Game Group needs Dan Brown-style saviour

For any retailer reliant on the creative industry, a Da Vinci Code-type success can make their year...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

No such luck so far in 2009 for Game Group, however. The video game retailer said on Wednesday that its half-year profits were down nearly 60% on the same period last year (to £14.5m). Game actually seemed more recession-proof than most retailers, thanks to its younger customer base and the trend towards stay-at-home entertainment. But whereas last year Grand Theft Auto IV was flying off the shelves faster than a expert car-jacking, this year there's been no killer title (so to speak) to match. At a time when the book industry is rejoicing in the success of the latest Dan Brown novel, it's a reminder of just how reliant these retailers are on the occasional blockbuster...

Although there's been no big new games to shout about, the release of Brown's latest effort The Lost Symbol has been a shot in the arm for the entire publishing industry. Like it or loathe it, Brown's formulaic conspiracy-lit is incredibly popular - the Da Vinci Code has now sold an extraordinary 80m copies, while publisher Random House reports that they've already shifted about 2m copies of the new one (including record first-week sales). That's not quite Harry Potter levels, but it's still a ridiculous number by the usual standards of the industry - and it'll be a huge boost for everyone from Random House to Amazon to Waterstones. He's even shifted 100,000 e-books, so as well as saving an old industry, Brown might be helping to create a new one.

The flipside of this huge sales boost, however, is that (unless some other huge blockbuster emerges in the meantime) next year's figures are going to look pretty lame by comparison. That's been the big problem for Game in the last six months: although 25m of us now own a games console, and sales of the latest Sims and Pokemon games have apparently been 'solid', there's been a large GTA-shaped hole in the top line. Like drugs companies, book and game sellers are heavily reliant on the latest big thing.

The good news for Game is that it's got more chance of finding another GTA than the books industry has of finding another Harry Potter. In fact, chief exec Lisa Morgan reckons that the forthcoming 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2' (we can't say we know much about it, but presumably it involves walking round an online war zone shooting at Japanese teenagers) could be the biggest-selling video game in history. Indeed, it's made her so optimistic about the Christmas period - always the biggest for game sales - that she's hiked the divi by 5%. And with some justification; these franchises are so popular that not even a few scathing reviews (the FT, for instance, memorably described the Lost Symbol as 'filled with cliché, bombast, undigested research and pseudo-intellectual codswallop') will stop the titles flying off the shelves...

In today's bulletin:

Jaguar to shut UK plant as Mandelson wades into Opel row
HIV 'vaccine' a false dawn for Big Pharma?
JJB boss has another pop at Ashley - as losses treble
Game Group needs Dan Brown-style saviour
Six million people can't get no (job) satisfaction?

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