If there's one thing retailers don't need to be reminded about, it's that Christmas is coming – that whirlwind few weeks where more business is done than the previous months put together.
It's also the time to diversify – and one of the most lucrative areas in which a games retailer can do so is the DVD games market. It's probably more accurate to compare the products to board games rather than video games, but games retailers can make a mint out of them around the Christmas season thanks to crowds of bemused, inspiration-hungry gift buyers.
Until the scrap between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray sorts itself out, DVD players represent a pretty stable format to bet on. The thing about the DVD player as a platform is that the technology doesn't really change, giving DVD games a longer shelf life due to the fact they won't be usurped by better looking, better designed, newer versions – meaning titles that did well a year ago still fare well this year.
Since their inception, DVD games have always sold in large numbers. One of the best performers in the first wave was Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
DVD games have been around since 2002 when we launched the first edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and The Pepsi Chart Challenge,” says Andy Scrivener, MD of Zoo Interactive Entertainment. Before then, I don't think anyone had heard of such a thing – let alone purchased one. The DVD player can deliver great quality video, great audio and has sufficient interactivity to satisfy small groups of casual gamers, especially families.
"For people who are used to watching great shows such as A Question of Sport or Millionaire through their TVs, DVD games provide an opportunity to participate without any loss of quality, using a device that holds no techno-fear. We've increased the range every year and Millionaire is now in its fifth edition, selling well over one million units in the UK alone.”
After a hugely successful Christmas in 2005, attention for the new technology grew, and by the same time in 2006 over a hundred different titles were available, largely based on popular television brands. Deal or No Deal was one the standout successes of 2006's Christmas period.
This year, I think the market will be much more focused, with fewer, and hopefully better titles,” says Dave Anderson, head of gaming at BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC which is in charge of licensing out its brands to DVD games vendors.
Top Gear has already done well, and 2Entertain have worked very hard to create an innovative gaming experience that is true to the brand, and resist the temptation to simply bung out an automotive quiz. Hopefully, great gaming experiences will win out in the end. If they pick the right title, they'll get huge footfall.
"Last year, Deal or No Deal was reputed to have shifted over a million units. There's few, if any, PS3 games going to do that this Christmas. But also, like Wii, it has created a much broader demographic for games, which is a good thing in the long run for all of us. If video game retailers can genuinely offer ‘something for everyone', we'll have become genuinely mass market.”
This festive season there stands to be even more titles available, based on an increasingly wider pool of brands. For the games retailer dabbling in this market, the message certainly seems to be go for the big name brands, as this larger market can see many smaller titles left by the wayside.
DVD games can have a very short selling period which starts about the November 7th and ends at Christmas,” says Tom White, acting MD of toy and interactive DVD specialist Upstarts. You have six short weeks to plan your promotional budget and sell your product in. After Christmas your product will have to endure price-cutting and returns and all that this brings with it.
"All but the very strong brands will be finished and these retailers will be looking for new titles. Last year there were so many new titles that only the big brands did any volume and many of the ‘me too's' were hit quite badly.”
Aside from the big brand gaming titles, it's also worth considering some more utility based games in stock – such as the new driving test theory titles from Focus Multimedia and TSO (see below).
Since the vast majority of sales come over the festive period, there's no need to take permanent space away for the core product of video games – but for retailers looking to make a few extra pounds on impulse buy and gifting purchases this Christmas, DVD games can represent a lucrative, if temporary, cash flow.