Supermarkets are getting a grip on gaming in the wake of the success of PlayStation 2 and the rise of budget titles

Asda used to employ the services of 11-year old Wigan schoolboy Daniel Willis to advise it on the best computer and video games to stock. Daniel had been less than impressed by the range he saw on offer at his local store.

All the supermarkets are relatively new to the games market, having only stocked a significant range within the last three years, and they still have a lot to learn about this product group.

Safeway only launched into games this year and titles account for around 5%-10% of the total home entertainment square footage in each of its stores.

It provides games charts for PlayStation 2, Playstation 1, CD-Rom, X-Box and GameCube, and in a strategic move to build loyalty among games buyers it has installed two extra bays of back catalogue in 290 shops offering multibuys linked to titles such as Lord of the Rings or to specific hardware formats.

“These promotions are changed every four to six weeks and are used to show we offer the best-price deals on the market,” says Safeway buying manager Ria Konkon.

Sales of computer and video games software and hardware totalled £2bn in 2002 [source: Elspa/Chart Track],
an increase of 8% in a year. Software alone was worth £1.1bn.

The biggest age group purchasing games remains those aged 25-34, and with a male bias the supermarkets still have some work to do to change the shopping habits of the more traditional gamer.

Much of the sales growth in grocery has been stimulated by the success of PlayStation 2.

“Playstation 2 has emerged as the lead format and the price points now available have made games an impulse purchases in supermarkets,” says Mark Cale, a games industry guru who formed publishing company Play It at the end of last year.

Play It has a range of six budget titles priced at £9.99 including games such as Seek & Destroy and Road Trip Adventure. The company has introduced 14 more titles in time for Christmas.

“We are competing with music and video rather than full-price games.

“We have had successful gondola end promotions with Asda, and Deal of the Week coverage in Safeway. Our aim is to get counter units at the checkout around Christmas,” says Cale.

Spar is another chain to identify extra opportunities from the success of Playstation 2. The company only entered the games market two years ago but in the last 12 months buying director Mark Keeley has implemented a national sales strategy for games to create a consistent offer nationwide.