FIFA had its largest launch ever this week, and the third largest of any game in the UK. Well done EA, pats on the backs for everyone, yes yes.
But as night follows day, No.1s follow FIFA.
What’s most interesting is the context around the game’s arrival at UK retail in 2010. The supermarkets were, as ever, the noisiest promoters of the game. What always makes sense as, Wii aside, you don’t get more mass market than FIFA.
But there were no quick cut-price deals this year; Asda’s £29.97 was the cheapest deal on console, which is relatively conservative for this lot.
Instead, the focus was on value incentives. Asda would go as low as a headline-grabbing 97p, but really that was only with a trade-in of games so new that they had excellent resell potential.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons all went sub-£30 with a catch: buy another game, or your weekly shop to get the deal. Loss-leading? Hardly, the money was harder fought than ever. None of these were ‘deals’ – it was a negotiation.
And that’s because this year, the pressure is on the supermarkets to go further when it comes to games. No doubt about it.
Their games teams will have pushed and argued for more space, more operational power, more marketing in recent years.
Now these teams have to prove to their bosses that games are worth it, not just the latest opportunistic Harry Potter or DVD release to quickly pile high at front-of-store and draw people in.
For now, the increased operational oomph around pre-owned suggests it is worth it – and that these renewed efforts will last.
To backtrack a bit on that FIFA remark above – EA really does deserve applause for last week’s blockbuster launch.
So too does Codemasters and its race to the top with F1 seven days prior, and Microsoft’s delivery of Halo: Reach a week before that.
These three deliver an important message, as one publishing boss pointed out to us in an email this week: “Maybe traditional games are not dead! It’s time to talk up our industry.”
He’s not wrong – the last three weeks fortell a bumper Christmas, and increased stability, if not a return to form for the market.
And after all, a bit of optimism never hurt anyone.