Are Boxing Day sales over for games?

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It was good to walk in to my local GAME store and see people queuing to buy games this past Saturday. Obviously the glut of online retail sales and their frankly aggressive marketing hasn’t dulled the public’s taste for high street shopping. And given that my town has either GAME, a CEX, or a very small (practically non-existent) section of WH Smith’s for entertainment sales, there truly isn’t anywhere else to go except online. Or maybe a supermarket but I always find it weird that these big chain stores are becoming the only non-online outlet for my hobby vices. I’ll have sale copy of NBA with my clearance advent calenders and family pack of Wotsits, please… My shopping receipts probably look like I have marijuana munchies all the time.

Which is why it has surprised me that big old Amazon, the internet terror that has dominated the retail and server-scape for the past decade has had no games on sale during the Boxing Day sales period. I mean quite literally ZERO. I know, I’ve been watching it like a hawk. DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s, yes. Xbox One console sales, yes. But games themselves? No. GAME itself had better prices on games before Christmas, which all went up after Saturday.

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But cast your mind back to Black Friday. Games galore were on sale. Mostly Shadow of Mordor and a few others. But there was certainly far more options at that time than there is now. I even highlighted on twitter how the Xbox store has an old game at effectively double the price compared to the US store. Although the discounts on PSN/XBL rarely get to be really… discounted.

Of all the games discounted this period, the big ones have to be Assassins Creed Unity, a game that was incredibly broken at launch and has received such a bad reception that a price drop was needed to shift the units, and The Crew, a game also with bugs at launch and that was mostly downloaded for free because of the issues with the former game. In that regard, any sales are good for those games. But there appears to be, compared to other times of the year, a massive absence of games on sale, or games that weren’t already on sale beforehand at better prices.

So is this it for the traditional “Boxing Day” sales time for games? Retail seems to have so many different sale periods these days that it’s hard to even define a sale period. No doubt the Easter period will see some of the better deals for gaming sales, or the same games at further discount. But the availability of digital platforms, of digital stores and the fact that every big release this year seems mostly to be part of the annual franchise brigade that holds their price until they become worthless in two years time, suggests that our linear interpretation of sales is probably at an end.

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Which is a bit of a shame because if anything us gamers have had to become more thrifty. I read a tweet recently about how even freelance journalists like myself can’t afford to buy all the games they want to play. I can’t either, I’ve just played some discounts and Tesco vouchers rather well. So all of us have to make use of good timing and good searching if we really want something.

Of course this probably has more to do with the success of Black Friday rather than anything else. I had a word with the management in my local GAME store, just casually, to discuss the prices. It was a bit crazy where Xbox One versions of games were cheaper than the PS4 versions and even pre-owned was more expensive than the new copies of games like The Last of Us. In the space of four days, The Crew had gone from £25 to £35 and back down to £30, presumably when someone realised that £35 was probably too high. The distributors and the console “powers-at-be” set these prices and amend them if they need to. So really, it’s got very little to do with the outlets selling the games as to what deals we get.

But Black Friday’s massive success has thrown a spanner in the works. From a business point of view, the January sales are great for showing profits and accounts in the black over a typically poor quarter for retail (as the pictured graph shows). The strength of the first month makes the rest of the financial quarter rather mute. What Black Friday has done has moved that to before Christmas and the success of those sales seem to have thrown everyone off. The price setters have already done what they needed to in order to drive sales so they don’t need to discount so much in January to drive those profit margins. It’s something that could unsettle our economy a little bit if the companies don’t adjust their predictions correctly.

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A great example of this is the rumour that the Xbox One is going back up in price to $400 in the US. That would knock on to the UK and see console prices likely return from the £320 mark to about £360-380. Given that you could have purchased an Xbox One during Black Friday for £269.99, enough units appear to have been shifted to start raising the prices, ready for when past generation game production finally starts to slow down. So when people are “forced” to upgrade, the prices will be higher, but enough has been sold already to inspire a higher amount of game production for those consoles. It’s a bit cheeky but it’s business.

What that means is that the traditional time of purchasing games appears to be at an end, something my local GAME agreed with despite queues to buy products. Steam certainly makes buying video games very fluid and their sale periods seem to be an event unto themselves. Online/High Street retail seems to have three periods that will shift units, Black Friday, Christmas and Easter. But Boxing Day, a time we used to love for having a wallet full of generously donated notes, looks like it will join that great retail gig in the sky along with Woolworths, Our Price and C-List celebrities opening Supermarkets.

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Destiny – By The Numbers

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So it’s almost upon us, that time we’ve been waiting for since E3 2013. The time when Destiny comes to us and the Traveller will occupy our time solidly for the next 3-4 months.

So how many of us are actually waiting for that? And what is the deal with the numbers behind it? Let’s have a little run down, shall we?

Publisher Activision have said, although developer Bungie have disagreed with this in part, that Destiny has cost up to $500 million to make. That would make it the most expensive video game ever developed. A record that is currently held by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. Take Two and Rockstar reportedly spend around $115 million to develop the game and $150 million on marketing it, making a grand total of $265 million in total development cost. That figure would be nearly doubled if Activision’s account of costs are true. Bungie have said that the development costs went no where near that figure and that Activison would need to tell you how much they’ve spent on marketing. Although Take Two’s Q3 profits for 2013 thanks to GTA 5 were $1.62 billion so I’m sure they’re happy.

GTA 5 also shifted 32.5 million copies to make that figure. Destiny has already got a lot of pre-orders going for it, more than Watch_Dogs. The figures suggest that Destiny has beaten Watch_Dogs previous record of being the most pre ordered game for next-generation consoles and is the most Pre ordered new IP (intellectual property) in history. So how does this work out? Time for some maths:

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The Pre Order chart for the US (dated the week ending 23rd August) shows the Destiny pre-orders at that time. That was three weeks ago though so this could have grown quite exponentially. The next-generation console pre-orders total up to around 1,584,897 copies in the US alone. (we couldn’t find the EU figures unfortunately). All format pre-orders make that total 2,016,517 units. Now looking at Amazon.com, the prices of the two most readily available copies, the standard edition and limited edition, are priced respectively at $59.96 and $99.99 for all formats. Some numerical jiggery-pokery makes that an average price of $79.98. So how much have the pre-orders potentially made them? Well that would be a cool $161,281,029… That’s just over $161 million.

That figure is of course conjecture and not at all official. That does not however show any figures for the EU and other territories and obviously cannot legislate for how many people will actually buy it on the day of release either. Those records are currently held by Grand Theft Auto V.

The records that GTA 5 holds are incredible and it would take some monumental effort to beat them. The Guinness Book of Records shows that GTA 5 sold 11.21 million units in its first 24 hours. For Destiny to do that pretty much everyone that owns a PS4 would have to buy it and at least half of the people with an Xbox One if console sales figures are to be believed. GTA 5 made $815.7 million in the first 24 hours which is more than Marvel’s The Avengers and Guardians of The Galaxy films made in their opening weekends combined. Destiny has that potential but we’ll have to wait and see. The three records Destiny could potentially break at launch are: Best selling video game in 24 hours, Highest grossing video game in 24 hours and Highest grossing entertainment product in 24 hours.

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It is something that Bungie have done before however. When Halo 3 was released way back in 2007, it completely smashed then record holder Spider-Man 3 as the biggest US entertainment launch in history, making $170 million at launch. That also beat the final Harry Potter book as well and was helped by the 1.7 million pre-orders of the game.

The figures will be interesting given that, except for Watch_Dogs, this is the most high profile next generation release. It will dictate how many other games will go about their business in the years to come of this generation. I’m pretty sure the pre-order figures for the US also don’t include any console bundle pre-orders nor do they count the digital download platforms of Xbox Live and Playstation store. We’ll know for sure at the end of the week but one thing for certain is that the business end of Destiny will be talked about for as long and in as much detail as the game playing side will be.

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