Gameplay.com

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Full name: Gameplay PLC
Established: Mar 1999
Closed: 2004
Reason: Financial collapse, dismantled, sold off
Website:

Gameplay.com was formed in March 1999 with a stated goal of becoming Europe's gateway to games, and leading online games destination and community.

Bubble
Through the acquisition of British Telecom's Wireplay online gaming network and Interactive Commercial Enterprises (ICE) online retail business, Gameplay.com rapidly established itself as a key player in online gaming and retail.

In August the same year the company raised 31 million when it floated on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM). This soon caught the eye of larger investors, with satellite broadcaster BSkyB taking a 10% stake and making Gameplay partner in its video games ecommerce and online operations.

Putting that equity and market strength to use, a flurry of pan-European acquisitions followed; German video game retailers Computec, Theo Kranz, Dynatex, Neo Software, GameSite and Joysoft were snapped up in January and February 2000. Leading Scandinavian mail-order retailer Nordic Games was acquired in April 2000 for a reported 5.96 million.

August 2000 brought a strategic partnership with Dixons Group, whereby Gameplay would acquire and rebrand the high street giant's @jakarta video game stores in return for a 12.5% all-shares stake Gameplay.

Just one month later the self-titled "gateway to games" announced another all-share deal for CentroMail, Spain's largest video game retailer, which saw its 75 stores become Gameplay Spain SL.

Another deal was agreed in November 2000 with surfEU.com, at that time one of Europe's
fastest growing ISPs, to use the Gameplay's technology on the ISP's games channels across Germany.

By the end of 2000 Gameplay proved true to its aim, with operations in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Spain and the UK.

Burst
Naturally, such explosive grown cannot be sustained. In April 2001 Gameplay announced a strategic review to be conducted by Commerzbank Securities, seeing stock prices dive. The result of the review saw the closure of all eight of its UK high street stores and the loss of over 250 jobs, and despite attempts to assuage investor's fears the share values continued to fall.

However the bubble truly ruptured in May when it was revealed that takeover talks had collapse and the company announced a decision to quit online retail. Blaming a slowing of sales in video games and lack of roll-out in high speed Internet access, share prices continued their freefall as the value went from 11.5p to just 5.25p in a day. At its height in March 2000 shares were valued at 10.80.

Aftermath
Following the share price collapsed in May 2001 the company was dismantled. It's German retail business was put into administration, the Spanish retail stores sold ot Electronics Boutique and all other business with the exception of its Technical Division, home to Wireplay, were sold off to recover losses.

Its UK and Nordic online retail business was acquired through a management buy out, with Andy Mee and Lisa Burke taking control for just 1.07. Moving its UK business from London to Leeds, the business continued under the Gameplay brand.

The Technical Division continued for some time, but by August 2001 the Wireplay service was closed and a search for a buyer began.

In July 2004 the Gameplay online retail business was sold to UK's Game Group to bolster its online retail presence. Under the group's umbrella the Gameplay brand continued at the "gameplay.com" website. However, by 2012 Game Group itself hit troubled times and, in an overdue fit of cust-cutting, redirected all traffic to game.co.uk and shut down Gameplay.com.

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