High street retailer Game is set to compete head-on with it suppliers as it launches its own-brand computer games.
The move has raised concerns about the retailer’s motives, but it says its plans are limited and it is not meant to challenge the dominance of games publishers.
However, one industry observer says that if relations deteriorated as a result of the move, publishers could begin under-cutting the high street by selling games below the agreed retail price on their websites, hurting retailers’ margins.
However, Game’s UK and Ireland managing director Tricia Brennan says own-brand products will help drive differentiation on the high street and develop the company commercially.
“This isn’t about us doing something that threatens publishers,” she says. “It is about listening to developers who come to us with titles that may not otherwise be able to get to market.”
Game has already published own-brand anti-virus, driving-test and casino titles in the past, but observers say it is an area that has not been fully explored before.
John Davis, managing director of games industry marketing specialist Overdog, says: “I suspect this is simply a new route to market for independent developers. Publishers are still very, very powerful and have rosters of developers working for them, and those developers won’t want to jeopardise their relationships.”
But another industry source says publishers will be keeping an eye on the situation. “They seem to be suggesting they will pick up products that other publishers have rejected, so at the moment it is not a big concern,” he says.
He adds there could be issues over reduced shelf space in stores if the move takes off, and he warns that if relations deteriorated too far, then publishers could react by undercutting retailers on their own websites.