Supermarkets have often been blamed for the decline of many things, not least the brick and mortar specialist shop. From bakers to greengrocers, the rise of the supermarket has been blamed for the majority of closures, and when the whole GAME debacle began many were laying the blame squarely at aggressive supermarket pricing policy. But then, if that’s the case, and games are oh-so-much cheaper in the supermarkets, then why aren’t we all buying from them? This week Tesco made the boldest of claims, citing themselves as ‘The Home of Gaming’ but can it really back that claim up? And will it ever be the case that the supermarket is the go-to place for gaming?
The print ad that ran in the national newspapers made the following claims:
* 393 Stores Open At Midnight For New Game Releases
* Over 10,000 Games Available Online
* Pre-Order To Receive Your Game On Day Of Release, And Get Our Pre-Order Price Promise
* Collect Clubcard Points
* Trade Old Games For Money Off Anything In Store
* Free UK Delivery Or Click And Collect In-Store
So let’s break that down, starting with the free UK delivery/on-line ordering etc… Well Tesco doesn’t currently have a great track record with gamers, thanks to their policy of ‘If the price is wrong, we’ll not notify you for AGES and then we’ll cancel your order’. Some cases have seen Tesco not notifying their customers AT ALL, and the release date can pass without any product or apology. Also, why would you go on-line at Tesco, when sites such as Blockbuster, Shop-To and Gamestop are offering more complete services, with prices that are as good, if not better, AND throwing in exclusive DLC?
As far as I can remember with Tesco the only exclusive I’ve seen in store for a LONG time was the release of Lego Harry Potter Yrs 1-4 which had an exclusive to Tesco box set, which didn’t exactly set my world alight (Read about it here). So we can clearly see that the on-line offerings are nothing special, and as such can’t really contribute to the claim that Tesco is the ‘Home of Gaming’. Let alone the fact that they offer “10,000” games on-line. It sounds impressive, but with multiple platforms that could mean less than 2,000 titles. Nothing to brag about, and I guarantee you won’t be able to get a copy of Ico on the PS2, something I could get through other sites.
Now, let’s tackle that claim about the ‘midnight openings’. Well, given that many Tesco stores are open 24 hours a day for the best part of the week, of course they will be open at midnight. What isn’t detailed is the difficulty you can have getting a game if you turn up at a store at midnight, something I’ve attempted three times, and only once have I actually got the game I wanted – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the PS2 Fact Fans – with two attempts resulting in disgruntled dismay, after being told in one case that Tesco weren’t stocking the game, and another I was told that it was sold out, despite the fact that it was on the counter behind the assistant at the time. If you want a game at midnight, in 99% of cases you have to go to customer services, as the charts and new release areas are rarely stocked up until after the day shift staff arrive the next morning, and then you are at the mercy of one minimal paid night shift staff member who will usually be trained in customer service, but have generally have little interest in video games. This is the key failing, if you offer a ‘midnight opening’ you have to get behind it, train your staff up and make it an event, not just a product being made available as soon as is possible. Blockbuster UK have already stepped up offering a midnight launch event for Kinect Star Wars and the new Limited Edition Star Wars Console bundle at it’s Clapham store, offering freebies to people in the queue, and encouraging attendees to dress up. This is what makes a midnight event. It’s more about creating a reason to be out at that time of night, than a convenience thing. Tesco have the funds and resources to do this, but until they do it’s a barely reasonable claim.
Pre-Orders too, God, don’t pre-order at Tesco unless you want vague pricing concepts and a high (usually non-refundable) deposit price. The incentive of ‘getting your game on release day’ is not good enough to warrant moving to a supermarket for a pre-order. DLC would swing it, perhaps a few great exclusives, but having the game on release day – especially in a store that’s bragging about being open at midnight AND claiming that they are the biggest chain of game stores in the UK – should be something they can already guarantee.
Finally let’s look at the trade in old games against anything in store claim. Well, yes. Launched as a trial model in 2010 and nationally in 2011 the move towards hitting the trade-in market hasn’t been a great one for Tesco. Prices are barely competitive, and they only generally take specific titles, not an issue you’ll find at CEX, High Street Stores or other indie game stores. As was rightly pointed out by one commenter recently people don’t trade in great games unless they are desperate – generally – and then they want cash, not fifty pence off of a loaf of bread. If you go into Game right now – while you still can – you will find a lot of poor titles, annually replaced sports titles and big franchise titles that you probably already own. The rarities don’t generally make it to the stores, and when they do, generally savvy staff members will purchase them for themselves – or eBay. Tesco could do with creating an app or a website that allows you to value your collection at home, as well as offering to guarantee to pay the best for the games. That’s they route towards being the home of gaming, but it’s something that simply is not happening at this point in time.
Taking all of that into account it’s clear that Tesco’s advert is aimed not at gamers, but at families, parents and casual gamers. It’s a square assault on the market that’s in somewhat of a limbo while Game teeters on the brink. Naturally Tesco has every right to make a move into such a lucrative market, but one advert does not a home of gaming make. Start off with actually stocking a wide range of games, that would be a good start. In my local superstore there are TWO 3DS titles available to buy. TWO! If a game isn’t in their chart, it simply isn’t stocked, and if I’m honest their pricing is all over the place. New release titles ranged from £35 to £45, while others were vastly more expensive than other stores locally – for example Battlefield 3 is about £35 in Tesco, but £27.99 in Blockbuster (with the option to pick up a pre-owned copy for only £17.99). Again, this uncompetitive edge proves unequivocally that Tesco isn’t interested in the Gamer, but it is VERY interested in their money. This is why Tesco can’t be the home of gaming. The home of gaming has to care, it has to have passion and more importantly it has to know the difference between Call of Duty and Call of Juarez. I haven’t bought a game since that Lego Harry Potter ‘Exclusive’ and until their ethos changes I won’t be tempted in, as a gamer.