What was the biggest event of 2011? What is games retail hoping for in 2012? MCV speaks to retailers nationwide in its annual retail survey...
Over 6.5 million day one sales, $775m in revenue generated within its first five days on sale and a whopping 75 copies sold per second. It’s no surprise that Activision’s Modern Warfare 3 was retailers’ highlight of 2011, with 61 per cent of store managers opting for the FPS blockbuster.
However, Skyrim was more of a surprise. Eight per cent told MCV Bethesda’s RPG sold “a hell of a lot more” than they had thought. Six per cent said the launch of the Nintendo 3DS was the best event of 2011 for games retail. Interestingly, this was the only answer given that wasn’t a Q4 software release, showing how important the Christmas line-up is to retailers.
Retailers cited?supermarkets’ deals as the toughest challenge they face in games retail. Almost one quarter of those surveyed said supermarkets’ low pricing on certain games made it difficult for them to compete.
One independent retailer said: “The worst problem is the total devaluation of games by national chains that are selling new releases at cost or below just to shift a few more copies.” The state of the economy was also a major issue, according to 14 per cent of participants. And 11 per cent said consumer confidence and lack of disposable income had resulted in fewer games being sold.
12 per cent said the high RRP of games was a deterrent to customers, who have come to expect lower prices for new purchases.A handful of managers at one retail chain also said that getting stock was a problem for them.
Nintendo is retail’s publisher of choice this year. The format holder received 24 per cent of votes, with store managers praising the company for providing “a lot of support” such as in-store demos and POS materials.
Ubisoft just managed to pip EA to second place with 19 per cent of votes, compared to EA’s 18 per cent.Several retailers couldn’t decide on one publisher alone. Some said this was because all publishers were equally helpful. Controversial.
More than half of retailers said CentreSoft was the most impressive distributor of 2011. The firm, which handles clients such as Sega, EA, Activision and Sony, picked up 56 per cent of votes.Gem took second place with 29 per cent of retailers commending them for their services this year.
Once again, some independents opted out of this question, citing “lack of support for indies”. Five of the 75 surveyed refused to give a concrete answer and instead cheekily named the online retailer Amazon as their distributor of choice. And no we’ve not included that in the result.
Due to store managers at some national chains having little contact with boxed product distributors, this result discounted their comments. It reflects the opinions of the independent retailers we spoke to, as well as those of the MCV Retail Advisory Board.
The High Street is feeling hopeful as the New Year approaches. While it’s a slight dip on the 85 per cent that showed confidence in their business last year, the fact that 80 per cent of retailers reckon they can handle anything 2012 throws at them is encouraging.
Reasons for this optimism ranged from the launch of new hardware next year – PlayStation Vita and Wii U – to the strong line-up of games due for release in Q1.
Of course, some retailers are keeping this positivity in check. One store manager said: “We’re never going to take as much as we did in 2008 and 2009, but that’s understandable.”
Others claimed that their optimism stemmed from a strong pre-Christmas period. One said: “We’re doing well enough now with the games that are out. Of course, if we could have the right stock levels, we’d be laughing.”
Almost one third?of retailers are predicting a year-on-year dip in their Christmas sales.
31 per cent said they expected to take less money this Christmas than last – but opinion is divided on the matter, with 29 per cent claiming they expect higher takings.
Store managers cited the weather as the reason for good cheer. One said: “The bad weather we had last year killed us. Fingers crossed there’s no snow this year.”
Turtle Beach was named the best accessories firm, with 28 per cent of retailers commending the company for its best-selling headsets. The high-end Lygo-distributed devices have grown increasingly popular throughout the year.
Turtle Beach received a further boost with the release of its officially licensed Modern Warfare 3 range in October. i-Globe’s Orb brand followed with 26 per cent of the vote, mostly from Blockbuster stores. Not too shocking, as the Orb peripherals are the only accessories the rental giant stocks.
Gioteck came in third with just under a fifth of all votes, with retailers highlighting their headsets as particularly strong sellers – further proof that the audio accessories sector is a crucial pillar of the peripherals market. Logic3 also received a healthy amount of retail support, particularly from independents.
It was always going to be a toss-up between Wii U and PlayStation Vita for most anticipated product – and it was Sony’s upcoming portable came out on top. A 43 per cent majority voted the handheld – due to hit UK shelves on February 22nd next year – as their most anticipated product of 2012. Wii U, which has no confirmed release date as of yet, scored 20 per cent of the vote.
But one third of those surveyed were looking forward to new games more than hardware.
Anticipated titles included Mass Effect 3, GTA V, BioShock Infinite, Diablo III, Street Fighter X Tekken and Tomb Raider.One senior retail figure told MCV: “We desperately need a new home console launch and I want Vita to have a successful year, too. It’ll also be intriguing to see if GTA?V can break the records set by Call of Duty.”
Retailers are confident of continued sales for Microsoft’s platform moving into 2012. 49 per cent said that Xbox 360 will be the best-performing console next year, followed by Wii U and PS3 with 16 per cent each.
Retail’s love for the Xbox 360 isn’t a suprise. The console has been a steady seller for nationals and indies throughout the year, both in terms of hardware and software sales.
Forward-looking retailers hope Wii U will surpasses the success of its predecessor, and claim PS3 sales could soar with another price cut.
Only 16 per cent of store managers reckoned the next generation of handhelds will dominate, with nine per cent backing Vita and seven per cent putting their faith in 3DS. One independent retailer added: “The Vita should be a big success if it delivers on its promises.”
More store managers are happy with their role than last year, with 16 per cent saying they love their job compared to ten per cent in 2010. Ten per cent want to be Microsoft founder and non-executive chairman Bill Gates, while eight per cent would prefer to be a video games tester.
Eight per cent wanted to take GAME CEO Ian Shepherd’s job, while six per cent would love to write as a journalist for MCV. Four per cent want to work as a games developer and three per cent want to replace Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.
Other stand-out answers included HMV?boss Simon Fox, BioShock creator Ken Levine, Sony chief Howard Stringer, Blockbuster’s UK?MD Martin Higgins, Fable developer Peter Molyneux and Nintendo’s David Yarnton. One store manager said he wanted to be Patrick Moore so he could “be the real GamesMaster”.
Retail survey: How we did it
Our survey is formulated by canvassing the UK retail community for their thoughts on the state of the games industry. From those working at the coalface at shopfloor level right up to senior buying and managerial level, we invited a diverse cross-section to offer their views on games retail in 2011 and beyond.
We asked 75 retailers, including a portion of the Retail Advisory Board, whose votes were given extra weighting. The stores we approached were:
ASDA (Bedminster, Edinburgh, Lincoln, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton)
Awesome Games (Walthamstow)
Barkman Computers (Kingston Upon Thames)
Blockbuster (Colchester, Gravesend, Hove, Liverpool, Manchester, Melton Mowbray, Rayleigh, Southsea, Westbourne and Wolverhampton)
CHIPS (Bishop Auckland, Chester, Chorlton, Consett, Darlington, Hartlepool, Guisbrough, Market Harbrough, Newcastle Under Lyme, Northallerton, Stafford)
Console Connections (Truro)
Discs and Discs (Doncaster)
Fusion Gamez (Letchworth)
GAME (Barnsley, Barnstaple, Broadstairs, Cardiff, Dartford, Edinburgh, Norwich, Southend, Staines and Telford)
Gamestation (Peterborough, Bournemouth,Bristol, Enfield, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Gainsborough, Glasgow, Livingston and Stevenage)
Games Centre (multiple)
HMV (Bradford, Heathrow Terminal 1, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Chesterfield and Romford, Wigan)
Last Level Games (Norwich)
Sainsburys (Leicester and Brentwood)
Seedee Jons (Jersey)
Seventh Heaven (Wisbech)
The Game Cave (Telford)
That’z Entertainment (Romford)
Note: For key categories such as questions on publishing, distribution and peripherals, only those votes given by retailers or staff with a comprehensive view and experience of the market were counted.