Forget the BAFTA's, forget the Golden Joysticks – this is where the wheat gets well and truly separated from the chaff as retail casts its vote on the best performing companies in the video games trade this year.
Microsoft took a big chunk of the praise, winning ‘highlight of the year' for Halo 3, best company for quality and attitude to retail, and best overall firm. This popularity was thanks in no small part to the star-studded launch of Halo 3 and subsequent skyrocketing sales which smashed records.
With soaring international sales of DS and Wii hardware and software many have labelled 2007 as the year of Nintendo. However, the company loses out in many of these categories, usually getting pipped to the post by the aforementioned trailblazer Microsoft. This could be attributed to the building frustration retail has experienced after supply issues have forced it to turn away the reams of customers more than happy to part with their Christmas spend on a Wii or DS.
This is backed up by the fact that the lack of
Wii stock easily claimed the ‘prize' for most disappointing moment of the year, claiming 52 per cent of the vote. Still, if the biggest problem you face in a company is too many people wanting your product, you can count some blessings.
When it comes to the subject of number one title this Christmas, the majority of retail agrees with the bookies – backing EA's consistent top of the charts racer Need For Speed: Pro Street, which stormed to the top with the vast majority of the vote.
Meanwhile, there are no prizes for guessing what retailers identify as the biggest problem facing the trade at the moment. Supermarkets increasing their share of the games market has been boiling indies' blood for years now, and is largely linked to the second biggest problem of discounting on new releases.
Lastly, special mention must go to Bill Gates whose job retail would most like to have. Since his job these days mostly consists of earning praise for spearheading philanthropic operations across the globe and sitting on the biggest cash pile in the West, who can blame them?
What title will be the ChartTrack All Formats Christmas Number One?
Need For Speed: Pro Street - 42%
Call of Duty 4 - 16%
Assassin's Creed - 10%
Mario Galaxy - 6%
WWE Smackdown - 5%
Guitar Hero III - 4%
FIFA 08 - 4%
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 - 4%
Honourable mentions: The Simpsons; Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games; High School Musical; Halo 3; Kane & Lynch
What has been the highlight of your year?
Release of Halo 3 - 31%
Success of Wii - 30%
Continued success of DS - 17%
Launch of PS3 - 15%
Launch of Xbox Elite - 2%
360 price drop - 1%
Honourable mentions: The success of the Xbox 360; Jade Raymond; the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008; the release of Project Gotham Racing
The high profile release event for the format-boosting Halo 3 just nipped ahead of the Wii's achievements as highlight of 2007 in the eyes of our surveyed retailers. With Microsoft's promises of the ‘biggest entertainment launch in history' ringing in the trade's collective ears, hundreds of keen gamers and journalists piled into the Waterloo IMAX in central London to see A-list celebrities such as Hollywood stalwart Christian Slater and champion hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams meet with the great unwashed, while simultaneous events played host to Carmen Electra in Paris and LL Cool J in Amsterdam. As game launches go, you've got to doff your cap to that level of pizzazz. All the hype was then duly rewarded record-breaking first week sales. Mission accomplished, we'd say.
What has been the disappointment of your year?
Lack of Wii stock - 57%
PS3 launch - 22%
Discounting by supermarkets - 11%
Performance of PSP - 4%
Honourable mentions: Breaking of street dates; no E3; Mario and Sonic being in a game together; the delay of GTA 4; Halo 3; lack of Xbox 360 Elite stock
The problem with having ultra-high demand for your product is that a lot of people end up being disappointed when that demand exceeds supply – a situation which made the lack of Wii stock easily top the list of the most disappointing factor of the year.
Do you feel confident about your business in 2008?
Yes - 85%
Not sure - 11%
No - 4%
The full-year figures for 2008 are yet to be totted up, but it looks like we're well on course for this to be the biggest sales year ever in terms of video game hardware and software sales. So no suprises that the vast majority of the retailers surveyed are confident about their business for the coming 12 months. The threat of the supermarkets and on-going shortages, aside, indies are looking forward optmistically.
What is the biggest problem facing games retailers at the moment?
Supermarkets increasing market share - 62%
Discounting on new releases - 28%
Honourable mentions: Broken street dates; piracy; the import market; lack of Wii stock; the tax breaks that other countries get; the cost of stock
Like many other retail sectors, games indies believe that the grocery giants represent the biggest threat to their business. That and discounting – the two often going hand in hand...
Which format will win the next generation battle?
Xbox 360 - 49%
PS3 - 35%
Wii - 16%
Another ‘win' for Microsoft in MCV's Annual Retail Survey, with independent games retailers currently predicting that the Xbox 360 will triumph in the current format battle.
Which games publisher would you consider to have been the best for overall quality and attitude to retail this year?
Microsoft - 38%
Ubisoft - 14%
Nintendo - 12%
Sony - 10%
EA - 7%
Activision - 6%
Sega - 4%
Honourable mentions: Konami; Vivendi Games; THQ; Capcom; 505 Games
Microsoft convincingly topped the list in terms of attitude and service to retail for the year – a full 24 per cent higher placed than nearest rival Ubisoft. While the format holder's strong channel relationships undoubtedly was a key factor, the way in which it handled the ‘red ring of death' problem by issuing a three year warranty to all customers will have made retailers even more warm towards the Reading company.
Do you see your Xmas takings to be…?
Greater than last year - 73%
Same as last year - 10%
Don't know - 10%
Lower than last year - 7%
The retail community displays a very un-British wave of optimism for this year's Christmas sales – while a comparatively tiny contingent predicts lean times ahead for the independent retail channel.
Which third party peripherals company or brand has provided you with the best sales and profit opportunities this year?
Joytech/Mad Catz - 42%
Logitech - 29%
Spectravideo - 12%
Venom - 11%
Honourable mentions: Datel; Big Bang; Gamesexpert; Nyko; Speed Link; 4Gamers
It is an unfortunate truth that vicious pricing battles can leave retailers with pretty small margins on new releases – and peripherals are always a solid, reliable way of increasing profits. Mad Catz and recently acquired Joytech were clear favourites in retail's eyes, their popularity helped by recent product launches such as the Halo 3 Faceplate and Console Skinz from the former, while the company also invested in the latter's Wii PowerStation.
Who would you consider to be the best overall company of the year?
Microsoft - 29%
Nintendo - 23%
Centresoft - 19%
Sony - 6%
Gem - 6%
Honourable mentions: Ubisoft; Bungie; Discz; Playtime; Asda; Gamespod; Activision; Grainger Games; Creative Distribution; EA; GAME
With Microsoft already claiming the top spot in the Highlight of the Year section and leading the pack in terms of attitude and quality to retail, it is no big surprise that it was voted best overall company of 2007. However the platform holder wasn't miles ahead of runner-up Nintendo, which may have been kept from the top spot due to supply issues, which has left many retailers frustrated after being unable to sell consoles to the swarms of customers that are frantically sniffing around for Christmas gifts.
Which distributor would you commend for its high levels of service this year?
Centresoft - 53%
Gem - 33%
Advantage - 5%
Koch - 2%
Trilogy - 2%
Creative Distribution - 2%
Honourable mentions: Just; Keyne
With the Sony account in its portfolio, plus many of the top ten publishers, it's perhaps no surprise that Centresoft has once again been voted as best distributor in the 2007 retail survey. But the service offered by the Birmingham team has been highlighted by the trade time and time again. However, it's worth pointing out that Gem also put in a sterling performance, according to retailers, claiming a good chunk of votes, too.
If you could have anyone else's job in the industry, whose would it be?
Bill Gates - 33%
Head of Nintendo - 8%
Shigeru Miyamoto - 4%
Shingo ‘Seabass' Takatsuka - 4%
Whoever makes the most money” - 4%
Head of Sony - 3%
Hideo Kojima - 3%
Tesco/supermarket games buyer - 3%
Will Wright - 2%
Grainger Games MD - 2%
Matthew Kelsey, Channel Games - 2%
Honourable mentions: Mike Lowe; I'm happy with my job”; Wii warehouse manager; Cliffy B; Peter Moore, EA; anyone who gets to work with Jade Raymond”; head of Centresoft; Davie Antons, Nintendo UK; a PR exec; MGS 4 tester; Square Enix developer; lead developer at Bioware; Mario; GAME buyer; Kratos; head of new projects at EA; Mark Rein
101 Computer Games Adock & Sons Awesome Games Barkman Computers Ltd Bits 'n' Pieces Cannings Castle Games Chipshop 2000 Chipsworld Console Connections Console Games Console Yourself Control Zone Discover Disks EGO Electronic Theatre Entertainment Exchange Extreme Gamez First Compute Forbidden Planet Fusion Games G Force Game Cave Game City Game Exchange Game Invader UK Game On Game Pad Game World Game Zone Games Arena Games Centre Games Connection Gamespod Gamexchange (UK) Ltd Grainger Games Insane Games Intergames Kerrison Toys Level One Maughan Micro Media Entertainment N1 Games New Age Ninja Games Photo Sprint & Computer Plus Playtime Multimedia Power Games Ross Records Seventh Heaven Computers Sholing Video Stan's Games Exchange The Games Company The Games Exchange The Third Place Tomorrows World Total Games Totally Games Video Games Centre Virtual Games Virtual Reality Voodoo Consoles