Facebook giant targets retail

EA-Owned Playfish plans to seriously grow the audience for its social games – by forging partnerships with leading High Street brands.

The otherwise online-only firm has tied-up with the likes of Sainsbury’s, HMV and even games-shy WHSmith to sell in-game currency cash cards.

While the developer offers a range of free-to-play titles online – with 60m players every month – the firm says its cash cards have already sold extremely well after a pre-Christmas roll out.

Now it wants to make them as ubiquitous as iTunes gift cards via wider retail distribution.

Co-founder Sebastien de Halleux told MCV: You can’t underestimate the power of the retail distribution channel.

In casual games, cards like these can totally replace boxed product – look at what Apple has done with the iTunes cards. You can buy iTunes cards almost everywhere and they have a higher value than a traditional CD. In the music industry, they’ve created a big dent in the influence of boxed versions.”

He added: Playfish had previously diverted retail by making our games available solely online, but the channel still carries a lot of weight.”

The cards are available in denominations of 10 and 25.

They are a very high margin item, it takes very little shelf space compared to a magazine, a DVD or any item like that, and it’s a pretty high value product,” said de Halleux.

He also revealed that the firm plans to sell other physical items at bricks ‘n’ mortar point-of-sale further down the line.

We’ve decided to experiment a bit more with physical components to our games,” continued de Halleux.

There may also be objects coming in the future that will form a bridge between retail and the online world.

Many of our users have expressed a need to get more and more from their game beyond the online component and this could be anything from virtual currency to a six foot robot from one of our games.”

But the firm is prioritising mainstream and convenience retail over specialist chains.

Games retail is definitely on the radar but for the moment we favour having them in stores that everyone has access to,” said de Halleux.

We’re really aiming to give the cards blanket coverage.”

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