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GameStop: PC Game Retail Sales, Diversity Decreasing Notably
GameStop: PC Game Retail Sales, Diversity Decreasing Notably Exclusive
September 18, 2008 | By Christian Nutt, Staff

September 18, 2008 | By Christian Nutt, Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Talking to Gamasutra, GameStop executives have revealed that PC sales in their stores are down from a year ago, with the number of new PC retail games "down probably more than what I had anticipated", according to SVP Bob McKenzie -- but with spikes for key games like Spore and digital downloads.

In a Gamasutra interview with GameStop's Bob McKenzie, SVP of merchandising, and Tony Bartel, EVP of merchandise and marketing, to be published in full tomorrow, the duo was asked about the performance of PC games at the major specialty retailer.

Mackenzie explained that PC retail game sales at the specialty retailer, which operates 5,557 retail stores in 16 countries worldwide, are "down from a year ago. We had planned for it to be down. Again, the number of new titles we have on PC is down probably more than what I had anticipated it would be down -- but I don't see that as a threat or a signaling, we're not backing away from it at all."

As for highlights for the PC market, Mackenzie notes that there are still some notable games that push the envelope: "There are some big titles coming out, especially World of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King. For a PC title to approach being in the top 10 for the year, there are very few that can do it, and obviously Blizzard does have the majority of them when that does happen." Spore was the other title the duo cited in this area.

Regarding some GameStop stores that don't actually stock PC games -- and changes in emphasis on those that do, Mackenzie pointed out: "A year ago we had 350 stores that didn't carry PC merchandise and today, that number hasn't grown any... [bit] the PC market is definitely still very alive, and a portion of our business that we're hanging onto."

EVP Bartel also revealed somewhat of a reversal of previous fortune in terms of how PC games are stocked in many GameStop stores: "We've taken a lot of the PC games where we kind of had them on a gondola, from a space perspective. But we've just realized, this is too important of a category, so we've put a lot of them up on the wall again where there's stronger representation in our stores."

Finally, is GameStop feeling the bite from the competition of download services like Steam, on the PC platform? Mackenzie agreed: "[Digital distribution] is growing, but we're also growing with it. We offer digital downloads on PC, especially, through, we see that continuing to be a market that will continue to grow, obviously."

He added, however: "Our position with our publishers is that we're not afraid to compete with them -- against that digital distribution model. We can offer it. It's really another choice for the consumer, as long as they're not making that choice an unfair advantage for them, where they're able to sell it earlier or they add something into the game that we can't get our hands on for our consumer."

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Wolf Wozniak
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Here's a fun read.

Also, I've stopped shopping at GameStop, since they are a bunch of jackasses.

Logan Foster
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Damn, maybe I should go and buy a lotto ticket? GameStop finally realizes that it cannot religate PC games to the tiny little shelf in the back corner of the store doesn't work and plans to do something about it!

Maybe one thing GameStop should invest in doing as well is promoting the lesser know games that don't get the million dollar marketing campaigns to show consumers that great PC games aren't just the ones that are overhyped on the internet for ages.

Now if they could only force all of their stories to clean up their appearances and not look like pawn shops I might actually want to stop their again (you feel so dirty going into some of those run down stores when in comparison to their bright, clean and organized ones).

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Maybe GS should actually stock a decent selection of PC games before bitching that they don't sell.

Peter Park
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Blame all on Steam. Because I do think more and more are going on Steam to buy and play games. And I like it.

I suspect the trend of digital distribution will soon go over to console market as well, causing decrease in game retailer performances. It'll be like extinction of market, but if that means no more Used Game trading, I'm all for it. :P Let's support the developers...

John Palamarchuk
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Everytime a publisher offers me a PC game for cheaper with digital distrubition I buy it through that means as a hope to show the publisher that they can eliminate the lame middle man known as GameStop out of the equation and pass the savings/profit onto both us (the consumer) and them (the publisher).

Everytime a publisher like Blizzard tries to sell me the same game for the SAME price that I could get it in a retail store, I buy it at GameStop, hoping to show publishers that if they want to eliminate the middle man, they can't just take all that extra saved profit of manufacturing costs, wholesale selling to GameStop etc, give us (the consumers) a cut of that with cheaper prices. Even $5 off the $50 price tag helps.

Valve gets this, Steam prices are pretty much always cheaper than retail. Blizzard still doesn't have a clue, which is why Burning Crusade is still $30 through their website, but $20 in retail stores.

Stupid companies with stupid executives.

In regards to this article, PC gamers are WAY more savvy than typical console gamers. Half the console sales go to moms and dads walking in asking the GameStop minimum wage teenage employees what game they should buy. Of course PC games sales are going to drop year over year from now on at GameStop. Why would we pay more to shop at GameStop when we could just click a button before going to sleep and wake up the next day with the game ready to go, cheaper and less hassle.

Juan Del Rio
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Go into a Gamespot store and try to find the PC Section and if you do find it, try getting to it.

Jeromy Baldridge
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I tend to buy most of my PC games from Best Buy (I'd say around 90%). The BB in my area has probably 20x the shelf space for PC titles than GS does. I would guess that the PC games take up about half of the space of all the other gaming systems they have there. I love going in to browse the big long row of PC titles. I also like that I am asked "Can I help you find something?", as opposed to "Hey this is coming out you should pre-order it if you want to be able to get a copy." (And then one of the few times I did pre-order they didn't get what I pre-ordered in anyway, so I *had* to go to BB and get it.) Don't get me started on how slow GS employees are...

I know that I sound like a shill for BB, but it's had not too when GS is _so_ bad (In my defense I'll say to *never* buy any PC cables/connectors from BB as you'll pay ~20x too much).

Michael Gehri
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"Our position with our publishers is that we're not afraid to compete with them". Translation: "I have big balls and I'm not afraid to swing them around!" They know they can snuff a publisher that tries to sell there own product with Steam, or from the publishers website. Game stop is hurting the gaming industry with the reselling of used console titles for only 5 bucks off the full price. Note, they cant trades on PC titles.

Tyler Shogren
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This is a GameStop issue, not a PC game issue.

Leon Leithoff
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A few comments:

Digital distribution is already on the consoles: XBox Live Arcade, Nintentendo's Wii download store (forget the name, too lazy to look), and Sony even has one rolling out for the PS3.

I'll agree that GameStop has created their own lack of PC game sales compared to what used to be available at stores like EB (prior to merger) and currently Best Buy. (No other stores worth their weight in protective jewel cases exist in my city that carry a selection of PC games... Wal-Mart and Target are no better than the local GameStop.) I distictly recall being able to stop at the EB games in the mall in the late 90s and being able to find 5-7 year old games in the bargain bin for $5-$10, and buying a lot of them, too. What I'd like to see is what percentage of their PC sales are through digital distribution and retail. Also, maybe they should sell gaming rigs in the store (or maybe just online) like they sell consoles. Maybe that would help their PC game sales... (or not :p)

As far as digital distribution killing off retail sales... Withut digging out the financial reports, I'd say that it's hurting, but at the same time potentially helping the industry grow. I know several games that I've only had access to through DD, almost all online/MMO style games or games originally developed in Flash or for some other arcade style website. The restrictions on some of the services to be logged into the site to play are too restrictive, though. What do I do when I lose my net connection but still have power? Watch tv? (I could also bring up some of the anti-piracy software written in, but that's another subject all together.)

John Ingrams
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I have this opinion (It is an opinion because Steam has never released sales numbers, or at least verifiable ones):

I do not believe the sales downturn for PC games at retail is due at all to download sites like Steam. As long as you have major titles like Fallout 3 selling over one million units on PC in the space of 2 weeks, it is obvious that retail (both main street and internet retailers (who ship full product through the mail I mean!) are the main reason for that.

The reason I do not think Steam account for much in sales is based mostly on their monthly charts (without sales figures). When you get month's where titles like 'Bejeweled' (a casual puzzle game) are number one, and where in a month like October 2008, with so many great PC tiles released, Fallout 3 is No.1 based on pre-orders, No.2 was Far Cry 2, but a point and click adventure was No.3. As long as casual puzzle games are getting to No.1 and point and click adventures are getting to No.3 tellme that either the adventure genre is making a hug comeback, casual gaming is going through the roof or Steam sales are so low that these type of titles can make an impact. I believe the latter is true. If Steam was really moving huge numbers, as some PC gamers/media keep telling us they are (without any proof), I refuse to believe they would not shout about it from the rooftops! Like Blizzard does with WoW subscribers, etc.

10 years ago, adventure/simulation and puzzle PC games accounted for about 30% of the PC market. Those genres no longer exist and others have become First Person Shooter variations (notice how RTS games are becoming more 'frantic' and less 'strategy' - just like shooters!). All this tells me why PC game sales is down over 50% in the last 10 years. Game stores like Gamestop (and especially Department Stores) are selling less titles and saying that fewer PC titles are being released to sell, and Steam (and others) refuse to tell us what units they are moving.

You cannot have a gaming format with fewer titles and fewer genres not selling less. Certainly more-so in PC games, innovation has mostly died. Can you imagine an ICO, Guitar Hero or BigLittlePlanet coming out on PC only, from a PC developer and PC publisher? Many of these titles, that sell huge numbers on console, are seen as too innovative for even PC conversions! Only 'PC type' games now get converted to PC. So we get RPG's like Fallout 3 and maybe Fable II, and we get RTS's like EndWar and Dawn of War 2, but this is not enough, in my opinion, to sustain the PC as a gaming format.

In 3 years or less, I expect PC gaming to be, in effect, only on the web. In the form of the indie publishers and companies like StarDock. Steam may be still there helping smaller publishers get attention, but whether Half Life 3 and certainly Half Life 4 will be on PC is an open debate in my opinion. I am not even sure that Fallout 4, due in late 2010 according to Bethesda, will be released on PC.

2009 is a make or break year for PC gaming. 2008 was a good year by luck. Many AAA titles, worked on for 3-5 years all came out this year. We wont get a Fallout or Far Cry next year, and we'll have to see what happens to PC as a gaming format.