Are we immune?

Indeed, the latest GfK-ChartTrack figures this week suggest healthy hardware sales and a slightly up software sector.

No wonder, then that we continue to chronicle the expanding nature of games retail.

As HMV CEO Simon Fox says elsewhere in this issue, the retail landscape has changed more in the last year than anyone could have predicted.

This is most true for games where, despite the loss of
two major entertainment chains, publishers continue to find new routes to market.

We’ve covered this extensively over the last five months, from WH Smith’s ‘will they, won’t they?’ approach to games through to this week’s declaration of intent from Somerfield.

Meanwhile Asda is growing its games team and wants to become the ‘largest non-specialist’. I’m sure Mr Fox has something to say about that – although HMV’s offer has become so rich of late, that it’s easier to see it as a games specialist in its own right than just a ‘general entertainment’ or ‘non-specialist’ chain.

What’s great about all this – and The GAME Group’s continued success – is that games are the benefit here. Publishers must be punching the air at all the new accounts and potentially beefed-up orders.

In a world of flat DVD sales and a music market in physical freefall, it’s no surprise that many have turned to games as a way to save their bacon. Still not necessarily proof that games are immune to the recession, but evidence that we are healthier than most.

The Fall Of The Empire
MCV has already taken to the soapbox to condemn the appalling treatment of Empire’s staff throughout its prolonged death. But the sorry tale of this firm’s demise exposes another ugly truth, besides the ‘keep your employees informed’ rule. Namely: games are not for chancers looking to make a quick buck.

Empire may have never been a spectacular publisher, but it was at least a marginally clever one.

In 20 years it made some smart choices; it was the first to get into music games in a big way (via eJay), had a strong cricket franchise and its Xplosiv budget range. Despite duff decisions (an unexciting licensed Ford racing game; a Starship Trooper title a decade after the film arrived; Big Mutha Truckers) the Empire of old’s management knew what they were doing.

The same can’t be said of the Empire that this week not only screwed over staff, but seemed lost.

Leaving the UK  team to manage a digital distribution strategy for old IP simply wasn’t enough to counter the feeling that the people at the very top simply didn’t know what they were doing, allegedly making mistakes over simple things like distribution deals, which ultimately had unfortunate consequences for the staff.

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