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Wal-Mart Controls Modern Game Design? 696

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the telling-you-what-is-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes "That Wal-Mart smiley face is looking pretty evil now that Allen Varney has explained how much influence they have on virtually every modern game: '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.'"
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Wal-Mart Controls Modern Game Design?

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  • by Komarechka (967622) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:47PM (#15107604) Homepage
    Wal-Mart has had this impact on developers and publishers for quite some time. One of the most publicized occurrences was with BMX XXX - Wal-Mart didn't want to sell it because of its nature, so they toned it down to fit within Wal-Mart standards. It is unfortunate that one company with so much buying power runs the market. Gamestop is second though, with their recent merger with EB Games. But that's like comparing Godzilla to Oprah. You don't want to make either of them mad, but only one of them is powerful enough to destroy the planet. unless... http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Image:Oprahsaurus.jpg [uncyclopedia.org]
    • One of the most publicized occurrences was with BMX XXX - Wal-Mart didn't want to sell it because of its nature, so they toned it down to fit within Wal-Mart standards.

      The problem is, this effect appears to be entirely unintentional. Walmart has always tried to maintain a family friendly "Bible-belt" image. As a result, they have never in their history carried games that didn't meet their current criteria. As gaming moved away from Shareware and into Hollywood-style productions, they obviously started needing bigger outlets to sell their games. Now since Wal-mart is the biggest consumer shopping center at the moment, that means that producers are going to follow Wal-mart's rules to maintain profits.

      If this was still the 80's, game producers would be complaining about K-Mart or Sears instead.

      On the flip side of this, Walmart has done some good. The smaller packaging of games has made them easier to store, produced less waste, and has generally been good for consumers as a whole. Which is nice, because the GIGANTOR boxes was really getting out of hand for awhile there. Especially as game producers packed less and less in the box. Anyone remember how Wing Commander included Blueprints, a manual, offers, etc? Good luck finding that stuff in a modern game. :-/
      • "Anyone remember how Wing Commander included Blueprints, a manual, offers, etc? Good luck finding that stuff in a modern game."

        I remember those extras. Sure it didn't always help play the game, but it helped to set the mood and give the universe a little bit of depth. The last games I saw that had extras like that were Warcraft III and Tachyon: The Fringe.
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:47PM (#15108192) Homepage
        On the flip side of this, Walmart has done some good. The smaller packaging of games has made them easier to store, produced less waste, and has generally been good for consumers as a whole.

        That may be the only good Wal-Mart has ever accomplished.

        They've dirven their competitors out of business with unfair practices. They've reamed North American manufacuring as they insisted on cheaper products until they had to go off shore, causing a replacement of manufacturing jobs with low-end retail jobs. They've made something greater than 50% of supply-chain for retail in North America become beholden to them.

        I'm not at all surprised to hear that Wal-Mart has the gaming industry by the short-hairs.

        Wal-Mart is EVIL, aggressive, and far too powerful for anyone's good.
        • by GigG (887839) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:51PM (#15108736)
          If you replace "Wal-Mart" with "people that shop at Wal-Mart" I'd mod you up for insightful.
        • by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:53PM (#15108757)
          Wal-Mart is EVIL, aggressive, and far too powerful for anyone's good.

          I would agree, but unfortunatly people's solution to the problem... i.e. get the government involved... is worse than the problem.

          If Wal-Mart is EVIL, agressive, and far too powerful for anyone's good, because it lowers prices on Rubbermaid trash cans, then what does that make the government?
      • by chill (34294) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:49PM (#15108212) Journal
        The problem is, this effect appears to be entirely unintentional. Walmart has always tried to maintain a family friendly "Bible-belt" image. As a result, they have never in their history carried games that didn't meet their current criteria.

        This is so not true.

        I was in Walmart the other day, browsing thru DVDs and what did I see: The uncensored version of Comedy Central's Pamela Anderson Roast; the Director's Cut of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects"; the "Uncensored" Director's Cut of "The Girl Next Door" -- you know, the one where the porn stars move in next door to this high school kid? Tons of "uncensored" and "director's cuts" of almost-porn and very, very violent slasher movies. DVD seasons of South Park, Tripping the Rift, etc. Family-friendly fare it ain't.

        Their "criteria" is, and always has been, whatever sells the most without making too much of a PR stink. Music and games are easy targets, so Walmart forces censorship and gets to wave the "family" flag. Since no stink is made with video, they sell damn near everything except hardcore.

          -Charles

        • by MCraigW (110179) <craigNO@SPAMmcraigweaver.com> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:19PM (#15108439) Homepage
          I was in Walmart the other day, browsing thru DVDs and what did I see: The uncensored version of Comedy Central's Pamela Anderson Roast; the Director's Cut of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects"; the "Uncensored" Director's Cut of "The Girl Next Door" -- you know, the one where the porn stars move in next door to this high school kid? Tons of "uncensored" and "director's cuts" of almost-porn and very, very violent slasher movies. DVD seasons of South Park, Tripping the Rift, etc. Family-friendly fare it ain't.

          Gee, I'll have to stop by Walmart on my way home!!

        • family friendly "Bible-belt" image What you describe may not be "family friendly" however no one has made a fuss about it. Wal - MArt wants to make money and their image is key to that. If people start making a fuss about the uncensored videos then they will pull them, at least for a while. The current focus on violent video games and the fact that parents are usually the ones who buy them lead to the scrutiny that they are under. With videos most young children aren't interested in Devils Rejects but t
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:01PM (#15108297) Journal
        Well, Walmart is selling Brokeback Mountain, despite the protestations of those freedom-loving Bible Belt types, so clearly, at the end of the day, despite the image, what counts to them is making money.
      • by OctoberSky (888619) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:01PM (#15108304)
        Anyone remember how Wing Commander included Blueprints, a manual, offers, etc? Good luck finding that stuff in a modern game. :-/

        You just don't buy the right games. Grand Theft Auto: New Jersey (Q4/08) is rumored to come with a used condom, a hypodermic needle and a dead hooker in the packaging.

    • by cyngus (753668) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:20PM (#15107926)
      Wal-Mart doesn't get "their" power from some magical source, it gets it from us, the consumers, exercising our choice of where to shop. If you don't like how much Wal-Mart influences what producers produce, DON'T SHOP THERE. If you're willing to trade their influence over certain products for lower prices on them, then do. The world's victim mentality really pisses me off. If you don't like the values that Wal-Mart promotes, stop giving them the ability to advance them by not giving them your money. Capitalism only works if you vote with your dollars/pesos/euros/yuan (okay, I'm not going to list currencies of all the countries where Wal-Mart operates).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:27PM (#15107992)
        That is a good idea unless you live in a rural or low density suburb where the local Wal-Mart has created a monopoly on retail access. If you don't shop there where do you go? Drive 20 miles for everything? And don't say "Buy everything online". Capitalism has an Archilles heel.
        • by drsquare (530038) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:22PM (#15109001)
          Surely the only reason they have a monopoly is because people were going to Walmart rather than smaller shops? In that case, the PEOPLE have decided they want Walmart to have a monopoly. This is a great example of democracy and freedom.

          Maybe you'd prefer the government to mandate that people shop at locally-owned shops to stop them going out of business?
          • That statment shows your ignorance of the market, market forces, and perception.

            What choice do you ahve when a monopoly buys ot inventory from a company and the local shops are suddenly have delay in getting orders?
            What do you do when Wal-Mart dictates to there vendor that they will sell cheaper to Wall-mart then anyone else?
            WHere is the chioce.

            Your statement assumes a level playing field on the product wholesale.

      • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:29PM (#15108009) Journal
        If you don't like how much Wal-Mart influences what producers produce, DON'T SHOP THERE."
        No. If you don't like how Wal-Mart influences what producers produce, your shopping there or not doesn't matter. Instead you have change the habits of the entire buying public. A vastly different thing.

        I like that you make the comparison with voting. You probably subscribe to the "your vote matters" fallacy. Nothing is more silly. Only votes in mass matter. Single votes do not. (Interestingly though, for popular figures, saying that peoples votes matter, does matter. Because that moves the masses.)
        • by cyngus (753668) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:55PM (#15108251)
          Instead you have change the habits of the entire buying public

          I can not control you, I can not control the masses. I do not wish to control you, I do not wish to control the "buying public". They should be free to do as they wish, just as I am. I have no desire to waste my resources on the uneducated or illogical. Saying that I need to change the habits of the buying public somehow implies that I must make people act against their will. I have no desire to do this. I may think that they are stupid and lack the ability to think, but that does not give me the right, ability, or desire to compel or trick them into acting against their will. Exactly that section of the public that believes what Wal-Mart believes should shop there, and give Wal-Mart their buying power.

          You probably subscribe to the "your vote matters" fallacy. Nothing is more silly. Only votes in mass matter. Single votes do not.

          To believe that your opinion does not matter and that you can not control your life is the first realization one makes on the path to self destruction because you believe you lack control in a general sense. First you believe you hold no control over politics, then you believe you hold no control over whether you are hired or fired, then you believe you have no control over what choices you make, then you believe you have no control over your anything, and finally you cease to be, either literally or you exist as walking death unable to muster the courage to get rid of the walking. You have exactly as much control over the world as your resources (money, talent, and intelligence) will buy you.
          • You have exactly as much control over the world as your resources (money, talent, and intelligence) will buy you.

            I don't even know where to begin. Your claim is that there is no:

            - government
            - finance
            - laws of physics
            - political reality
            - social reality

            In short, your argument is that everyone is Superman with X-Ray vision, unless he/she sucks far too much not to be. You blame the Jews for their time in the camps because they were simply too lacking in talent to dominate the Nazis?

            What exactly are you trying t
      • I am so sick of this argument. I can vote all I want with my dollar, if I was only going to spend 200 a year at walmart anyway, it doesn't leave a mark on it. I can _try_ and fail to arrange a boycott, and I can do a lot of other things that will probably have no bearing on the store. Morons will continue to shop there whether you do or not, regardless of their policies. Some shop there because it's plain and simply all they can afford anymore. When you vote with your dollar, however, you are almost su
      • by twofidyKidd (615722) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:47PM (#15108700)
        If you've ever lived, or at least spent enough time in a small town, you'd know that Wal-Mart comes in like a monster (Super Wal-Marts) and disrupts the local economy to such a degree that they manage to wipe out all other businesses, including most mom and pop shops, grocery stores, mechanics, furniture stores, florists, gardening shops, day care facilities, etc. The problem is this: small-town economies, such as they are, rarely generate income beyond a level of sustenance for small businesses. These businesses goods and services are priced so that they sell to the local consumers at a profit enough to keep the shop open, and provide their owners with some income. Wal-Mart comes in, and undercuts these businesses with greater inventory, larger selection and considerably lower prices, taking the local shop's customers and their owner's income with them. These shop owners sometimes leave town, or sometimes they look for work, finding it at the Super Wal-Mart. In fact, a large percentage of the town becomes employees of the Super Wal-Mart, who are generally low paid. Their low pay is usually spent at the Super Wal-Mart since it's all they can afford (plus they get a discount) much like the company stores of the mining and industrial era. Soon, the whole town is in some way dependent on Super Wal-Mart for everything from employment and benefits, to groceries, clothing, medicine (pharmacies are driven out of business), eyeglasses, you name it. Wal-Mart understands how this works, and essentially exploits these small-town economies.

        Now, I don't really know where you live, but if you've ever had the distinct displeasure of driving across the United States, you'd discover that most of the middle of the country consists of a lot of small towns. What do you suggest all those people do, stop shopping at Wal-Mart? You might as well tell them to pack up, leave town and head for the coast, or at least a large metropolitan area like Dallas, or something. If you're not living in a small town, then you might have the good fortune of having a choice of where you shop, but for lots of people across the U.S., there isn't many options.

        Lastly, don't underestimate the buying power of the low-end of the market. The Median household income for 2004 was around $44,000 with the poverty rate ringing in around 13% [source: ESRB-Income [whitehouse.gov]] You can bet those people aren't spending their money at Sak's and Banana Republic. Wal-Mart's huge margins are created by buying product at dirt prices, and selling them at rock prices to the lowest end of the market, which also happens to be a very LARGE market base in the United States. And for that market, Wal-Mart is about all they've got.
    • One of the most publicized occurrences was with BMX XXX

      ... a game that should have never been made.

      I'm not quite a hardcore gamer, but I do like to play computer games (RTS, FPS, RPG, Simulations.) And I'm not a prude -- I like my games to be a bit gritty, and a little blood, swearing or nudity never bothered me, and in many cases it enhances the game.

      But I've seen BMX XXX. And I have to wonder `what were they thinking?' The game was stupid, uninspired, and not fun.

      Duke Nukem had strippers

  • Raise your hand... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XorNand (517466) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:48PM (#15107616)

    Raise your hand if you've ever bought a PC game from WalMart.



    Me neither.

    • the kind of people who surf /. wouldn't. But then your talking about the same number who would leave their computers open to attacks, the same number who wouldn't know what vorbis is and the same number who think DRM is bad.

      IE your talking about like .000002% of the population here.

      A LOT of people shop at Walmart. and a large percentage of the technically challenged would buy things from there.

    • I bought a CD from Wal Mart once

      It had the curses edited out & wasn't labeled to reflect it.

      Never even tried to buy music, games, or DVDs from them again.

      I imagine that many other people had the same response, but it doesn't change the fact that Wal Mart is the 8000lb gorilla when it comes to selling anything.
    • Geek minority (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <<spydermann.slashdot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:59PM (#15107725) Homepage Journal
      Raise your hand if you've ever bought a PC game from WalMart.
      Me neither.


      Raise your hand if you're NOT a geek minority.

      Ah-hah, I supposed.
    • Raise your hand if you've ever bought a PC game from WalMart.

      Not for myself, but for my (pre-teen) kids. But then again, those games would not suffer the wrath of Wal-Mart.
    • Hand Raised. (Score:2, Informative)

      Wal-Mart has a better idea of what you're buying that you do yourself. The know what gets sold, then know what popular. They could probally tell you how many video games they sold last month, and the result would scare you.

      Don't be so quick to call everything a load of shit, because it probally isn't.

      It is a bit upsetting that so many companies are at the mercy of Wal-Mart. This doesn't just happen with video games. If Wal-Mart says that this years Easter Bunnies will have 3 ears, your ass better be makin

      • Re:Hand Raised. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xtracto (837672)
        There is something I have not read in any of the comments and I think it is interesting. It may not be directly to parent post but I did not see where to attach it.

        Talking about games sold at Walmart, Walmart is a store that sells goods for the general public, they profit for selling quantity, that is why they can have very cheap prices (of course they also reduce costs). One of the key factors of Walmart success in bringing industries to their knees is the diversification of productds, as a side example th
    • I bought GTA 3 for ten bucks. But now my wife and I are boycotting Wal-Mart. So I guess it evens out.
    • by b0m8ad1l (608487)
      Wal-Mart is much too slow when it comes to game releases. When a game that we want is released, the vast majority of gamers will purchase within the first few weeks of the release (I'm one of the people that get it the first day). In my experience, Wal-Mart does not even get new games until weeks after the release. I would consider buying games from Wal-Mart, if I could get the games when I wanted them and if they offered some advantage over other stores (such as lower price). But until that happens Wal
  • by Swamii (594522) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:48PM (#15107618) Homepage
    "I like your game but we have to change the rules."
  • Not forever. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:49PM (#15107624) Homepage
    This won't be true forever. Companies that pride themselves on quality [snapper.com] have given Wally World the heave-ho, choosing to create lasting quality goods instead of cheap crap.
    • Unfortunately, companies don't make the rules here. Consumers do. And customers in most of provincial America are drawn to Wal-Mart for its cheap prices and wide selection, so they through their own buying preferences have made Wal-Mart the force it is. The problems of Wal-Mart are well-known, see Fishman's The Wal-Mart Effect [amazon.com] (Penguin, 2006), and any man on the street has seen news reports about how Wal-Mart hurts traditional business, ultimately limits choice in spite of the large amount of crap inside

      • Re:Not forever. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hal2814 (725639) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:10PM (#15107828)
        "Unfortunately, companies don't make the rules here. Consumers do."

        You mispelled "fortunately" by putting an "un" in front of it. I sure don't want anyone else telling me where to shop or what to buy. If Wal-Mart has what I want at a good price, then I'll buy it there. If not, I'll get it somewhere else. Wal-Mart is on top of this game for a reason. The only thing they are dictating is what their customers will buy.
    • Re:Not forever. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by badmammajamma (171260)
      Game publishers (and most companies for that matter) really only care about profits. Quality is a distant second to profit. The executives that run these publishing companies don't even play games. They couldn't give a rats ass if they are good or not so long as they make a lot of money. They only care about quality to the extent that it effects their ability to make a profit.
    • Re:Not forever. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HardCase (14757)
      Better make that "a company". Also, reading the article gives an interesting view on the value of Wal-Mart, particularly the last few paragraphs:

      Wier had determined to lead Snapper to focus on quality, and through quality, on cachet. Not every car is a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry; there is more than enough business to support Audi and BMW and Lexus. And so it is with lawn mowers, Wier hoped. Still, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the Wal-Mart effect is so pervasive that it sets the metabolism
    • Re:Not forever. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pizzaman100 (588500) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @04:05PM (#15108334) Journal
      Does anyone know of a list of companies that don't supply Wal-Mart (like Snapper)? I would like to give such companies more of my business.
      • Re:Not forever. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Deagol (323173) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:24PM (#15109026) Homepage
        That's easy. Just research up on the top 2 or three brands of what you want to buy. For many classes of products, you just won't find them.

        Take De Walt power tools (you know, those construction yellow and black tools with a good , solid feel to them) -- you don't see those at Wal Mart. Ditto Husqvarna chainsaws. Both damned good tools. Much more pricey then the piece-o-crap Black and Decker and Weed Eater branded tools you find at Wally World.

        Of course, some good manufacturers still sell via Wal Mart, and, as far as I can tell,their quality is still good. Take the Ruger 10/22 rifle. Sure, it's accuracy is somewhat limited, but damn do those things are built like tanks and are rifles you can count on your grandkids using, if you don't pawn it for beer money.

        So, some companies, like Snapper, just don't do business because it will hurt their perceived image of quality or they know Wal Mart will force them to actually lower their quality. Others, like Ruger, don't care because Walmart is the single largest distributor of their products.

  • This is for the watered down masses who normally buy games thinking their 4 year old PC's will play without a problem. Tell me how the GTA games were so successful then?! IIRC, there was a big stink about how violent GTA was and how it was corroding our kids' minds.. Give me a break.

    Those who sell out to WalMart's demands deserve to be put out of business.

    • What is with myopic Slashdot posters forgetting that the majority of games sold are for consoles and not for PC? On one hand you mention that the PC games WalMart carries are for 4 year old PCs, but then you mention Grand Theft Auto which has sold way more copies for PS2/X-Box than it ever could for PC. Ridiculous.
    • "Gamers" may not shop at Wal-Mart, but "gamers" are nothing but a vocal minority amongst game purchasers. The vast majority of game players just buy whatever's popular or on-sale at the most convenient place.

      Just like anyone who has an appreciation for good music won't shop at Wal-Mart... but Wal-Mart still sells more music than all the other stores combined it seems.
    • Key word: masses.

      Wal-Mart pushes a shitload of games. Thus, they have a shitload of influence over the game publishers. The game publishers don't go out of business precisely because they bow to Wal-Mart's (and to varying lesser degrees, other retailers') demands. From the publisher's point of view, it's only profitable to snub Wal-Mart and their ilk if the intrinsic quality and appeal of the unadultered game can outmarket the mighty retail machine with a watered-down version.

  • If a major top end retailer won't carry your goods, the customers who buy from those retailers (guess where kids' mommies go to pick up that new game they want?) won't ever have the chance to buy them, so why bother making them?
  • Supply and demand (Score:3, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:52PM (#15107655) Homepage Journal
    If you're biggest destributor isn't going to sell one of your products you're going to care. Welcome to capitalism.

    Of course the morals of how Wal-Mart became such a big distributor are debatable. But this outcome is quite obvious. If this article is a surprise your head's in the sand.
  • by ylikone (589264) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:52PM (#15107659) Homepage
    Walmart is destroying America [amazon.com]. They affect everything in our life, but don't you dare complain about them... they are very litigious. Plus, they have most of the American population eating from their hand. Oh well, come on everyone, it's a race to the bottom!
  • by thefirelane (586885) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:53PM (#15107666)
    New title:

    Slashdot shocked to learn Wal-Mart does to gaming industry, what it does to every other industry

    Nothing to see here, please move along.
    • true, but.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by xusr (947781)
      it renewed my sense of horror for Wal-Mart's current management and policies. Just because you have the ability to determine the products that reach consumers shouldn't give you ethical license to do so. I wish Walton Sr. was still around, back when Wal-Mart stood for high wages, good benefits and US made products. Whatever happened to hereditary behavior?
      • Re:true, but.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:27PM (#15107994) Homepage Journal
        Ethical license? WTF?

        If anything, WalMart is doing game companies a favor by working with them during the development stage to let them know what titles they may or may not be interested in carrying. Far better to hear early on that your "Sim Crack Whore" idea isn't going to fly, than to have blown zillion$ producing something that isn't going to get onto WalMart shelves.

        By and large, when people bitch about WalMart, they are really complaining about WalMart consumers - who demonstrate time and time again what they prefer. From there, if you want to create a big-selling game, then take those preferences into consideration. If you want to create your own piece of work for your own reasons, and commercial success is a secondary concern, then fine, go right ahead - but don't expect anyone to champion it for you.
    • by Tom (822)
      Whoever modded parent "Funny", I hope you get meta-modded into oblivion, and I don't mean the game.

      Missing mod option: "Sad, but true".
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:53PM (#15107672) Homepage
    1. Pitch your idea to Wal-Mart/get approached by Wal-Mart.
    2. Get a good deal--if you can supply enough product for Wal-Mart.
    3. Grow your company in leaps and bounds to meet the demand of your newest and most important sales outlet: Wal-Mart.
    4. Have it good for a year or two.
    5. Cringe when Wal-Mart tells you just how much less you're going to start getting per unit next year.
    6. Quail when Wal-Mart tells you just how much less you're going to be getting per unit the year after that.
    7. Whimper when Wal-Mart tells you just how much less you're going to be getting per unit the year after that.
    8. Cower when Wal-Mart tells you exactly what's wrong with your product how it is, and how very beneficial it would be to your continued business arrangement if you'd just make the following changes.
    9. Wake up one morning and realize that your company is barely scraping by--and can't afford to ditch Wal-Mart without massive layoffs and restructuring, which you can't afford to do anyhow.

    That's the circle of life with Wal-Mart. You'll get a huge boost at first, but Wal-Mart always gets the last laugh. Always.

  • That's not evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:54PM (#15107674)
    That's called the free market. Game design studios could choose other retail outlets if they chose to do so. Wal*Mart doesn't have to carry anything that they don't like.

    There are probably lots better reasons to hate Wal*Mart than for having buyers and communicating their intentions to vendors.
    • If there were 1/2 dozen large retailers competing on an approximate eqaul footing for your product you can pick and choose. How ever, Mall-Wart is so huge it can make or break a game company. They have, in some cases, a de facto monopoly on the shelf space needed for a gaming company to succeed. When there is a monopoly, in this case in terms of shelf space and customers, the rules of free markets do not apply.

      HTH
    • by ronfar (52216) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:58PM (#15108283) Journal
      Wal-Mart, the Abuse of Eminent Domain and Corporate Welfare [reclaimdemocracy.org]

      Most of Alameda Square's businesses are profitable. Together they generate about $125,000 a year in sales tax revenue. But if the city of Denver has its way, these small businesses will be evicted to make way for a Wal-Mart super-center. The city's Urban Renewal Authority has threatened condemnation if the property owners refuse to sell and has offered Wal-Mart $10 million in public subsidies. That's right: Tax dollars would go to one of the country's most profitable and powerful corporations.
      That free market sounds like a pretty sweet deal where you can buy your own city government...
      Wal-Mart leads the pack in attracting subsidies, this year collecting $10 million in Denver; $500,000 in Dallas; $36.7 million in Scottsdale, Ariz., (as part of a shopping center that includes Lowe's); $9 million in Bartlesville, Okla.; and $17 million in Lewiston, Maine.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:54PM (#15107675)
    I fully expect that games, like movies on DVD, will soon come in two versions:
    - PG-13 (the Wal-Mart version)
    - unrated (the online version)
  • I heard the same claims against Blockbuster and movies.

    It's just a standard chilling effect.

    Sucks, but it's bound to happen in monopoly driven market places.
  • 1. Walmart says it won't carry game.
    2. Production company kills game.
    3. ???
    4. Walmart is evil!

    Seems to me that this article has the crosshair on the wrong people. Besides, we already have plenty of reasons to hate Walmart.
  • by Spectre (1685) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:55PM (#15107692)
    Every gamer I know buys from Amazon, EB Games, Gamestop, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc ... but NONE of them go to Wal-Mart for their games. Cheap furniture, office supplies, food, automotive products, maybe. But not games. Wal-Mart in this area doesn't even begin to compete on game selection, price, or in any other way with the more specialized stores.
    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:44PM (#15108161) Homepage
      Every gamer I know buys from Amazon, EB Games, Gamestop, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc ... but NONE of them go to Wal-Mart for their games. Cheap furniture, office supplies, food, automotive products, maybe. But not games. Wal-Mart in this area doesn't even begin to compete on game selection, price, or in any other way with the more specialized stores.

      An interior decorator does not go to wal-mart for furniture
      An art gallery does not go to wal-mart for office supplies
      A gourmet does not go to wal-mart for food
      A hobby mechanic does not go to wal-mart for automotive products
      A gamer does not.... see the pattern here?

      For those things that interest you, you have more specialized stores. But I don't go hunting down specialized stores for every sort of product I might happen to need, if there's a shopping center nearby where they sell that. For example, I know exactly where to look for good deals on computer hardware from serious retailers. Has that stopped lots of generic electonics, or even convenience stores from selling that? Hell no. Wal-Mart is not the place you go to pick up a game. It's a place where you go to pick up "everything else", which for many people includes a game or two. Multiply that with some millions and you got Wal-Mart.
  • by vizualizr (462581) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @02:56PM (#15107699)
    This is nothing new, at least in the music industry. Look what happened to Spinal Tap's [wikipedia.org] "Smell The Glove" [wikipedia.org] cover.

  • They're dictating to us our content!

    We won't be able to sell games like Dead or Alive because of the bouncing boobies!

    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_ id=3985188 [walmart.com]

    Or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas because of the violence and cop killing!
    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_ id=4665809 [walmart.com]

    Or even that really truly EVIL game, Bully!
    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_ id=3942979 [walmart.com]
  • Wal-Mart will have this control for a bit longer but as things like Direct2Drive become more prevalent I imagine we'll see the gaming industry caring less and less about what Wal-Mart has to say. Honestly, if I was a gaming company, I'd much rather sell digital copies than copies on some sort of media. There's no shipping, there's no storage, there's no 3rd party vendor who has to make copies of the game before its released; bandwidth space and data storage arn't cheap but they're far cheaper than the tra
  • by Quarters (18322) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:00PM (#15107736)
    I've been on game projects that have been cancelled due to lack of interest / trepidation from retailers. The company that owns EBGames/GameStop/Babbages is the #1 concern. Wal*Mart is #2, and BestBuy is #3. That's for "regular" games. If a company is working on a budget title or a hunting title then Wal*Mart definately becomes the #1 retailer to pass judgement.

    That this happens shouldn't be surprising to anyone. Given the current system of putting games on discs and putting discs in boxes the retailer must be appeased or there is no place to sell the product.

  • Can they do something about the bad camera angles that infest so many games? Or the scarcity of fraking save points and vindictive restart points that make you wonder if the developers actively hate their customers? C'mon, Walmart! Flex that muscle!
  • Will capitalize on the phrase "not sold at Wal-Mart" or "banned from", and turn it into a plus.

    Our new game is so sexy and violent it is banned from Wal-Mart.
  • 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.'"

    That may be true on consoles, but I call bullshit on PC game influence.

    I have no doubt about publishers being influenced by Wal*Mart, but there are a number of 'Grade A' games like GTA, Gun, that-50-cent-piece-of-crap-game-whose-name-escape s -me that don't seem vetted by Wal*Mart. The games may have sucked, but they had some seriou
  • Sorry, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:03PM (#15107760) Journal
    And you know what? If you could predict whether a game would be hugely successful or not, you might be right. But firstly, the fact is that it's an art, not a science, and nobody knows FOR SURE which titles are going to be hits and which are going to suck.

    "We're not going to carry any game with nudity."
    Gee, because before Wal-Mart became big, there was a HUGE market for computer-porn games?

    Are some games modified because of the tremendous buying power of Wal Mart? Sure, that's logical. But that's a big step from claiming that "every AAA game is managed start to finish, top to bottom" with WalMart in mind.

    Yes, for crapware like Deer Hunter and Barbie Fashion designer, I'm sure WalMart's giant demographic is part of their calculus "Say 0.001% of the WalMart electronics browsers buy our game? That's like....a gajillion dollars!".

    But AAA titles? I doubt it. How much did WalMart come into the design of World of Warcraft? Oblivion? GalCiv2? Peripherally, if at all.

    As usual, reality is somewhere beneath The Escapist's flashy hyperbolic copy.
  • by twifosp (532320) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:05PM (#15107780)
    If you stop and think about this for a minute, this is a very positive thing for the gaming industry. It will only serve to stiffle and choke more creative game designers. Which is why eventually they will realize they don't need the publishers. They have the internet. Valve gave it a good shot with Steam, but underestimated how egrigious its publisher, Vivendi, really was.

    We aren't far off from video game companies realizing they can maximize profits by raising their own capital and self publishing. In a world with broadband, buying games off the shelves just seems dumb. So everyone, lets gather around and thank companies like Wal-Mart for tightening its grip on the markets. The markets will choke to death and be reborn into something better.

    Or if not, look on the bright side. You can still buy guns at Wal-Mart and go for the ultimate grand theft auto experience.

  • Is it just me, or does TFA abruptly end.
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/40/11 [escapistmagazine.com]

    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

  • The Wal Mart Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikesmind (689651) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:08PM (#15107798) Homepage
    In my family, we have coined a term - The Wal Mart Effect. This effect happens when companies lower quality to meet the Wal Mart buyer's pricing demands. This results in other stores carrying the lower quality items that Wal Mart does so they too can compete on price.

    For example, you want to buy a pair of socks. You happen to like Brand X socks. Since Brand X sells socks at Wal Mart, they have to lower the quality of the product to meet the price point that the buyer demands. These same socks are then sold to Kmart, Target, Sears, etc. In order to get a good pair of socks that last, you have to move up to a brand like Gold Toe that isn't sold at Wal Mart. To get this sock, you now shop at JC Penneys, Dillards, etc. Yes, you gladly pay more, because you want your socks to last more than a few months.

    If you want quality, don't buy from Wal Mart. (It wasn't this bad when Sam Walton was in charge.)

  • Don't Blame Walmart (Score:2, Informative)

    by schnablebg (678930)
    Walmart has a right to decide what it wants to sell. The publishers and developers are the ones making a concsious decision here. Support independent game publishers that don't go through this channel, the ones that understand their customers enough to realize that there is a market that may lie outside of the Walmart shopper demographic and are willing to take the risk to sell to them. Remeber, only YOU can prove there is a market outside of Walmart.
  • ...where the player has to dodge falling prices?
  • Admiration... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBraynard (653724) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:09PM (#15107816) Journal
    Am I the only one who read the brief and sensed some admiration for Wal-Mart's achievement? (Though I don't think I've ever bought a PC game ther e- maybe some console games).

    Wal-Mart isn't strong because of it's buying power - it is strong because of it's selling power.

    Anyway, please feel free to resume your Wal-Mart hating now and label me flamebait/troll/whatever.

  • I had a meeting with the business development manager of a very large game publisher just a short while ago. He basically told me the very exact thing: unless Walmart reserves a certain amount of shelf space, they game won't even see the light of day [in most cases]. It even goes so far as that the format and packaging of the game is tightly controlled - if you want to do anything fancy, Walmart won't carry it - thus it won't exist. This is really nasty and it also stifles competition. Well, that's the pric
  • Good old capitalism (Score:4, Informative)

    by multiOSfreak (551711) <(culturejam) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:10PM (#15107830) Homepage Journal
    This is hardly surprising. Wal-Mart has had quite a stranglehold on the supply sie of the market for a number of years. Technically, they're not a monopoly, but for all practical purposes, they wield the power of a monopoly from one end of the supply chain to another. You have to admire their innovation (they've revolutionized the modern retail supply chain), but it's also quite scary how much control they have.

    Although it's been linked to numerous times here and elsewhere, I'd like to point those interested in learning more about how Wal-Mart deals with supppliers to the now-famous Fast Company article [fastcompany.com] on the subject.
  • Honestly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @03:26PM (#15107982)
    I mean, sure, Walmart is big, but would it be obvious that the combines sales of all retail outlets OUTSIDE of Walmart is greater?

    If you want that must have game, and Walmart doesn't carry it, are you saying that people will not buy the game elsewhere?

    I think it is pretty ridiculous to assume that Walmart has any control over software titles. I mean, I would easily agree that if you were making a brand of toilet paper, catering to Walmarts every whim makes sense because you want your toilet paper product in every Walmart. When people shop at Walmart, and they see your toilet paper there, they will buy it. More market exposure means more sales. People don't go out of their way to buy toilet paper, they buy it when they are at the store buying other things.

    But can the same be said for video games? I am sorry, I don't feel that video games are impulse buy items, not these days. I don't wander into a Walmart (actually, I try to avoid them like the plague), and just happen to say, "Hey, there is a game that looks intersting, lets drop $56.97 on it thats just burning a hole in my pocket!"

    How many times have I been screwed over with that mentality, dropping $40 - $80 on a video game only to bring it home and bored to tears 2 hours later. Or the game keeps me entertained for about a week before it gets old. I don't impulse buy video games any more. And I don't go to Walmart on the off chance there might be some new video game I haven't heard about sitting on the shelf.

    With the Internet, I keep an eye out for new game titles and when they are released I either demo them or get reviews and user opinions about the game. I.e. I am making an informed choice about the games that I buy. When I decide to buy the game then I go out specifically to buy the video game, and usually Walmart isn't my destination. Sure, Walmart might be the cheapest place, but generally its because they sell something $0.97 cheaper then other retail stores. Hardly worth the nightmare of trying to park in a Walmart parking lot, weave my way through all the slow moving buggy people, and then stand in line for 2 hours to make my purchase.

    So, I really can't see how software companies quiver in their boots if Walmart objects to one of their games. If the game is good, people will make a point to buy its regardless of where it is. There are still so many OTHER places then Walmart to buy video games.

    Ultimately, if video game developers feel their innovation is being stifled by big box brand stores, then simply go the route of Valve and distribute your software via Steam or some other online service. Bypass the big box stores and their "family values" kind of crap mentality.

    While I am sure that for some manufactures of many types of products losing Walmart as a retailer spells disaster, I can't see this being the case in the video game industry. F*ck Walmart if they don't like your game, its all about the customers, and if you actually make a decent game people will come to you to buy it, not Walmart.

    The only game developers I can see pandering to Walmart are those crapmongers that come out with 40 lame titles a year and hope that people will look at the cover and impulse buy the game at Walmart. Few of those games ever succeed, so the more places they can fling their crap, the more chances people will get hit with it.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @05:25PM (#15109034)
    In the evil capitalist system, a corporate giant like Walmart uses it's enourmous power and natural monopoly to exploit the people by driving out competition and lowering prices... and it also gives it the power to sqeeze suppliers and control content of media products.

    Where as in the socialist utopia, a government owned corporation uses it's enourmous power and monopoly to free the people from oppression, by lowering prices, driving out exploitive capitalist competition... sqeezing suppliers into charging the people low prices, and ensuring that the government corporation censors media for exploitive and counter-revolutionary material.

    Oh, that is right, the socialist system is less exploitive because "we have power"... we get to vote... every couple years... from a small list of parties... who are highly regulated by those in power... and subject to strict requirements written by those in power... and campaigns are funded by those in power... and in which we recieve information about the election from those in power. How could there be anything exploitive like that.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Tuesday April 11, 2006 @09:17PM (#15110323)
    All the self-congratulatory "I'm different than the masses who shop at Walmart. I value quality. I have refined tastes." is getting a little thick around here. I bear no ill-will in my heart for folks who bought their gym shoes at some specialty shop instead of buying them for 10% less at Walmart. You can laugh at the quality of Walmart shoes, although I regularly had them last over a year without noticeable performance problems (this is probably because all kids shoes are made in the same Chinese factories and the thing you pay for is the brand value -- people act like Walmart alone killed the US textile industry, when essentially *nobody* does any sort of commodity fabrication in the US). You can also laugh at the quality of their Wonderbread or whatnot, although personally I'm unable to distinguish it from the "local chain store" Wonderbread. I also find it relatively difficult to distinguish a Walmart Vlassic pickle from a Jewel Vlassic pickle... Oh yeah, except for that one thing... WALMART IS CHEAPER. My father was a small businessman whose income gyrated radically on a year-to-year basis, and some years my family was significantly below the poverty line. And you know what? There's a certain attraction in cutting your food bills by 10% and your clothing bills by *lots*. Do I have a really strong desire to go to Walmart as a working professional? No, not so much, the difference between a $60 bill at the grocery shop and $65 bill at the grocery shop is meaningless to me. But it wasn't once, and it isn't currently to a lot of people.

    Incidentally, the whole "Walmart economic death spiral" is a bit oversold. If you operate a retail business, Walmart dropping a store next to you is not so fun. If you work at a retail business, you might well end up working at the Walmart. If you do neither, the only economic impact Walmart has on you is changing what bag your Wonderbread comes in (and, oh, saving you money).

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