Has ShopTo become the first online retailer to be called out for early shipping?
Eurogamer reports that ShopTo is refusing to sell any upcoming Activision games after a dispute involving November release Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Activision has specified that ShopTo can only ship out copies to customers on the day before release. ShopTo will normally ship games ahead of their release date to ensure customers have their game for release day, as Royal Mail guarantees delivery in 1-3 days.
Of course, a consequence of this practise is that gamers who buy through ShopTo and other online retailers routinely receive their games ahead of release, typically on the Wednesday or Thursday – although it's not unknown for titles to arrive even earlier than this.
Indeed, getting games early has become a USP for many online retailers including ShopTo, much to the irritation of High Street indies and entertainment retailers.
"Activision's policy of only allowing e-tailers to despatch one day before release date effectively destroys an e-tailer's pre-order campaign as many deliveries inevitably arrive post-release date," ShopTo boss Igor Cipolletta stated.
"This has the undesired effect of previously loyal and satisfied customers thinking that, if we can't 'get it right' for one of the biggest games of the year, why should they trust us with any future orders?
"Their friends and acquaintances, by word of mouth and social media, (despite possibly not having ever ordered from us), would see us (and possibly e-tailers as a whole) as unreliable. This despite all the time and hard work my team and the myriad of other publishers put into other titles during the year.
"Of course this Activision policy is not for every title, but due to the volume and fever pitch Call of Duty seems to generate (both positive and negative), it causes the most damage to us."
It is common for publishers to specify stringent shipping embargoes for new releases. What's far less common is publishers enforcing these rules if a retailer is found to have broken them.
Why this issue has suddenly come to head now is unclear. But if a highly successful and influential retailer like ShopTo is now feeling the heat, others will likely be feeling very nervous.
UPDATE: ShopTo boss Igor Cipolletta has told MCV that his dispute with Activision has nothing to do with early shipping and is purely related to the want to get games delivered to customers on the day of release.
Rest assured that we dispatch all the items as per publisher shipping policy,” he told MCV. As etailers our message is that Activision's shipping policy is damaging to our pre order campaign as the user could receive the game after its release date. You are passing a message that etailers want to break release date but this is not true – I just want to deliver COD on its release date! Simple.”
Cipolletta added that the cost of getting a Tuesday release to customers on release day is higher than for a game released on Friday.
Details about ShopTo shipping policies were also amended in the story above.