High street retailers have been accused of locking new IPs out of the market this Christmas – and limiting consumer choice by only dedicating shelf space to ‘formulaic sequels’ and pre-owned games.
In a letter to MCV, Rising Star Games’ MD and COO Martin Defries said that “new content and variety is frowned upon” by retailers.
Buyers’ claims that new IPs are too marginal and unproven mask the truth that stores will only trust ‘safe bet’ top-tier titles and second hand stock, he added.
Defries’ comments follow the decision by some UK chains to not stock Rising Star’s new release Muramasa: The Demon Blade.
The title has enjoyed a good critical and commercial performance in Japan and the US. It has a Metacritic average of 80 and sold 52,000 in its first week of US sales; whilst in Japan it sold 30,000 units in its first week and was second in the country’s weekly chart.
“Here in the UK, the game will not be available to buy in the majority of games retail outlets,” Defries explained.
“Evidently this is not because of game quality, nor because it is delayed or suffers from an absence of pre-release public relations. It is because retail is becoming increasingly choosy and actively reducing the variety that is offered to consumers. If it is not first-party, a sequel or supported by a multi-million pound advertising spend, they are just not interested.”
Even worse, he said, is the fact that Muramasa might make it onto shelves eventually – but only when it is exchanged second-hand for another release by consumers.
“Stores will happily accept Muramasa as part of a trade-in deal and the game will retail for half its price,” Defries continued.
“Is this a dumbing down of the medium? When the industry and its consumers cry out for originality and innovation, it is a great pity for these wonderful Japanese games that there is little support in the retail market for them – and that formulaic sequels and ‘me-too’ titles are preferred.
“Consequently the consumer has little or no exposure to a rich and different gaming experience.” He added: “Publishers’ route to market has always been retail, but if that pipe continues to narrow what choice do we have? Online only?”
Only three games in this week’s GfK-ChartTrack All Formats Top 40 were new IP: Brutal Legend, Scribblenauts and last year’s LittleBigPlanet.
To read Martin Defries' letter in full, click here.