Wondering what games retail are worried about in the New Year? And what’s been the best thing about 2010 so far? MCV goes behind the tills in its annual retail survey.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR FOR GAMES RETAIL?
BLACK OPS received the majority of votes this year (60 per cent, in fact) to become games retailers’ highlight of 2010.
It is easy to see why retail was so delighted with the game, with 1.4m units sold in just 24 hours, generating some £58m in revenue. It made Black Ops the fastest-selling video game of all time, defeating last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
A number of store managers told MCV that the title performed much better than they expected. Several praised the large number of midnight openings as one of the main activities that generated the most excitement on launch day.
However, it wasn’t all about Black Ops. The launch of Microsoft’s Kinect last month took 13 per cent of the votes, making it retail’s second biggest highlight of the year so far.
Meanwhile, other outlets singled out different triple-A launches as their highlights, including Halo: Reach, Red Dead Redemption, Gran Turismo 5 and the new Xbox 360. Indeed, six per cent of store managers said the ‘sheer number of new releases’ has been their highlight.
Other answers that didn’t quite make our pie chart included FIFA 11’s sales and Dead Rising 2’s performance, while one indie retailer said they were just pleased to ‘sell a game.’
WHICH PUBLISHER HAD THE BEST QUALITY AND ATTITUDE TOWARDS RETAIL IN 2010?
IT WAS a close battle between Microsoft and EA in this year’s survey, with the former managing to clinch the top spot by just a handful of votes.
Microsoft was praised for delivering copies of Halo: Reach well in advance of release, as well as the high-profile launch of Kinect and for “sorting everything out” in general.
Retailers also applauded EA for its strong marketing and backing up that spend with quality product – picking out FIFA 11 as a stand-out title – while a small minority criticised the publisher for its stance against the pre-owned market.
Activision is close behind in third place with 22 per cent of participants saying it had the best quality and attitude towards retail throughout 2010, with releases including Call of Duty: Black Ops, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
Rockstar Games was also popular with a number of indies who applauded the publisher for their successful marketing and stock levels for its popular action title, Red Dead Redemption.
Notable mentions included Nintendo, Sony and Ubisoft, while four per cent of retailers said they were disappointed with all video game publishers this year.
On the other hand, another four per cent of retailers couldn’t single-out just one publisher for praise, opting for all of them instead.
WHICH DISTRIBUTOR WOULD YOU COMMEND FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE?
IF YOU thought the best publisher round was tight, the No.1 distributor spot was even closer. So close, in fact, that there isn’t even a clear winner.
Both Gem and Centresoft received just under half of all votes, making them the two key distribution firms that the vast majority of retailers commended for outstanding service.
Undoubtedly the release of Black Ops, FIFA 11, Street Fighter IV and more aided Centresoft this year, with the distributor’s big-name clients including Activision, Sega, EA, Sony and Capcom.
One independent retailer expressed delight with one Centresoft account manager in particular – Jane Revell – describing her as “the best”.
Equally, Gem is heavily praised for its delivery of essential Microsoft stock this year including Kinect, the new Xbox console and Halo: Reach as well as key products such as Codemasters’ hit racer F1 2010 and Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption.
Other distributors applauded for excellence included Ideal Software, Koch Media and accessories firm Logic3. A few also complimented Keyne for its performance this year, but opted for Gem as their leading vote.
One cheeky independent outlet described online retailers as his favourite ‘distributor’ of the year because of the low prices found online.
Due to store managers at many retail chains having little to no contact with boxed product distributors, this result discounted their comments. It reflects the views and opinions of the independent retailers plus relevant store managers that we spoke to, as well as those of the MCV Retail Advisory Board.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FACING RETAIL RIGHT NOW?
ALMOST a quarter of games retailers pointed to supermarkets’ aggressive pricing as the industry’s biggest problem right now.
However, that’s actually eight per cent down on last year. In 2009’s retail survey, 32 per cent of store owners were worried about supermarket pricing.
One angry retailer told MCV: “Supermarket discounting and internet retailers using VAT loopholes means more people are shopping at these types of retailers and are moving away from the High Street. Now retailers are suffering from more closures giving consumers less options.”
Another added: “The margins on new games was already a big problem, and supermarkets are now making it unbearable.”
Other bugbears included not having enough stock (13 per cent) – a problem in more than one of the supermarkets we talked to.
One supermarket employee told MCV: “The biggest problem is that we never receive all the game box sleeves so we can’t stock all the products.”
Other big issues included the current state of the economy (which also took 13 per cent of the vote), consumers playing longer online and thus buying fewer new games (10 per cent), increased competition from internet retailers (eight per cent) and the cost of new stock (six per cent).
“Too much competition” was one phrase regularly used to describe the problem for games retail at the moment, while illegal downloading and slower hardware sales were also points of frustration. However, a happy eight per cent said there are no big issues facing them right now.
WHICH THIRD PARTY PERIPHERAL FIRM HAS PROVIDED YOU WITH THE BEST SALES?
MAD CATZ took pole position as the third party accessory firm which provided the best sales opportunities this year.
With its full range of officially licensed Rock Band 3, Black Ops and Street Fighter IV accessories, on top of its line of specialist PC gaming products, the firm takes the top spot marginally ahead of Turtle Beach and GAME’s own brand of accessories.
The Mad Catz-distributed Turtle Beach headsets continued to sell well this year, with some retailers describing them as ‘top sellers’ and ‘hugely popular’. From January 1st, 2011 these products will be distributed by Lygo when Mad Catz will be offering its own Tritton brand of ProGaming headsets.
Three High Street stores also voted heavily on one particular line of gaming accessories this year, with GAME and Gamestation favouring their own branded products and Blockbuster praising the range of Orb peripherals.
A few store workers couldn’t choose one particular peripherals firm this year, referring to the sheer amount of accessories on the market. A handful also said that they only stock the official first party products.
Other peripherals labels praised for quality products included Exspect, Gioteck and Logic3, with a couple of independent retailers applauding Hori for its “high quality” fighting sticks.
WHAT WILL BE THIS YEAR'S CHRISTMAS NO.1?
CALL OFF those Christmas No.1 bets – if retailers’ views are anything to go by, Call of Duty: Black Ops will become the best-selling video game during the Christmas week. 74 per cent of all participants believed Activision’s latest shooter will take the All Formats crown during the final week of sales this year.
In second place was Sony’s long-awaited racer Gran Turismo 5 taking eight per cent of votes. EA’s top-selling footie title FIFA 11 took five per cent and its acclaimed racer Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit claimed four per cent of the votes.
Others mentioned Nintendo’s Super Mario All-Stars and Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft: Cataclysm as potential victors.
An independent retailer told us: “I cannot see anything outselling Call of Duty: Black Ops this Christmas. And although Kinect might not be a huge success in the long-term, I do think it will also be a really big seller this winter.”
Other store managers said casual Wii games shouldn’t be ruled out this year, with Just Dance 2, Wii Party and Toy Story 3 all performing well with kids and parents in-store.
Of those who suggested Black Ops will take the Christmas No.1, around ten per cent have personal favourites to win including Fallout: New Vegas and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT THE HEALTH OF YOUR BUSINESS MOVING INTO 2011?
RETAILERS are optimistic about the New Year, despite the new challenge of January’s 2.5 per cent VAT rise.
A majority of 85 per cent of all survey participants said they were confident about their business moving into 2011.
A variety of leading High Street store managers said their confidence stemmed from ‘some great games due out’ and ‘second-hand sales’.
Meanwhile, a leading MCV Retail Advisory Board member said that while he was confident of his business, he was not confident in the current state of the market, due to the sales decline, lack of new platforms, the economy, public sector cuts, VAT rise and too many mid-week launches.
Almost ten per cent were uncertain of the future, while just six per cent – mainly indies – said they were not confident. One said: “Competition and prices are so high, we struggle to get more than one game in at a time. We need lower prices.”
Another steadfast indie added: “You’ve got to stay positive. I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’m not planning on leaving.”
DO YOU PREDICT YOUR CHRISTMAS TAKINGS WILL BE GREATER, LOWER OR THE SAME AS 2009?
DESPITE fierce competition, the majority of stores (42 per cent) said they would take more money this Christmas than last.
The retailers surveyed said the expected increase is down to a bigger selection of games on the market.
One independent retailer explained: “People are buying earlier this year, so sales haven’t been as awful as we feared. However, more people are buying online so we are losing business in the long run.”
Another indie attributed his optimism to luck – his local Blockbuster store had closed, giving him plenty of new customers.
Almost a quarter of voters said they’d expect to see a similar amount of sales this Christmas, while 21 per cent of store workers told MCV it is too early to tell.
Results are largely similar to last year’s retail survey, the only major difference being increased uncertainty, with an 11 per cent increase in the number of retailers who do not know whether their Christmas takings will be up on 2009’s amount.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB IN THE INDUSTRY, WHOSE WOULD IT BE?
UK DEVELOPERS may work long hours, but 16 per cent of retailers surveyed said if they could have any job in industry, it would be in making games.
Games testing also proved to be a popular alternate profession, with 13 per cent giving comments such as: “testers earn pretty sweet money for sitting on their backside”. Maybe they haven’t heard the same QA horror stories as we have.
Next up was Bill Gates who received 11 per cent of votes. The billionaire is currently a non-exec chairman for Microsoft. Meanwhile, ten per cent of store owners want to be Microsoft creative director Peter Molyneux.
Other choices included Activision boss Bobby Kotick, SCEE UK’s head of PR, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwatas and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
And at the risk of inflating his ego, one GAME manager said he wants to be MCV’s very own online editor Ben Parfitt. Although he did seem to think he just “messes around all day moderating web comments.”
Retail survey: how we did it
Our end of year 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 shop floor level right up to senior buying and managerial level, we invited a diverse cross-section to offer their views on the landscape for games retail in 2010 and beyond.
We directly questioned the following stores for their views:
Asda (Bournemouth), Asda (Bedminster), Blockbuster (Liverpool), Blockbuster (Brentwood), Blockbuster (Hove), Blockbuster (Taunton), Blockbuster (Southsea), Blockbuster (Wolverhampton), Blockbuster (Colchester), Blockbuster (Westcliffe), Blockbuster (Melton Mowbray), CHIPS (Stockton), CHIPS (Darlington), CHIPS (Northallerton), CHIPS (Stafford), CHIPS (Bishop), CHIPS (Hartlepool), CHIPS (Consett), CHIPS (Chester le Street), CHIPS (Chorlton), CHIPS (Portslade), CHIPS (Orpington), CHIPS (Newcastle under Lyme), CHIPS (Hereford), CHIPS (Market Harborough), Close Encounters (multiple), Disks and Discs (Doncaster), Eclipse Home Interactive (online), Fusion Gamez (Letchworth), GAME (Basildon), GAME (Broadstairs), GAME (Bishops Stortford), GAME (Derby), GAME (Peterborough), GAME (Truro), GAME (Woking), GAME (Cannock), GAME (Ipswich), GAME (Blackpool), GAME (Braintree), GAME (Kent), GAME (Brentwood), GAME (Norwich), Game On (Saffron Walden), Game Player (Crawley), GamePark (Aberystwyth), Gamesave (Hacknell), Game Zone (Orpington), Gamestation (Swansea), Gamestation (Livingston), Gamestation (Southend), Gamestation (Torbay), Gamestation (Scunthorpe), Gamestation (Colchester), Gamestation (Gainsborough), Gamestation (Wrexham), Gamestation (Newport), Gamestation (Bournemouth), Games Centre (multiple), Game People (Hull), Game Cave (Telford), Gamescrib (Brighton), Grainger Games (Hull), Grainger Games (Doncaster), Grainger Games (Worksop), Grainger Games (Leeds), HMV (Bradford), HMV (Heathrow Terminal 1), HMV (Harrogate), HMV (Bury St Edmunds), HMV (Cambridge), HMV (Stevenage), HMV (Reading), HMV (Wigan), HMV (Chesterfield), Last Level Games (Norwich), Morrisons (Cheshire), Morrisons (Southend), Morrisons (Brighton), Morrisons (Lancashire), Morrisons (Bristol), Sainsbury’s (Boscombe), Sainsbury’s (Brentwood), Sainsbury’s (Derby), Tesco (Yeovil), U-Play (Oxford), X Games (multiple).
We also extended the invite to the MCV Retail Advisory Board, which includes: Asda, HMV, GAME and Gamestation, Gameseek, Grainger Games, CHIPS and Sainsbury’s.
Note: For key categories such as questions on publishing, distribution and peripherals, only those votes given by the MCV Retail Advisory Board or retailers with a comprehensive view and experience of the market were counted.