Distribution is filled with lots of boring, un-sexy words that can make you ignore what is often the literal pulse of games retail.
Manufacturing. Replenishment. Fulfilment. Logistics. That’s our veins, arteries, capillaries, and aorta. They keep the games blood of goods moving around the retail circulation system.
But give UK distribution a health check and the results are at first glance alarming. Sure, some of our muscle is stronger than ever. There are a clutch of big companies that I shouldn’t have to name, each with international clout and backing that serve this country’s retailers well.
However the demise of other distributors big and small – EUK two years ago and Trilogy a year later, for instance – suggests limbs dropping off like a leper, ill health when that really isn’t the case.
Has digital distribution taken off? Of course. But have physical goods lost their lustre? A steady £2 billion in the bank at games retail last year suggests no, not yet.
So the packaged goods business is still important, although it has faced some challenging palpitations. A consolidated supply chain has only seen less diversity on shelves. The emphasis has been solely on big blockbusters, and smaller firms have seen product bottlenecked in distribution centres, never even making it to stores.
That’s why Sony DADC’s plans should be welcomed. It’ll take a long-term view to be sure it can turn the heat up on its rivals.
It helps that it’s already the go-to company for manufacturing discs for a household name console, and a key partner for many in the business. But it won’t be long until they’ve scored a big-name exclusive for third-party goods, I’m sure.
The team at Sony DADC and its new partner Mastertronic say its new offer primes the market for a nimbler approach, direct-to-store deliveries, and many other things new clients will want to hear.
Those with good memories might remember Sony DADC and games was a hot topic in 2006, but this time it has picked the right people to internally manage its expansion to primary distribution, and the right partner to prove its system works.
And that’s the most important thing, because amongst most of us, no one actually wants to have to worry about the supply chain’s health – we just expect it to work.