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Sunday Thoughts: Price Wars

Just where will they leave us?

Price drops, prices rises, better bundles; pricing seems to keep cropping up with increasing regularity since Activision decided to raise the price on Modern Warfare 2 above the then average RRP. Although there does seem to have been a slow price increase this generation, it’s not the increases from publishers that are fuelling much of the discussion; it’s the supermarkets.

Of course I don’t need to tell you about what stores such as Tesco and Asda are doing with game pricing in an attempt to get you to pick up a few loaves of bread at the same time. I’ve no idea just how effective these price incentives are as a loss-leader; to me it doesn’t seem likely that I’m going to pop into Asda, pick-up a copy of whatever new game I want and then do my shopping just because I happen to be there.

Picking up food typically doesn’t pop into my head when buying games, even if I’m in a supermarket. However, they keep happening so the supermarkets must be gaining something out of it.

Specialist retail is generally fought hard by the supermarkets.
What’s brought this all up is the price war that seems to be surrounding the launch of the Vita, although the same thing seemed to happen when the 3DS launched a little under a year ago. It now seems that the cheapest place to pick up the Vita on launch will be at Asda, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that has changed once again by the time the console launches.

It might be easy to blame this aggressive pricing from the supermarkets for the issues that the Game Group chain of stores seems to be suffering from right now, but it does seem they’re just piling on tops of the problems caused by the internet. It’s not even that internet stores have lower overheads resulting in lower prices, although that’s certainly one aspect of it. No, the real key is in the growth of comparative shopping and price comparison services online.

Although there’s always been an element of comparative shopping on the high street, the internet makes it so much simpler. If I’m shopping in brick and mortar stores, something I try and do regularly as it’s far more enjoyable than shopping online, I may well try and have a look at more than one store’s price if I can.

This takes at the very least the time of walking to another shop or two, and then searching for whatever you were after. It’s not always the quickest of approaches, but you can still get a bargain that way. Of course, it’s become a bit tougher since the choice on the high street have become sadly narrowed in the last few years, but you can still shop around if you chose to.

However, online it’s pretty trivial. Google’s shopping search is generally the first stop, but browser plugins in like Invisible Hand make it even more simple; search on one site and get an instant response as to whether or not there’s somewhere else offering the same product for less. Beyond even that there’s the crowd sourced sites like HotUKDeals and Cheap Ass Gamer, which don’t just get you the best deals online but in person as well.

The problem for physical stores is that they just can’t compete with the internet on price, particularly when it’s become so easy to check if an option is cheaper. I don’t think the internet will ever totally drive the physical market to die, but it’s clear that the situation right now (coupled with the massive price drops at supermarkets) is causing problems for many independent retailers and is even troubling the bigger chains.

These price wars and constant one upmanship between various retailers may be good for consumers but it does seem that ultimately it may be to the detriment of the market and games overall. Oh, there are certainly other factors at play (like the back and forth between retails and publishers over pre-owned games), but if this constant competitive pricing were to force someone like Game to step out of the market the effect would be significant and, in all likelihood, to the detriment of gaming as a whole.

Hopefully this is all just a phase, like the previous issues over the price of clothing and CDs in supermarkets, and we’ll see things stabilise soon. If we’re lucky it might be soon enough to stop anyone going out of business.

  1. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    My local ASDA only has 3 games in it’s “games” section. And it seems they cba to get new games in as they are MW3, BF3 and FIFA12. I know that’s probably an extreme case, but many supermarkets tend to have a very small selection of games. If shops like Game and HMV go out of business and for some reason the game is out of stock online but in stock in certain Supermarket stores, then it would be bad news for us, gamers.

    Game have pretty much brought it on themselves by being overzealous. They put the indie shops out of bussiness and have a stupid obession with have stores within walking distance of each other, thus eliminating any chance of finding a bargin. They are probably the most expensive gaming retailer in the Uk.

    If supermarket dominate the gaming retail side of things, then i will stick to buying online.

    Comment posted on 19/02/2012 at 17:55.
  2. damoxuk
    Since: May 2011

    Well don’t know about most supermarkets but my local Tesco is far from cheap, in fact on “most” things they are very expensive.

    For Games they have sometimes the odd cheap price but today I went in and Skyrim (£42.99), Fifa 12 (£44.97), AC: Revelations (£40.99)
    Hmm even HMV and Game are cheaper than those stupid prices.

    Same for Blu-Rays – Johnny English £20.97 er you having a laugh?

    Maybe it’s just a blip but thinking about it Tesco compared to say Asda are not really competitive at all in regards to games/DVD/Blu-Ray. Apart from the rare specials.

    Comment posted on 19/02/2012 at 18:51.
  3. a inferior race
    I'm special
    Since: Jul 2009

    I think it is the attacks on pre-owned that will kill off Game Group.

    Comment posted on 19/02/2012 at 19:15.
  4. Origami Killer
    Since: May 2010

    GAME simply charge too much for new games, they are always over the £40 mark when even HMV and online retailers have them just below £40. Uncharted 2 is still above £30 instore and preowned games and tagged for higher prices than new ones. It is just a mess there.
    When I bought F1 2011 in Tesco (in store) the game only cost £32 on release and with trade ins it was cheap, LA Noire fetching me £16 and F1 2010 £10! Thos trade in prices were better than GAME and Gamestation who have a huge promo on trading in things.
    As Captain Kirk says on the previous page too GAME seem to never be apart of price wars. The Vita price war I dont believe they are part of, Amazon seem to be stealing the show with that where as Game are sitting back with a much weaker promotion.
    At the end of the day it all comes down to pirce, and online retailers win in that area all day long.
    It will be a shame to see GAME go (if they do) as I like a browse in the shops every now and then even if i dont buy anything :P

    Comment posted on 19/02/2012 at 21:18.
  5. jediryan123
    Since: Nov 2008

    like cc_star said this is happening in every sector, fuel, food, games, clothes. The smaller stores are being gobbled by the larger and then they can do whatever they want with the pricing.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2012 at 03:21.
  6. themanlikedave
    Since: Apr 2011

    I agree with that, I seem to remeber paying £65 for Super Street Fighter 2 for my SNES.

    And to the people who say that games/BD’s/CD’s etc will be expensive once the Supermarkets control the market, BUY ONLINE. Easy. Cant remember the last time i actually walked into a shop and was happy to pay the price they wanted. Im sorry but Game have ALWAYS been guilty of high prices, and now theyre paying for that.

    Comment posted on 20/02/2012 at 13:41.
    • themanlikedave
      Since: Apr 2011

      I should probably add i was replying to a chap on the previous pagfe, hence my seemingly random comment re SSFII

      Comment posted on 20/02/2012 at 13:45.

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