Steve Redmond on how GTA V showed what retailers are made of

Thursday September 26, 2013

If it's the eternal complaint of entertainment retailers that if only suppliers come up with the right product, then retail will ensure it reaches the consumer, then last week they proved their point. In spades.

Try and come up with a definition of dull, and you'd be hard-pressed to match the past nine months release schedule in the games sector. It is as though life has been on hold ahead of the blockbuster launches of the new Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

Until last week the console games market was down nearly 20% on 2012, itself a year in which volume declined by nearly 30%.

And then Grand Theft Auto V comes along and all bets are off. The UK's entertainment retailers sold over 2m units in just five days. Tills were stuffed and card machines beeped to the tune of £85m, and GTA V accounted for nine out of ten of the games sold last week. To put that in context, the previous week's Number One Saints Row IV sold around 20,000 units worth little more than £500,000.

Not only did GTA V break the all-time record for first day sales, selling 1.57m units in 24 hours, generating sales of £65m, according to MCV, GTA V's launch week was bigger than all the other GTA launch weeks combined, and it sold 2.4 times more in week one than GTA IV.

A key part of that huge success story was the commitment and hardwork of UK entertainment retailers and their staff. Almost 2,000 stores opened at midnight to mark the game's arrival. Warehouse staff and delivery drivers despatched hundreds of thousands of copies of the name direct to consumers' homes from the nation's internet retailers.

Clearly they weren't doing it out of charitable feelings for the game's publisher, Rockstar Games, but it was an incredible effort, and it should be said an effort which can be made at any time of the year.  The reality is that this incredible retail machine, the huge amount of real estate and staff committed by retailers to games, is under-utilised for much of the year.

We have become accustomed to games sales being back-ended - nearly 50% of sales in 2012 came in the last 13 weeks - but this year looks set to be even more extreme than ever. The only thing which is likely to act as a brake on the market in the final six weeks of the year, will be the availability of stock of the new generation of consoles.

Retailers understand that not every game can be a GTA or a Call Of Duty or a FIFA. They understand that the console market is cyclical. But wouldn't it be a lot more efficient for them and beneficial for the games industry if they didn't have to wait until September each year to roll up their sleeves and really get down to work.

Share with