In the wake of Call of Duty: Ghosts’ recent announcement, a dispute between publisher Activision and UK online retailer ShopTo has resulted in the “e-tailer” announcing that they will not stock the upcoming Call of Duty title, or any Activision titles, for that matter.
The dispute arose over policies that Activision places on retailers wishing to stock their games. According to their contracts, Activision will not allow retailers or e-tailers to send Call of Duty titles to customers any sooner than a day before launch. With Call of Duty titles consitantly releasing on a Tuesday, retailers are to either ship on the Monday before, or the day of release. As it was put by ShopTo CEO Igor Cipolletta, this “effectively destroys an e-tailer’s pre-order campaign, as many deliveries inevitably arrive post-release date.”
“This has the undesired effect of previously loyal and satisfied customers thinking that, if we can’t ‘get it right’ for one of the biggest games of the year, why should they trust us with any future orders?” he says. “Their friends and acquaintances, by word of mouth and social media, (despite possibly not having ever ordered from us), would see us (and possibly e-tailers as a whole) as unreliable. This despite all the time and hard work my team and the myriad of other publishers put into other titles during the year.
“Of course this Activision policy is not for every title, but due to the volume and fever pitch Call of Duty seems to generate (both positive and negative), it causes the most damage to us.”
As it currently stands, Call of Duty: Ghosts, along with other upcoming Activision titles like Deadpool or Swap Force, is unavailable for preorder on ShopTo’s website, nor will it be, unless policies change. However, Acivision games that have already released are still on sale. Needless to say, this is a bold move on the retailers’ part, as they will certainly lose out to their competitors.
Understandably, Activision constantly deals with a growing frustration of broken street dates in the UK for popular games like Call of Duty, particularly from online retailers. Therefore, the company will most likely not budge when it comes to allowing an earlier date for dispatching. They also declined to comment on Eurogamer’s original report detailing the issue. However, Cipolletta says “we strongly believe they are not providing a level playing field between e-tailers and high street retailers, as the latter can have a midnight opening.”
He adds, “unfortunately, our experience with the Call Of Duty series in the past four years is that our campaigns have been extremely difficult to engender a supportable level of customer satisfaction and in regards to profit, a complete failure.
“Because of the highly competitive nature of the market we have been unable to make any profit. But added to this, what really hurt us (and therefore our customers’ satisfaction) was that we have been unable to guarantee 99 per cent delivery by the release date.
“We can normally achieve this with the support of other publishers, as they understand and appreciate that Royal Mail takes 1-3 days to deliver 1st Class to our UK mainland customers.
“Our wholesale unit price, added to the fact that the game has a worldwide Tuesday release date, means the processing and shipping requirements of this stock does not accommodate an e-tailers needs. With the requirement to pay staffing costs over the weekend, this would destroy any profit, as we cannot increase our selling price as we risk having zero orders. Essentially, if we receive stock late on a Friday, the processing time we have is halved and our processing costs double.”
In closing, Cipolletta compares the situation to other publishers, stating, “we have seen this year that Disney has listened to retailers regarding the release date for Disney Infinity. I really don’t see why with Activision we can’t have Friday release like any other triple-A title such as FIFA, Battlefield, Injustice, Dishonoured, Far Cry 3 and more.”
Call of Duty: Ghosts launches on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and next-gen consoles on November 5.