Trade braced for street date challenge

Ben Parfitt
An anxious UK trade is holding its collective breath over fears that some retailers might sell two of 2008’s biggest games early next week.

On Wednesday November 5th Sony’s landmark PlayStation 3 release LittleBigPlanet, distributed by Centresoft, will hit shelves. Two days later on Friday (November 7th), Microsoft’s Xbox 360-exclusive Gears of War 2, distributed by Gem, will also go on sale.

In a year that has seen street dates broken for key blockbuster titles – including Grand Theft Auto IV in April and more recently Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 – retail sources have expressed concerns that the latest set of triple-A releases will suffer from further early selling.

And with LittleBigPlanet picked out for a Wednesday release, fears are riding high that the title could cause particular confusion amongst non-specialist retail.

Trade sources have told MCV that Gem is enforcing a street date agreement in an attempt to combat any potential problems for Gears of War 2, as it did with last week’s Fable II. We understand that Gem will penalise any  retail partner caught selling the title early with late shipment of future titles.

Meanwhile SCE UK sales director Mark Howsen told MCV: “We have worked very closely with all our retail and trade partners in order to minimise the delay to the launch date of LittleBigPlanet, and maximise exposure and presence at store level, for what’s set to be one of our biggest PlayStation 3 releases of the year.”

Howsen added that driving consumer awareness of the new release date would help ensure street dates are respected: “We’re taking out a number of high profile national press advertisements to reinforce consumer awareness of the revised November 5th launch date.”

Major UK retail chain HMV stressed that it would continue to respect street date agreements and blasted retailers that choose to sell software early. “If anyone breaks street dates then they’re not likely to be genuine entertainment retailers who have the good of the games industry at heart,” explained HMV’s head of games Tim Ellis.

“We’re just doing what we always do, which is to respect street dates and to ensure that we maintain them.

 “It’s clearly in everyone’s interest that they are observed – it’s important that as an industry we operate to a clear structure and with clear communication to customers.”

GAME also underlined its commitment to observing street dates – and said it had the experienced staff needed to ensure no mistakes are made next week.

“As a specialist video games retailer, everyone at GAME is very aware of the importance of street dates for all new and upcoming releases,” commented a spokesperson.

“We are working very closely with Microsoft and Sony to give our customers two sets of fantastic launch day activity for both Gears of War 2 and LittleBigPlanet.”

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Tags: Retail , games , trade , dates , street , broken , break

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