s acclaimed demon shooter is still coming, and work on it is almost done. The news comes via Digital Foundry’s interview with the game’s executive producer Marty Stratton for PAX x EGX.

“I know people are anxious,” said Stratton.

In an interview with Eurogamer in 2018, the studio expressed their desire to launch alongside all other platforms. This faced complications, not least the global pandemic.

“We’re trying to make it the best version of the game it possibly can be. So we’ve been working with Panic Button, they’re also – like everybody – work from home, so it’s taking a little bit longer to get there…we want it to be everything it possibly can be. It’s very close, and we’re trying to be very uncompromising with what it needs to be, because there’s a high demand for it.”

“We will be talking about it again, in the not-to-distant future. It is close, but I can’t say exactly how close.”

Panic Button are responsible for many high-quality Switch ports including Doom 2016, Rocket League, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Like these, the Doom Eternal port will aim for 30 fps and should hopefully see a return of gyro/motion controls.

It remains to be seen whether the Switch will bundle in DLC as was done for the Doom 2016 port, since the recently revealed first campaign expansion, The Ancient Gods – Part One, is both more substantial and a standalone release.

The expansion is due 20th October, 2020 and it sounds like we aren’t too far off hearing a release date for the Switch port.

Our editor, Tom Baines, wasn’t too enamoured with the sequel, calling it ‘technically solid, blistering in parts, but lacking in soul.’


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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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Here’s a recap of the latest My Nintendo rewards

Looking to spend your earned My Nintendo Gold and Platinum points? Here’s a quick round of the latest rewards on offer.

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My Nintendo - SNES controller
Nintendo

Looking to spend your earned My Nintendo Gold and Platinum points? Here’s a quick round of the latest rewards on offer.

With Nintendo officially confirming that production on the Nintendo 3DS ended earlier this year, it’s no surprise to see the latest batch of My Nintendo rewards pivot towards physical goods.

Here’s a quick roundup of what’s newly available in Europe and North America.

My Nintendo Rewards – Europe

Super NES Controller for Nintendo Switch

This super cool replica of the iconic SNES controller is perfect for playing the Switch’s library of retro games. Upcoming additions include Donkey Kong Country 2 and Mario’s Super Picross. This wireless controller comes with a USB charging cable and is exclusively available to My Nintendo members. It’s priced at £26.99.

Splatoon 2 Summer Postcard Set

This set of eight Splatoon 2-themed postcards are available in exchange for 400 Platinum Points, plus postage and packing. The postcards measure 10 x 14.8 cm and are printed on 300g/m² card with a matte finish.

Splatoon 2 Splatfest Keychain Set and Splatfest T-shirts

This range of Splatoon 2 tees and keychains feature Mario’s Super Mushroom and Super Star power-ups, both of which are the subjects of an upcoming Splatfest held in honour of the plumber’s 35th Anniversary. The t-shirts cost at £22.99 in the UK and the keychains are 100 Platinum Points.

The rather nice Animal Crossing: New Horizons Reusable Bag also remains available in exchange for 400 Platinum Points.

My Nintendo - Splatoon 2 postcards

My Nintendo Rewards – North America

Nintendo-themed Lunchable packages

Until Dec. 31, famous Nintendo characters are appearing on packs of Lunchables. Inside each box is a code that can be redeemed online for the chance to win a Nintendo Switch prize pack or 100 My Nintendo Platinum Points.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition rewards

New rewards based on Nintendo’s remastered RPG Xenoblade Chronicles include a Phone Ring Holder based on the Monado and a set of three sticker sheets. They cost 400 and 300 Platinum Points, respectively.

Splatoon 2 Summer Postcard Set

This is the same postcard set issued in Europe, and it’s also priced at 400 Platinum Points.

Super Mario Desktop Wallpapers

A series of four Super Mario Bros-themed wallpapers are available depicting the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros 2, and Super Mario 3D All-Stars. They cost 50 Platinum Points each.


Visit the Thumbsticks new releases page for the latest games. You can also follow us on 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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Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are now open

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are open right now, but will there be an excess of units available?

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Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders
Microsoft

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders are open right now, but will there be an excess of units available?

Good morning everyone. Here’s a public service announcement for our UK readers (at the time of publication) and our North American readers a little later.

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders open today to 8 am at a variety of online retailers around the globe.

Here’s a list of Xbox Series X and Series S pre-order retailers confirmed by Microsoft, but it won’t hurt to check other stores if it looks like demand is outstripping supply.

Hopefully, the issues experienced with the PlayStation 5 pre-order rollout won’t be repeated. Microsoft has reportedly taken steps to avoid that situation by warning retailers that their allocation of consoles will be reduced if they break the street date and time.

Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders

UK – 8AM BST

United States – 8AM PT

Canada – 8AM PT

Good luck!


We may receive a small commission on purchases made from online stores.

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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