Interview: Grainger Games on PSPgo

This morning we spoke to Chris Harwood, Purchasing Director at Grainger Games, on the subject of digital distribution and the PSPgo. With retailers edgy about how Sony will market the new PlayStation Portable we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with someone on the front line, and our first question was about the current level of support chains like Grainger Games were getting from publishers.  “We have great relationships currently with all publishers,” said Chris, “and we hope that relationship will grow with our business expansion plans. On the digital download side at the moment we have limited information on how this will be offered to retailers, although we think all publishers will support retail to help them accommodate digital downloads into their business model.”

We spoke about whether this meant he’d be happy with a similar model to that seen with Rockstar’s digital-only GTA IV download model, whereby the retail shop shelves saw a normal Microsoft Points card wrapped up in a Rockstar-branded box so that the customer left feeling like they’d bought something tangible.  “I think there is definitely a future in this,” replied Chris, “but at the moment long-term information on that limited I am not sure how it will be implemented into our stores.”  How does Chris feel about the download-only PSPgo, then?  “With the download only model obviously the store will not get any follow on sales on games for these, although we will be stocking the PSPgo and will have to push for follow on sales on things like peripherals and memory sticks to make some margin on the sale. ”

We asked Chris if there was anything Sony could do to sweeten the deal.  “Yes, if Sony where to introduce points cards like Microsoft have I think this would also offer retail a little bit extra and make the PSPgo more appealing for the stores to sell,” replied Chris, confirming that Microsoft Points sell “really well”.  But what about the price of the PSPgo?  “I think the price is very high,” Chris replied, “and could risk pricing some people out of buying them but there will still be a market for the new console as there is with any new console.”  And of course there’s the issue of memory sticks now that the PlayStation Store will soon play host to many more PSP titles.  “Memory sticks have always been a great seller for us but we will increase our stock holdings to accommodate this,” said Chris.

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With regards to the PSP-3000 and PSPgo sharing shelf space, we asked Chris how the current multi-SKU platforms publishers ensure that customers don’t get confused with regards to what each console actually includes.  “I think now the current SKUS have bedded into the market place the message is quite clear on what is offered on the different models and most customers come into our stores knowing what console they are looking for, I think this is down to good marketing structures from the relevant publishers and also in store marketing and awareness from ourselves to show what each console has to offer.”  Grainger Games pride themselves on a great mix of extremely knowledgeable staff and great sales people, “I think it is really important to have this mix at store level to offer to the different customers base.”

Finally, we asked Chris how he saw their business expanding now they’ve announced a desire to journey south.  “Our business is in the middle of huge expansion and it will be very challenging for everyone involved but it is all very positive at the moment. We don’t target any other businesses, we tend to try and just open stores where we think we can be successful and where we can take a percent of a market that is already there.We are currently moving out of the North east and our first stores outside of our native North East will be open by the year end.”  We wish Chris and all the guys at Grainger Games all the best, and many thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

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