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Author Topic: Wal-Mart controls what games you play  (Read 2434 times)
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« on: April 11, 2006, 07:24:01 PM »

From this week's Escapist Magazine:
Quote
Do you buy your electronic games at Wal-Mart? Never mind, doesn't matter. The retail games you buy at GameStop or Best Buy or online are the games Wal-Mart has decided you can buy.

Publisher sales reps inform Wal-Mart buyers of games in development; the games' subjects, titles, artwork and packaging are vetted and sometimes vetoed by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart tells a top-end publisher it won't carry a certain game, the publisher kills that game. In short, every triple-A game sold at retail in North America is managed start to finish, top to bottom, with the publisher's gaze fixed squarely on Wal-Mart, and no other.

It's a very interesting article.  So what do you think?
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2006, 07:31:02 PM »

Have they carried all of the GTA games?
Did they carry Leisure Suit larry: Magna cum Laude?
How about that Playboy mansion game?
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2006, 08:18:57 PM »

I think quite a few short sighted publishers do this, but I suspect the games made for mature audiences don't bother with this tripe since wal mart doesn't carry.
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2006, 08:28:41 PM »

Quote from: "warning"
From this week's Escapist Magazine:
Quote
Do you buy your electronic games at Wal-Mart? Never mind, doesn't matter. The retail games you buy at GameStop or Best Buy or online are the games Wal-Mart has decided you can buy.

Publisher sales reps inform Wal-Mart buyers of games in development; the games' subjects, titles, artwork and packaging are vetted and sometimes vetoed by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart tells a top-end publisher it won't carry a certain game, the publisher kills that game. In short, every triple-A game sold at retail in North America is managed start to finish, top to bottom, with the publisher's gaze fixed squarely on Wal-Mart, and no other.

It's a very interesting article.  So what do you think?

Sounds like your typical Wal-Mart bashing.  Does the Escapist have any real evidence that "top-end publishers" kill games just because WM says they won't carry it?  Or just baseless speculation?  They only directly quote one or two people directly in the gaming industry, and even then they're hardly "top-end publishers".  Some guy from BeachWare (?) and an anonymous developer at Ritual - not exactly stellar sources.

I have no doubt that many games are developed with the idea of reaching the greatest number of potential buyers possible - that's just smart business.  But as far as Wal_mart having the power to kill any title just by saying they won't carry it?  I don't buy it.
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2006, 08:39:00 PM »

If Psychonauts had WM's approval, i wonder why didn't sell a million copies.
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2006, 08:46:37 PM »

Mmmm, I'm sure this is true, but I'm doubtful as to how widespread it is.  I can see EA and Atari sucking off W*M on a regular basis, for instance.  But if you're a smaller publisher releasing a non-edgy product, (great example would be Stardock and GalCiv2), I imagine they don't bother to get their stuff OKed before they work on it.

It depends on the developer's and publisher's combined attitudes toward the products they're putting out.  If their philosophy is that gaming is just like any other business (don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle), like, say, EA and Atari think it is, I'm sure they'll consult with their biggest reseller before pouring money into something that reseller might not carry.  If their philosophy is that a game's quality, cohesiveness, and maybe even artistic 'vision' influence sales, I doubt they give two farts what Wal-Mart thinks of their game.

Arguably this article is pretty much debunked by the fact that Grand Theft Auto / Leisure Suit Larry / The Playboy Game can be found on W*M shelves.
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2006, 08:47:15 PM »

The problem is, with WalMart's clout in purchasing...I find this hard not to believe.  really..WalMart has serious purchasing power.  If they say they won't touch a game if it has content X in it, then the publisher and marketers for a game are going to think hard on including the content.
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2006, 08:47:51 PM »

Quote from: "Turtle"
I think quite a few short sighted publishers do this, but I suspect the games made for mature audiences don't bother with this tripe since wal mart doesn't carry.


You can get Doom3 at Wal-Mart, as well as several "M" rated titles.  Unless you are talking about those rare companies that make AO rated games.
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2006, 08:58:39 PM »

This is actually a much wider issue with Wal-Mart than just with games, but yes, this is true.

It's one of the innumerable reasons I have been boycotting Wal-Mart for nearly 3 years now.
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2006, 09:20:56 PM »

Publishers should threaten Wal-Mart by refusing to release future titles at their stores of they reject a single title of theirs. Imagine how many people would stop buying their games at Wal-Mart if you couldn't pick up anything from Konami, Capcom, or even Microsoft?
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2006, 09:26:18 PM »

i know for a fact that they have a say over things like packaging design and such for virtually every product they stock, so this doesnt seem like too far a stretch.

in economics its called monopsony - the largesse of walmart essentially makes it the sole purchaser of a product - again this doesnt seem too farfetched though youd probably have to check out the sales volume in best buy circuit city etc compared to walmart to find out if it holds weight
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2006, 03:53:05 AM »

Whatever happened to that whole CDs should be 10 dollars thing Walmart was going for?
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2006, 04:19:23 AM »

I can't believe people are actually thinking this is real in any way. Please, Walmart is big and powerful but if this was true then what they control everything thats made in America? If they don't or won't sell it then nothing but what they want should get made. Spare me the X-files type conspiracy crap.
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2006, 04:32:27 AM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
I can't believe people are actually thinking this is real in any way. Please, Walmart is big and powerful but if this was true then what they control everything thats made in America? If they don't or won't sell it then nothing but what they want should get made. Spare me the X-files type conspiracy crap.


I think this article may be very true.  I watched a video in an upper-level econ class last year that showed how Wal-Mart basically put Rubbermaid out of business.  Rubbermaid wouldnt supply a product that could be sold at the price Wal-Mart wanted to sell it out so Wal-Mart took away almost all of Rubbermaid's shelf space and in turn killed Rubbermaid.  Now of course video games and tupperware are two totally different things but if you dont think Wal-Mart has some serious push and market control then you are dead wrong.
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2006, 04:51:29 AM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
I can't believe people are actually thinking this is real in any way. Please, Walmart is big and powerful but if this was true then what they control everything thats made in America? If they don't or won't sell it then nothing but what they want should get made.


When it comes to mainstream, mass-produced end-consumer goods, Wal-Mart is the primary determiner in what gets put out on the market.  Aside from in-store brands that other stores carry and the occasional exclusive deals (like Martha Stewart and K-Mart), if Wal-Mart won't touch it, most products fail on the market.  At best, those products get a very small market penetration.

There's a lot of data (and history) out there on the influence that Wal-Mart has gained over most of the mass market for general goods.  Try reading up on it, you'll be surprised to see that this is a very real issue, and shows the downside of allowing one corporation to gain too much control over a portion of the market.

Quote
Spare me the X-files type conspiracy crap.


Spare me the ignorant generalization crap.
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2006, 12:55:11 PM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
I can't believe people are actually thinking this is real in any way. Please, Walmart is big and powerful but if this was true then what they control everything thats made in America? If they don't or won't sell it then nothing but what they want should get made. Spare me the X-files type conspiracy crap.



What is "X-files" about thinking that the largest retailer in the US may have influence over the products they sell?  

I remember back.....10-15 years ago when Posion put out an album with a woman with a really long tounge.  Wal-mart put on a bit of pressure and there was a censored cover just for Wal-mart stores.  

So years ago Wal-mart could force record labels to change.  I see no reason to believe that now, when Wal-mart is even bigger, that their influence is less.
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2006, 03:02:46 PM »

Do they have influence? yea of course. To the point that they are specifically killing off games they don't want from publishers like EA, Take2 or Ubisoft? Please people.

Internet urban legend.
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« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2006, 03:19:32 PM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
Do they have influence? yea of course. To the point that they are specifically killing off games they don't want from publishers like EA, Take2 or Ubisoft? Please people.

Internet urban legend.


Your argument lacks a certain.....well anything really.  What is your reasoning?  Why do you think this couldn't happen?
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« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2006, 05:02:11 PM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
Do they have influence? yea of course. To the point that they are specifically killing off games they don't want from publishers like EA, Take2 or Ubisoft? Please people.

Internet urban legend.


I'm sorry, but I'm much more willing to deduct logical conclusions based on analysis from places like BusinessWeek, the USDA, and incidents like the well-known Vlasic gallon pickle jar example of Wal-Mart's influence over other companies (that article includes additional examples).

So I've gone from "internet urban legend" to putting up some of the sources of information that have led me to the logical conclusions I've reached.  Care to share your own?  Or are you just going to keep relying on one-liners?
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« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2006, 07:06:53 PM »

Quote
Finally, Wal-Mart let Vlasic up for air. "The Wal-Mart guy's response was classic," Young recalls. "He said, 'Well, we've done to pickles what we did to orange juice. We've killed it. We can back off.' " Vlasic got to take it down to just over half a gallon of pickles, for $2.79. Not long after that, in January 2001, Vlasic filed for bankruptcy--although the gallon jar of pickles, everyone agrees, wasn't a critical factor.

Sounds like they are trying to blame Wal-Mart where there could have been other issues behind the company.  I doubt that we know the whole story.

Also, comparing pickles to computer software isn't very applicable here.

Then again, I'm going to take a grain of salt to anything published in a magazine that tries to put a positive spin on Al Jazeera.
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« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2006, 07:10:10 PM »

Everyone needs to read this excellent article about WalMart.  It will open your eyes:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html

Quote
Young remembers begging Wal-Mart for relief. "They said, 'No way,' " says Young. "We said we'll increase the price"--even $3.49 would have helped tremendously--"and they said, 'If you do that, all the other products of yours we buy, we'll stop buying.' It was a clear threat." Hunn recalls things a little differently, if just as ominously: "They said, 'We want the $2.97 gallon of pickles. If you don't do it, we'll see if someone else might.' I knew our competitors were saying to Wal-Mart, 'We'll do the $2.97 gallons if you give us your other business.' " Wal-Mart's business was so indispensable to Vlasic, and the gallon so central to the Wal-Mart relationship, that decisions about the future of the gallon were made at the CEO level.
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« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2006, 07:15:19 PM »

Note to self: start buying pickles at WalMart.
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« Reply #22 on: April 13, 2006, 01:15:23 AM »

Terrifiying. I had no idea Wal-Mart was this big. No idea.
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« Reply #23 on: April 13, 2006, 02:44:21 AM »

Well, if WalMart has that much control on the game business, then so should GameStop now.  With the EB merger, GameStop controls slightly more of the US market than WalMart.

There is obviously evidence of what WalMart does in other industries, but that doesn't mean they are doing the same thing in video games.  If they're so powerful, how come their "rollback price" on most games is two cents less than what everyone else has?
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« Reply #24 on: April 13, 2006, 02:56:10 AM »

gamestop honestly has slightly more market share than walmart? i find that a bit of a stretch and im pretty sure taking a trip to a local walmart and a local gamestop, and checking out the inventories of each - will show theyre not even close but thats just a guess. im also pretty sure that there are a "few" more walmarts than there are ebs and gamestops but again thats a guess

edit: yea i checked there are 4,400 gamestop/eb/electronics boutique worldwide and more than 6,400 walmarts worldwide, with over 3,800 in the us
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« Reply #25 on: April 13, 2006, 04:12:53 AM »

Quote from: "Doopri"
gamestop honestly has slightly more market share than walmart? i find that a bit of a stretch and im pretty sure taking a trip to a local walmart and a local gamestop, and checking out the inventories of each - will show theyre not even close but thats just a guess. im also pretty sure that there are a "few" more walmarts than there are ebs and gamestops but again thats a guess

edit: yea i checked there are 4,400 gamestop/eb/electronics boutique worldwide and more than 6,400 walmarts worldwide, with over 3,800 in the us


Which company do you think is growing at a faster rate?  Where I am from, just outside of Vancouver, WA they just put in a Wal-Mart Super Center and are starting the construction of another one literally 10 miles away.
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« Reply #26 on: April 13, 2006, 12:50:06 PM »

Think me and Gatorfavre watched the same video. It was just insane what Walmart can do. They would often bring in companies and negotiate hours for just a few pennies. I also remember a bit more about the Rubbermaid story. Essentially the cost of resin had gone up, which in every market means that the price must go up to adjust. Walmart wouldn't hear it. They wanted it to stay at the same price. Rubbermaid had to comply even though they were losing money on each sale. Which of course led to the bankruptcy.
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« Reply #27 on: April 13, 2006, 02:44:11 PM »

is this the movie you are talking about?

http://www.walmartmovie.com/
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« Reply #28 on: April 13, 2006, 02:52:04 PM »

Well, I mean, is it getting so bad that the US government is going to have to step in and set up new laws to restrict Wal-Mart's stranglehold on the success, and/or failure, of its product suppliers? Because in a general sense, it sounds like what happened to Rubbermaid shouldn't be allowed. The company wound up in a situation where it couldn't refuse Wal-Mart, or it would lose that business and likely go under. But the joke is, agreeing with Wal-Mart saw to the company going under anyway. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
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« Reply #29 on: April 13, 2006, 02:58:47 PM »

If anyone's interested, PBS's Frontline had an installment called "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" a year or so ago.

You can watch it free of charge here: link
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« Reply #30 on: April 13, 2006, 03:00:57 PM »

Quote from: "farley2k"
Quote from: "Jumangi"
Do they have influence? yea of course. To the point that they are specifically killing off games they don't want from publishers like EA, Take2 or Ubisoft? Please people.

Internet urban legend.


Your argument lacks a certain.....well anything really.  What is your reasoning?  Why do you think this couldn't happen?


Mine is lacking? Hello, I don't need any arguement because nothing has been proven at all about this subject. The links are nothing but about Walmart and their general level of buying power. There' is nothing of specific proof at all about the thread subject of games getting cancelled. When you have something of substance then get back to me and I can take these claims as being possibly legit.
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« Reply #31 on: April 13, 2006, 04:48:06 PM »

Did you not read the article from the original post in this thread?  The one where there are specific people from multiple publishers/developers who attested to the power that Wal-Mart wields regarding what content publishers force the developers to drop or modify from games?

And in fact, the article notes that due to the increasing influence of companies like the now-merged Gamestop/EB franchise, Wal-Mart's ability to strong-arm publishers into making their games fit within Wal-Mart's policies is weakening.

So no, while Wal-Mart doesn't tend to get games cancelled specifically, that happens indirectly due to the process of publishers insisting on making their development teams create games that will be carried by Wal-Mart.

I don't understand why you're having such a hard time understanding this between the well-written article at the Escapist and additional sources where we're demonstrating the power that Wal-Mart wields in shaping what products are on the market.
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« Reply #32 on: April 13, 2006, 05:02:37 PM »

Quote from: "weleavefossils"
is this the movie you are talking about?

http://www.walmartmovie.com/


I watched the one, that warning put up, from Frontline. Looking at one of the segments (The Rubbermaid one ironicaly) I now remember the VP of International Corp. Affairs Ray Bracy. When I watched the show, with a few other employees, we all agreed that this was one of the more evasive smarmiest pieces of shit we'd ever seen. You could just see the evil behind his every word.

If there was ever a company I would like to see fall, and fall hard, it's Wal-Mart. No one, besides their executives, benefits from their model of buisness.
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« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2006, 05:27:34 PM »

Quote from: "Andrew Wonser"
If there was ever a company I would like to see fall, and fall hard, it's Wal-Mart. No one, besides their executives, benefits from their model of buisness.


And this is why they've been on my boycott list for so long.  I'd love to see Wal-Mart fail spectacularly.
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« Reply #34 on: April 13, 2006, 08:32:48 PM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"

Mine is lacking? Hello, I don't need any arguement because nothing has been proven at all about this subject. The links are nothing but about Walmart and their general level of buying power. There' is nothing of specific proof at all about the thread subject of games getting cancelled. When you have something of substance then get back to me and I can take these claims as being possibly legit.

Like this? http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,55955,00.html

It mentions very specific content changes to explicitly satisfy Wal-Mart.
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« Reply #35 on: April 13, 2006, 09:18:42 PM »

Quote from: "ingrin"
Quote from: "Jumangi"

Mine is lacking? Hello, I don't need any arguement because nothing has been proven at all about this subject. The links are nothing but about Walmart and their general level of buying power. There' is nothing of specific proof at all about the thread subject of games getting cancelled. When you have something of substance then get back to me and I can take these claims as being possibly legit.

Like this? http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,55955,00.html

It mentions very specific content changes to explicitly satisfy Wal-Mart.

Two minor cosmetic changes in Giants or changing the box art for GK3 is hardly the same as "If Wal-Mart tells a top-end publisher it won't carry a certain game, the publisher kills that game"

I'd like to know what titles by a "top-end publisher" were killed specifically because Wal-Mart said they wouldn't sell it.  Just one will suffice.
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« Reply #36 on: April 13, 2006, 09:45:05 PM »

Ohhh, I see.  I doubt anyone will be able to provide one.  Why? because publishers make the requested changes rather than let several months/years of development go down the tube.  That is simple economics...

I assumed we were talking about the title of this thread (which I would say is true given the fact that they seem to have an amazing degree of content control compared to other distributors, as evidenced by the article I linked as well as the one others linked.), not that specific line in the linked article (which I agree, wasn't really substanciated).
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« Reply #37 on: April 13, 2006, 11:29:07 PM »

Thats still not what I was making the statements on.

It was cancelling games. Saying what gets made and what doesn't. The inference was that like every game made gets passed by some Walmart commitee that determines its fate or something.

Walmart does have more power in buying than what your average consumer may think, but not to the level some of the consipricy posters want to believe.
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« Reply #38 on: April 14, 2006, 03:31:12 PM »

Quote from: "Jumangi"
The inference was that like every game made gets passed by some Walmart commitee that determines its fate or something.


Ah, gotcha.  That part I agree with you on.  While I stand by the assessment that Wal-Mart wield excessive influence over changes that go into games to make them acceptable to Wal-Mart, they don't contact publishers and get games axed completely.
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« Reply #39 on: April 14, 2006, 07:42:50 PM »

okay how about this one... walmart pulls gta, take two loses $45 million... rockstar, makers of the running riot and beat all hookers, will next be creating... interactive table tennis???

punishment?

(and when i say loses, i mean as in the article, they adusted their expected earnings)
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