Blockbuster's 'game': To reach video players in Canada

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TORONTO--Video chain Blockbuster Canada is making a play for a bigger chunk of the country's video game market with its newest concept store, Blockbuster Games.

The first outlet was inaugurated on July 24 by World Wrestling Federation stars. The store is adjacent to the marketer's video stores but features a separate design, ambiance and an expanded selection of video games to rent or buy.

Two more stores are set to open in mid-August and together the four 2,100-square-foot outlets near Toronto will let Blockbuster refine the new concept.

"We will assess and fine-tune, then roll out development plans," says Pat Gibbons, the Canadian video chain's senior director of product and marketing.

Blockbuster Games was developed in Canada but it's possible the concept could come to the international chain's stores in other markets, including the U.S.

"Blockbuster (in the) U.S. has been testing various game concepts," says Mr. Gibbons. "We will always share best practices."

Figures on Canada's video game rental market and consumer spending are "poorly documented" but Blockbuster points to upcoming game industry developments that should drive player interest worldwide: new games platforms such as Sega's Dreamcast and Sony's next-generation PlayStation.

"We think we're on the cusp of this, time-wise," says Mr. Gibbons. "We're very committed to growing the game market in Canada."

Advertising for the games store openings came by way of local newspaper ads, radio station on-site broadcasts and a new Blockbuster game magazine, along with tie-ins on World Wrestling Federation broadcasts in Canada.

Blockbuster has 355 video stores in Canada, all corporately owned; its advertising agency is Bensimon Byrne DMB&B, Toronto.

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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