OPINION: Sainsbury’s battlecry

It’s surprising to think that maybe, just maybe, the supermarkets are under pressure to impress in games.

Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are the new giants in video games. All four have taken significant market share away from the specialists, and are even toying with pre-owned, digital distribution and specialist staff.

In fact, in this week’s MCV you can read how well Sainsbury’s and Tesco have done in games over the past 12 months.

But, for all the market share boasts, have any of them actually made any profit? Did anyone who bought Modern Warfare 2 from Sainsbury’s for 26 last November actually buy anything else?

It’s clearly a question being asked of the Sainsbury’s games team when the firm’s non-food boss took to the stage and told suppliers that it can’t ‘bleed margins’ forever and that prices have to fall.

So is now the right time to do the unthinkable and cut the cost of games?

Publishers quite rightly highlight the fact that games are great value for money, that they cost millions to make and market, and that there’s no theatrical release to re-coup any losses.

Indeed, making video games today is incredibly risky and it would take a brave (or foolish) publisher to make any significant movement in price. Especially as many are finding things tough already.

But that doesn’t disguise the fact that consumers and retailers think games are too pricey, and that if the market wants to grow, it has to change.

I recall the words of Namco Bandai Partner’s boss Olivier Comte earlier in the year who suggested the need to develop smaller, cheaper episodic titles. Is it time we called an end to expensive triple-A epics and replaced it with more affordable games that can be updated via DLC?

The debate has raged on for years. But with retail and consumers making such major demands, perhaps now is the time to come up with some answers.

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