MCV quizzes over 100 retailers from around the UK – from nationwide specialist chains to independent stores – about the highs and lows of 2012 and their hopes for the games market in 2013.
WHAT IS YOUR HIGHLIGHT OF 2012?
There may be be debate as to whether the series is losing its edge, but there’s no doubt Call of Duty is still No.1 with retailers. Black Ops II was championed by 41 per cent of our surveyed stores, far outperforming the second favourite FIFA?13, which got 12 per cent of the vote.
And it wasn’t just new releases that pleased retailers this year. Many reflected fondly on opening new stores, midnight launches and other events and branching into technology trade-ins.
Wii U only garnered a modest slice of the vote. However, the survey
was conducted before the consle’s release, so retailers had no time to judge. Instead, this is based on pre-orders and anticipation.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS FACING GAMES RETAIL?
Once again, the greatest challenge retail faces is... retail. More than half of the High Street decried the increased competition between specialists, supermarkets and online retailers.
Interestingly, the number of store managers citing supermarkets as their biggest problem remained flat at 24 per cent – the same response as last year. But online retailers have clearly upped the game in the past 12 months, going from eight per cent in our 2011 survey to 30 per cent this year. One participant specifically referred to “the power of Amazon”.
Elsewhere, the finger of blame pointed to the financial climate, as well as the growing popularity of both download games and the free-to-play sector.
WHICH GAMES PUBLISHER HAD THE BEST QUALITY AND ATTITUDE TO RETAIL IN 2012?
Activision won over more than a quarter of participating retailers, no doubt thanks to both the success of Call of Duty and toy phenomenon Skylanders. It’s a dramatic change from last year, when the publisher took just five per cent of votes.
Regular favourite Ubisoft holds second place after a solid year with Assassin’s Creed III, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Just Dance 4. It won 18 per cent of votes, followed very closely by FIFA?publisher EA with 16 per cent. All were thanked for their continued support, although some stores claimed that broadly publishers had been less helpful this year.
Microsoft was the most popular of the three platform holders, with 12 per cent of retailers championing the firm for the continued success of the Xbox 360 and the release of Halo 4. Despite the debut of the PlayStation Vita, plenty of first party games and a new, more affordable PS3, Sony only took four per cent of votes. Meanwhile, Nintendo – which took the biggest share in last year’s survey – is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps this will change next year as the Wii U finds its feet.
WHICH UK DISTRIBUTOR WOULD YOU COMMEND FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE?
Centresoft continues to dominate the distribution sector with more than half of voters thanking the UK firm for its service over the past 12 months. The distributor handles releases from key publishers such as Activision, EA, Sony, Sega and Warner Bros, all of whom have released some of the best-selling titles of the year, including Call of Duty, FIFA, LEGO?Batman 2 and the Olympics tie-in games.
Gem also fared well, taking more than a quarter of the vote, just as it did last year. The distributor handles releases for Ubisoft, 2K?Games, and of course platform holder Microsoft. Other key players mentioned include Advantage, Creative, Keen and Ideal Software.
Last year, many independent retailers opted out of this question due to
a “lack of support for indies”, but MCV?received no such complaints in this year’s survey. Hopefully this means distributors have dedicated more time to looking after the nation’s smaller games stores.
Also a change from last year, no retailers named supermarkets as their favourite distributor, having bought their stock from grocers in the past.
WHAT NEW CONSOLE, GAME OR ACCESSORY ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
Grand Theft Auto is top of retailers’ wishlists for 2013, with 27 per cent eagerly waiting for the release of Rockstar’s next epic. GTA?V outperformed all other games, and even the next generation of hardware.
Beyond the next Grand Theft Auto, the most anticipated games of 2013 all fall within Q1, including BioShock Infinite, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Gears of War: Judgment.
However, it is new consoles that the High Street is desperate for, as a combined 58 per cent of store managers said they were most looking forward to the next Xbox, PlayStation 4 and increased activity from Wii U. Each of the three took a relatively even share of the votes.
Retailers are also looking forward to more releases and activity from PlayStation Vita, with one predicting the handheld would be treated “like a new console” in 2013.
There are of course still pessimists out there. When asked what console or game they were most looking forward to, one retailer replied: “None of them, because we won’t make money on a single one.”
WHICH THIRD PARTY PERIPHERAL FIRM HAS PROVIDED YOU WITH THE BEST SALES THIS YEAR?
Headsets continue to drive the accessories sector, with market leader Turtle Beach winning 27 per cent of votes in this year’s survey. It’s almost on par with the vendor’s approval rating last year, when it received 28 per cent of votes. Turtle Beach has seen high demand for its product in the UK this year, prompting its acquistion of UK distribution partner Lygo.
It was followed closely by Orb, which took a quarter of the votes. A key feather in this firm’s cap is its partnership deals with select retail chains such as Blockbuster, with Orb accessories the primary products available in these stores. Gioteck – also noted for its gaming headsets – fared well with 15 per cent of votes and was the only other peripherals brand to win more than a tenth of the votes.
In addition to specific vendors, retailers also cited strong sales of merchandise from popular brands such as Angry Birds and Skylanders.
WHICH GAMING HARDWARE DO YOU EXPECT THE BEST SALES PERFORMANCE FROM IN 2013?
Retailers?are looking to Microsoft for the majority of their sales next year, with almost half of our surveyed stores claiming Xbox 360 will be the best-selling console of 2013.
The seven-year-old machine is expected to outsell new Nintendo platform Wii U, which came in second with 25 per cent. PS3 only claimed 12 per cent of votes, while the original Wii failed to raise a mention – perhaps because of the anticipated arrival of new consoles.
That said, there were low expectations for the new Xbox and PlayStation. Little is known about these consoles, including whether or not they will even land on shelves next year. While many store managers put the next generation high on their wishlist, they do not expect significant sales from new consoles in 2013.
However, it is the handheld sector that is expected to generate the fewest sales. Only two per cent of retailers had high hopes for 3DS, while none mentioned Sony’s PlayStation Vita.
The PC is also notable for its absence.
DO YOU PREDICT YOUR XMAS TAKINGS WILL BE GREATER THAN, SAME AS OR LOWER THAN LAST YEAR?
The market may have been tough throughout 2012, but the High Street is confident things will perk up this Christmas.
38 per cent of retailers believe their takings over the holidays will be higher than in 2011 – a marked improvement since last year’s survey, when a third of retailers expected to see their seasonal sales fall.
The mood has no doubt been improved by a steady release of triple-A games throughout Q4, such as FIFA, Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Hitman – not to mention the release of Nintendo’s newest console Wii U.
A further 30 per cent of store managers expect similar takings when compared to last year, suggesting market decline may not have been felt as heavily as people think, while just over a quarter expect a worse performance over Christmas.
DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT THE HEALTH OF YOUR BUSINESS MOVING INTO 2013?
The mood in the market was understandably bleak this year, but retailers are much more optimistic about the next 12 months.
A whopping three quarters of the store managers we surveyed believed their business would thrive in 2013, driven by the promise of new consoles, growing momentum from Wii U, 3DS and Vita, and a promising line-up that includes BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V.
However, some added the caveat that this positive attitude was not indicative of the overall state of the market. One manager told us: “I would say that in our business, yes [we’re confident], but in the industry as a whole, it’s 50/50.”
Sadly, more than 20 per cent of the participating retailers were far more pessimistic, with some commenting that they would be lucky to see the end of the year. Given the declines seen across the market this year, there’s no denying that the UK industry is still in for some tough times, but hopefully a packed Q1 release slate and the ongoing launch of Wii U will help distance 2013 from the trials of 2012.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANYONE ELSE’S JOB IN THE INDUSTRY, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
Our final question always lends itself to some creative answers and this year certainly didn’t disappoint.
Once again, frustrated and good-humoured store managers alike revealed aspirations to reach the upper echelons and more influential positions of the industry.
The most popular answer was EA’s John Riccitiello – eight per cent of retailers want to swap places with the FIFA publisher’s boss. Others opted for EA digital EVP Kristian Segerstrale.
Conversely, many participants want to take over EA rival Activision and sit behind the desk of Bobby Kotick or “that bloke who’s always presenting the Call of Duty presentations” (we later established they meant CEO?Eric Hirshberg). One retailer even wanted to bring the publishing giant down from the inside: “I want to be the guy in charge of Call of Duty – then I’ll stop making them.”
There were also a number of managers that admire the work of Japanese industry icons such as Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, and Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida.
And we still have retailers who want to be former Microsoft chief Bill Gates – though perhaps that’s because billionaire Gates has technically retired.
Some wish to stay in retail, although they would rather have a more senior role, whether its games buyer or head of a chain like GAME CEO Martyn Gibbs, HMV chief Trevor Moore or Grainger Games boss Stephen Bowyer.
As always, some long to be games testers and games developers, to have a hand in making the games that they enjoy and sell.
One flatterer even said they wanted to be an MCV Staff Writer. Great, you can do next year’s retail survey for us.
STORES SURVEYED INCLUDED
24/7 Games (Maidenhead), A 2 Z Gamez (Keighley), Asda (Reading), Awesome Games (Walthamstow), Backyard Games (Brechin), Blockbuster (Basingstoke, Bristol, Fallowfield, Manchester, Gloucester, Gosport, Gravesend, Letchworth, Loughborough, Maidstone, Reading), Chips, Console Connections (Truro), Console Games Ltd (Birmingham), Eclipse Home Entertainment (Blackpool), Ego (Newtown), Excite Games (Guisborough), Extreme Gamez (Ashby), Fusion Games Exchange (Otley), GAME (Barry, Brighton, Cambridge, Enfield, Great Yarmouth, Harlow, Hereford, Huntingdon, Northampton, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Reading, Scunthorpe, Stevenage, Taunton), Game Dojo (Lyntham St. Annes), Game On (Saffron Walden), Game World (Hinckle), Game Xchange (Pontefract), Games N More, Games XChange (Darlington), Gameseek, GamesWorld4U Limited (London), Grainger Games, GXE Web (Blackburn), Gynx Retail (Basingstoke), Heroes Hideout (Hull), HMV (Barnsley, Colchester, Croydon, High Wycombe, Teeside, Worchester), Home Connection (Glasgow), Insane Games (Chester, Wells), Mad 4 Gamez (London), MT Games (Weston Super Mare), Next Dimension (Arbroath), Play-Away Ltd (Folkestone), Play.co.uk, Player One Games (Bourne), Seventh Heaven Computers (Wisbech), Stan’s Game Exchange (Falmouth), Tesco (Cheshunt), That Game Shop (Nottingham), Tomorrow’s World (Hove), Wayne’s Movies and Games (Callington)