Street Dates & Supermarkets: A Tale Of Woe

A week or two ago I posted an article regarding the supermarket ASDA and their admission to selling certain games at a loss. In that article I pondered the possibility of the downfall of other retailers and, in turn, a negative impact on the industry as a whole. A lot of you that read that article either didn’t understand where I was coming from, or simply didn’t agree. Earlier today, I asked the question: ‘What’s the point of embargoes?’ Well, it would appear that a single game, and yes, I’m afraid we are talking of Modern Warfare 2 again, has managed to bring both of the above posts back into relevance.

It has been revealed that copies of Modern Warfare 2 were being shipped to retailers as early as Wednesday last week and then shipped on to consumers immediately. Some of you may well be asking: ‘What’s the big deal?’ In this case, and more than likely in the case of FIFA 10, the cheap prices offered by Supermarkets in addition to the disregard of the game’s street date by others has lead to hundreds of cancelled orders for many outlets. There is also a fear that even more refunds will have to be handed out as news spreads of prices being slashed in a Supermarket price war.

SimplyGames is one such retailer experiencing a loss due to these two factors. Speaking with, SimplyGames MD – Neil Muspratt – spoke about his experience with this title in particular:

So far it appears that the street date of Modern Warfare has been one of the most commonly broken in the history of UK games retailing. We only got our stock on Saturday and have had to pay for every copy to go out by courier in order that it reaches people tomorrow

We’ve seen dispatch notes, delivery reports and hundreds of cancelled orders from people who received their copy early

Even large online retailers such as ShopTo are finding it to be a rather disturbing situation. It’s not just sales of the game as new that they are concerned about either. Igor Cipolletta, ShopTo’s CEO, has voiced his concerns about the value of the game as a trade-in. This is a point that I hadn’t even considered; and what a point it is. Say you bought MW2 for £40 and, in a months time, you decide to trade; what do you expect to get for your trade when many people bought the game for under £30? It’s not going to be a lot, is it? The second-hand games market is where most retailers make the bulk of their income due to the lack of ‘middle-men’.

Whilst the MD of Chips has praised Activision for their handling of the release, the above problems can solved by the publishers. As stated in my previous articles, if supermarkets start selling at a loss, more and more retailers could struggle and subsequently stop trying to keep up, which in turn could lead to a damaging effect for the developers and publishers themselves. Mr. Cipoletta has echoed this sentiment by saying:

Publishers may need to begin categorising their customers and supplying the right product to the right ones. For example, a mass market title like Professor Layton may be more oriented to a supermarket, whereas a ‘hardcore’ title such as MW2 might be better suited to specialist retailers, otherwise we may find ourselves in a position where there will be less unit sales, which will hurt publishers and their investments as a result

Some see the problem as being Activision’s Tuesday release date, which upsets the ordinary working of things and whilst immediate stock of the game is looking good, fears are growing for the Christmas period and whether or not Activision will be able to keep up.

I truly hope that this doesn’t become the ‘norm’ for big releases. I’m all for grabbing a bargain, but not at the expense of an industry that every single one of us love. I’m trying my hardest to stay impartial on this, but there is one name that keeps popping up: Activision. My next sentence is my opinion and in no way reflects the opinion of…Activision are slowly appearing as nothing more than a money-hungry entity that has no real passion for the industry in which they compete. I understand they are a business and the whole point is to make money, but after copious iterations of [insert musical term] Hero and Call of Duty, I question their dedication to originality and most of all, Gaming.