Modern Price Warfare, A Conspiracy Theory and A New Record

In its first day of sales, it’s reported that the Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2 sold just under 5 million copies in North America and the United Kingdom combined. This equates to around $310 million dollars or £186 million pounds, and in real terms was the biggest first day in gaming history. To put this into perspective, the previous titleholder of this record was Grand Theft Auto IV which shifted 3.6 million units on its first day of sales in 2008 and looked hard to beat until now.

Gaming launches are inherently ‘Front-loaded’ compared to other forms of media due to the high number of pre-sales leading up to the official launch date, but maybe there are other factors that contributed to its initial success here in the UK. It seems that another form of warfare has been raging in UK supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, who are all vying to get their piece of the Modern Warfare action and attempt to undercut online sellers with loss-leading deals. Modern Warfare 2 was launched at midnight on Monday November 9th, and all over the UK gamers rushed to get their hands on a copy. But the battle had begun in the weeks and days leading the launch, with adverts appearing from retailers offering ever-cheaper deals, and a price war soon emerged.

  • Sainsbury’s are selling the first-person shooter for £26
  • Tesco are selling it for £25 when bought with another game
  • Asda have it at £32 no questions asked

Online, Amazon matched the £32 price tag and even the wholesaler Makro have offered the game for just £20 in conjunction with an online voucher.

Disappointingly Game, HMV and Gamestation have all kept £44.99 price tags. Even 5 days after launch I went to get myself a copy of the game in Birmingham, and that’s the cheapest I could find a copy unless I hit a supermarket. We all have a certain loyalty to individual retailers. Maybe it’s the staff and customer service they offer which are the main factors why we shop there, but how many of you were swayed by these low prices? Has this in any way contributed to the games initial figures? And in reality does Activision condone this practice to boost its sales figures?

On one hand it shows the power that gaming has, and its importance to retailers even in these cash restricted times, and a good title will always be a money spinner for all concerned. On the other hand have certain retailers got more power with the distributors to set their own pricing structure? Or do they just go against their wishes and simply make one of the best titles of 2009 a loss leader to sell food?

Now being in possession of a copy the game, it’s everything I thought it would be. A real achievement for Activision and taking this genre of first-person shooter to a new level. I eventually paid £44.99 because I have always frequented the same retailer; I know the staff and have built up a rapport with them over many years of gaming. The extra few pounds I paid made sure the guys that have always served me continue to do-so, and the retailer continues trading and will be there on my next visit. How can legitimate game retailers have an even playing field if there’s a price war raging where we would normally buy our groceries?

Peter Gray

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