The success of Grainger Games and the online indies is only half the story.
Independents nationwide are continuing to struggle in the face of a stock crisis and a growing price war, so much so that some have turned their back on new releases altogether.
With stock of Lego Indiana Jones and Wii Fit scarce, and prices increasingly high, many independents are opting to sell pre-owned and import software – along with stock bought from supermarkets – in order to compete.
Sources within the trade have also told MCV that some indies unable to find DS stock are starting to sell R4 cards – which allows consumers to download and play DS games illegally.
The main problem is that stock is swallowed up by the chains from official sources so we have to look at unofficial suppliers who charge a premium for the in-demand titles, knowing we cannot get them elsewhere,” claims Game Player’s Gary Noakes.
Game Guide editor Chris Ratcliff adds: Indies are using every trick in the book; from using High Street loyalty cards to signing up to special credit cards as this gives you better margins than most distributors.”
Retailers are also buying from Tesco, as they can get what they want, when they want, 24 hours a day and at better prices. But when it comes to stock allocation we do need a re-think. It must be disheartening for an indie to watch the nationals doing promotions on titles they can’t get hold of.”
Many indies who have tried to go up against the big nationals have since fallen by the wayside, including Kevin Norwood’s independent chain Software Store, which closed in 2005.
Unfortunately one of the main factors behind the closure of Software Store was that we could buy cheaper from the High Street than official distribution,” explains Norwood.
There was sympathy, but little help from the distributors and publishers despite our necks being on the line. In the end buying from Tesco wasn’t enough and the rest is history.”
In May, Cambridgeshire chain First Compute and London-based outlet Shekhana Games closed down. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as Grainger Games opened two new stores and Game Player opened its Crawley branch in the same month.
So why is it that some indies are able to thrive while others cannot?
I took the gamble of moving onto the High Street and I avoid competing with the majors by offering a different range of stock,” adds Noakes, who specialises in pre-owned software.
For me it has paid off but I would urge other indies to be very careful.”