MCV has spoken to over 170 indie and big-chain games retailers about the year’s ups and downs.
These included GAME, Amazon, The Hut Group, GamesNation, GameSeek, Sholing Video, Discover, The Game Collection, Games Centre, Eclipse Home Entertainment, Barkman Computers, Console Magic, Chips, Playtime Video Games, Shogun Games, Insane Games, Game On, Games’n’Gear, Planet Games, Cool Spot Gaming, Console Connections, Bits and Pieces, Wayne’s Computer and Games, Stan’s Games Exchange, Game Save, Games Exchange, Console Yourself, Future Games Xchange, SeeDee Johns, Extreme Games, Joypad Games, PlayNation, Abbey Video Games, Level Up Games, Playaway, 720 Games, and Video Games 24-7.
Which games publisher best supported your business in 2016?
For the third consecutive year, Microsoft has been cited as the most supportive publisher, by 30 per cent of the retailers MCV talked to. The platform holder’s performance is slightly down compared to last year – it then gathered 31 per cent of the vote.
Ubisoft has stolen the second spot from Bethesda with 20 per cent of the vote (compared to 12 per cent in 2015), with retailers praising the publisher’s ‘good deals’ and the fact it looks after indie retail.
Sony still sits at No.3, named by 15 per cent of retailers, while Bethesda has been pushed down to No.4 with 11 per cent of the vote, against 26 per cent in 2015.
Which console has performed best for you in 2016?
PlaySTation 4 was the best-selling console in 2016, and 62 per cent of the retailers MCV spoke to backed Sony’s hardware too.
Xbox One took second place with 24 per cent of the vote, while the Xbox One S has landed at No.3, cited by nine per cent of the voters. Many retailers told MCV that the Xbox One has been gaining ground this year though, especially since the S version of the machine launched. The latter boosted sales for Microsoft’s console and sold out pretty quickly, with some retailers wishing they had more stock.
Meanwhile, retailers say PS4 Slim and Pro have not seen a lot of customers interest.
Which games platform do you feel will rule 2017?
For the fourth year running, UK retailers predicted that PlayStation 4 will be the dominant console in the coming year. The machine took 57 per cent of the vote this year, including figures for the PlayStation 4 Pro, but overall it was down 13 per cent on last year’s 70 per cent.
That’s partly due to a crop of new hardware launches on the horizon, with nine per cent of stores anticipating Nintendo Switch to take 2017, up from last year’s one per cent, while four per cent predict victory for Microsoft’s Scorpio.
Xbox One’s dominance has remained steady at 27 per cent, with no change from 2015.
How important is exclusive content and/or pre-order bonuses to your store?
The importance of exclusive content and pre-order bonuses has slightly increased in 2016, with 75 per cent of retailers saying it’s ‘very important’, compared to 74 per cent last year.
Retailers have told MCV that it’s a way for them to secure sales, as well as giving them a guarantee customers will come to them instead of supermarkets.
But the amount of stores stating it’s not important has grown as well, from seven per cent in 2015 to 15 per cent this year.
For seven per cent, exclusive content and bonuses don’t seem to have an impact on their sales, while three per cent think their importance varies, depending on the game.
How would you assess the launch of virtual reality in 2016?
When asked about their expectations for VR last year, 55 per cent of retailers told MCV they were expecting it to fail. Now that it has actually launched, 64 per cent of them have said the new tech has got off to a good start.
But even for stores that considered VR a success, the lack of stock has been a setback.
It’s also the main reason behind the 36 per cent of retailers who said VR’s launch was a failure. Some stores said VR is not ready for the mainstream as it lacks triple-A software. Many retailers still see VR as a gimmick and said a better communication from manufacturers could have helped to boost sales.
But the reaction to VR is positive overall with stores, with PSVR stealing all the attention while HTC Vive and Oculus Rift made little impact.
What type of product – be it a game, accessory or hardware – would you like to see more of in 2017?
The lack of VR stock really appears to be the letdown of the year for retailers, as 33 per cent of them have said virtual reality games, accessories and hardware stock are what they would like to see more of in 2017.
The overwhelming number of sequels in 2016 has apparently also left a bitter taste in retailers’ mouths as 21 per cent of them now wish there will be more new IPs next year.
On a more positive note, the good performance of Nintendo’s NES Mini and the booming of the retro trend have led retailers to hope for more retro content next year, starting with Mini versions of the SNES and the N64 – as well as more stock of the very successful NES Mini.
What game are you most looking forward to in 2017?
Nearly a fifth of games store managers are most looking forward to Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2017.
Announced in October, a minute-long clip is all it took for 18 per cent retailers to name it their most anticipated title.
In second place is Guerrilla’s new IP, Horizon Zero Dawn, taking 14 per cent of the vote. The PS4 exclusive was originally set for a 2016 release, but is now coming to shelves on February 28th, 2017.
Mass Effect Andromeda claimed third place with 13 per cent, while Nintendo’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild, came in fourth with nine per cent. Both were set to launch this year, but were delayed until 2017.
The percentage of UK games retailers stocking digital content has shrunk in 2016, with 92 per cent of retailers asked responding in the affirmative. Last year, 96 per cent of retailers said they stocked digital content.
Of that 92 per cent, 85 per cent were happy with the level of stock available to them, with many retailers singling out CentreSoft’s digital content-focused DLCSoft brand as providing the best all-round service. Xbox continues to be the most under-represented platform holder this year, however, and retailers said they would like to see more codes and season passes for specific games available.
15 per cent weren’t happy with the level of content open to them, with some retailers stating there needs to be a better way of displaying and merchandising the range of digital content available. Meanwhile, indie retailers said they would love to start selling digital content from Steam. This is something that CentreSoft is addressing with updates to DLCSoft.
Black Friday turned into a bit of a monster this year, with many retailers stretching their deals out over the course of several weeks rather than the usual long-weekend stint at the end of November. Despite this, 93 per cent of UK games retail took part in the sales event this year, an increase of four per cent on last year’s survey.
Of that figure, 65 per cent said Black Friday was good for business and provided excellent stimulus for the Christmas spending season. The remaining 35 per cent, however, said the sales event ended up being a bit of a mixed bag, saying it devalues new game releases.
Retailers also said some customers were expecting bigger savings than those on offer, which made it hard to stay competitive. The sheer length of Black Friday this year was an issue as well, with retailers saying it was difficult to get an accurate reading on sales figures on the day itself.
In terms of success, what was your game of 2016?
If 2016 was a football game, then FIFA was robbed in injury time by a veteran striker off the bench.
It took a commanding lead since its launch in September, and has been scoring regularly at the tills for months. Making it a hit with 27 per cent of our respondents.
Pokmon Sun and Moon then strolled onto the pitch and scored 29 per cent in a few scant weeks.
This was likely driven by the Pokmon Go phenomena that gripped the nation this year.
Below those two is Battlefield 1 on 11 per cent, comfortably ahead of Call of Duty this year.
Which peripherals manufacturer would you credit for best quality this year?
Turtle Beach remains retailers’ favourite peripherals manufacturer, for the third consecutive year. The firm’s popularity has grown by one per cent year-on-year, to reach 29 per cent of the vote this year.
Microsoft and Sony have also kept their spots compared to last year, respectively at No.2 with 14 per cent of the vote and No.3 with 12 per cent.
Corsair entered the rankings this year, being voted for by 4 per cent of the retailers.
The manufacturer has been dubbed as consistent and reliable by the stores MCV talked to.
Which distributor best-supported your business in 2016? (indie-only)
Another year and another resounding victory for CentreSoft. It dropped a couple of points on last year’s results but it’s still far-and-away the distributor of choice for indie retailers, claiming 74 per cent of the vote. Between CentreSoft and its Advantage brand – which came in second – the firm claimed 80 per cent of votes.
Once again CentreSoft was praised for its robust support of indie retail. That included comments on well-priced bundles, supply of point-of-sales materials and the ongoing success of its DLCSoft digital download system.
Are your pre-orders up, down or about the same in 2016? (indie-only)
The pre-order market continues to paint a bleak picture in 2016, with 43 per cent of indie retailers saying they had seen a dip in pre-orders this year.
This is an improvement on last year, where 45 per cent of stores noted depressed pre-orders. However, the number of stores saying pre-orders have increased this year has shrunk, dipping to just 17 per cent compared to last year’s 23 per cent. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of stores estimated that pre-orders had stayed about the same this year.
What was your store’s biggest challenge this year? (indie-only)
Competing with online retailers and bigger stores has remained the No.1 challenge for indie retail.
This figure has actually decreased a lot: in 2015, it was the main concern for 41 per cent of the stores, against 16 per cent this year.
Other challenges have risen, too. Quiet summer months have been an issue, with 14 per cent saying it was a challenge compared with only three per cent last year.
Games not living up to expectations was also an issue retailers touched upon, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 being a letdown for two per cent of stores each.