Whitcoulls has a new web site?

Whitcoulls has recently released a new web site… I must confess that I’m not 100% sure just how new the site is, as I haven’t been following them closely at all.

Ignoring the usability issues, the offer to customers seems to be:

  • Free delivery
  • 24 hour shipping
  • 7-10 day delivery

So what’s with the 7-10 day delivery times? One can only assume they are shipping from Australia or the USA. Whitcoulls have a massive presence here in New Zealand, so why aren’t they leveraging their local stock holdings?

From a business point of view, the other interesting points are there are no DVDs available and very few New Zealand books. This leads to the assumption that Whitcoulls.co.nz is a direct port of their Angus & Robertson site in Australia.

While the new site is an improvement… can it make a difference to their flagging online fortunes?

The Ape wins big at the Netguide Awards…

Last night, Mighty Ape won the Best Online Shopping Site and Best New Site / Relaunch awards at the 2009 Netguide Awards. Or brothers in arms, Gameplanet, also won Best Gaming Related site.

Unfortunately I couldn’t be there, but it sounds like it was a great evening with Oliver Driver being one of the best MC’s they’ve had yet (sorry Kerre).

We were stoked with the awards and full credit goes out to our great team. We’ve got some incredibly dedicated monkeys who work incredibly hard to go above and beyond our customers expectations wherever they can. Hats off to all the team.

As you may have noticed, I currently don’t have much time to blog, but you can follow Mighty Ape and myself on Twitter to see what we’re up to…

EA vs. Atari – Who’s Right?

Relating to my last blog post on game prices, here’s an example of two game companies with different pricing strategies:

Electronic Arts New Release pricing:
Xbox 360: $99.95 – $119.95
PlayStation 3: $99.95 – $119.95
Nintendo Wii: $69.95
PC: $99.95
PS2: $49.95 – $79.95

EA Promotions: You can buy EA’s Christmas releases at “shot to bits” prices.

Atari New Release pricing:
Xbox 360: $109.95 – $139.95
PlayStation 3: $109.95 – $139.95
Nintendo Wii: $79.95 – $109.95
PC: $79.95 – $109.95
PS2: $69.95 – $89.95

Atari Promotions: None.

Electronic Arts are considerably more aggressive on the prices of the new generation console games (PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) when compared to Atari. Both companies obviously have two very different pricing strategies in place here in New Zealand.

Who’s got the right strategy to survive the recession? EA or Atari?

Hey, gamers are not crack addicts…

As we’ve all heard times are pretty tough out there, but some local game companies have come up with a new strategy to get through the recession — they’re raising their prices.

Want some cool PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 games for the bargain price of say… $140? Probably not. When was the last time games were 140 bucks? That’s more expensive than the Xbox 360 and PS3 launch prices. That’s more expensive than when games were incredibly expensive to make (and the console markets were tiny). You’d need to go back to the PS2 launch to see such “old skool” pricing madness.

With the Xbox 360 being three years old and the PlayStation 3 two… consumers actually expect prices to drop. Gamers are not idiots. Gamers are not crack addicts. We’re in a recession. Unemployment is climbing. Spending is falling. Hello? Gamers will not fork out 140 bucks en masse. They’re not going to fall for that shit.

The concern I see is that these high prices encourage local gamers to import directly from overseas — and eventually that “one-off” purchase will become a habit. Thanks to the Internet, the world is getting smaller. The retail prices in Asia are often far cheaper than NZ and consumers know this. When gamers can buy these same $140 games for less than we (i.e. Mighty Ape) can… something is broken.

High prices will lead to lower sales for both NZ retailers and distributors. Everyone loses (well everyone except for Nintendo – Wii game prices are looking even more attractive eh).

In my opinion, NZ distributors can’t afford to live in the dark ages for much longer. The local prices need to be sharpened — not increased. All things being equal, we’d much rather support the local games industry than import from overseas, however we’ll always do what’s best for our customers and our business. And if that means importing ourselves… we will.

The customer comes first right? We think so.

Educate parents over access to violent video games

The NZ Herald has published an article in which Bill Hastings, the chief censor, wants to prosecute some parents over access to restricted video games.

Now, as a parent and a retailer of video games, I whole-heartedly agree with what Mr Hastings is hoping to achieve. But I believe his approach is possibly wrong. Prosecuting some parents (who may or may not be aware of their responsibilities) doesn’t seem right.

I’d suggest (again) that a lot of parents would be completely unaware that they are breaking the law when they allow their children to play R-rated video games. In my opinion, the government needs to educate parents before prosecuting them. They need to get some advertising campaigns in the mass media to educate parents on what their legal responsibilities are and how to monitor their children’s internet activities. This would be more effective than any law suit… and yes it would cost more. Give Bill Hastings an advertising budget.

Another concern I have, is that in the past, Internal Affairs have been very focused on packaged goods, yet its getting easier and easier to access R-rated games via the internet. Possibly the best way to enforce censorship over the internet, is to educate parents & caregivers. Parental censorship is getting more and more important by the minute (broken record syndrome is kicking in!).

Bill Hastings also wants to have all video games rated, which I believe would be a disaster for the local gaming industry.

Here’s why:

  1. For starters, its costs $1450 to get a game classified — this will lead to higher prices & some games not being released (officially at least)
  2. It takes at least two-four weeks to get a game classified – this will lead to slower release dates & more overseas buying
  3. There’s a massive trade on Trademe that would need to be controlled (controlling this may lead to the cost of classifications rising further? The extra enforcement has to be funded somehow?)
  4. It would be cheaper and faster to buy games from other countries via the web.

The obvious question I have is… will requiring a kids game to be rated a “G” help address the real problem? I can’t see how? Can you?

In my opinion, the local video game industry doesn’t need more regulation to fight against. It needs less. The industry is already struggling to compete with overseas imports and New Zealand is doing poorly compared to markets like Australia (we had an estimated 7% growth from 2008  vs 30% growth in Australia).

Personally a classification system similar to Australia may work. Across the Tasman, the distributors “submit” the rating — meaning its cheap and fast to execute. Implementing such a system, while retaining the strict classification of games likely to be R-rated, may well work.

But I believe expanding the current system to require official classification of all games will make the local game industry uncompetitive and the result would be more imports, more internet purchasing and an even greater reliance on parents.

The government needs to get educating. Not legislating. And definitely not prosecuting… yet.

So how good is the rain?

After yesterdays ramblings, I did some very quick analysis of yesterdays rain-affected sales on Mighty Ape. The sales from yesterdays poor weather:

  1. blitzed all the Saturdays in February 2008
  2. were 39% higher than the average Saturday in January 2009
  3. were easily the highest for a Saturday in 2009 so far

The quick conclusion one can draw is that… rain is good for online sales (but not so good for Twenty20 cricket finals).

Goodbye Summer…

Its official. Today is the last day of summer and the weather is pretty bleak out there. But judging from our web traffic today, it seems that rain is better than sun — our web traffic is tracking 30-40% higher than a typical sunny Saturday!

We find that Saturdays are our typically the quietest day of the week for Mighty Ape and we’re starting to notice that the weather can have a real impact on the weekend sales (but less so during the work week). For example, last weekend was a little wet, and sales were up significantly on the two previous weekends. Initially we thought it was us, as one of our site tweaks had obviously made a massive impact… but eventually, we realised that the weather had played the biggest part in increasing our sales for the weekend.

Retailers have long known that the weather can play a role in determining sales and I’m very interested to track how the sales from this rather bleak weekend compare with an average summers weekend. Just how big is the impact of bad weather on online sales?

Did I mention we’re looking forward to a really wet winter. ;)

I caved…

gallery-big-01Last week I finally caved and bought myself my first ever Apple Mac. I was originally going to buy myself a decent PC laptop to get myself a little more mobile around the house, but I ended up going for a MacBook Pro on a hunch.

My initial impressions are all good. The packaging was first class, the initial experience was excellent and so far the performance has been top notch. I’m mainly using the MacBook for mail, internet and World of Warcraft (which actually helps the MacBook double as a heater — good for winter, not so much for summer!).

My initial fears of running two different Operating Systems have been unfounded as the brain seems to adapt to each environment really quickly (but I’m happy to admit I’m still a complete Mac newbie). Its susrprising how adaptable the human brain can be.

Interestingly, within hours of getting my Mac, I was getting the Mac jibes…  “silly mac users”, “noob” and “mac user haha”.

But I’m already starting to wonder how long my home PC desktop will last… the MacBook is a real pleasure to use. Highly recommended. :D

BTW, Video games thrash movies and DVDs…

There’s something that has been bugging me for a while. Each week the NZ Herald publishes their weekly Timeout Guide which covers new releases and news for Film, Music, Books and Television.

I’ve often wondered why don’t they include video games in this section?

While its nice that The Herald files gaming under their Technology section on their web site, perhaps it’s time that gaming was included in their weekly Timeout publication?

Not only would this mean that the Timeout publication would appeal to more people, but it also opens up avenues for more advertising revenue (todays guide includes a full page ad for a DVD release, a 1/3 page ad for a Film, the usual theatre ads and no music ads whatsoever).

Just how big is gaming getting? The Age posted a news article this week headlined: Video games thrash movies and DVDs

This article highlights that gaming is now a mainstream activity (as if the recent Oliver Newton-John ads weren’t enough of a hint). The article goes on to mention:…

“The video games industry is now double the size of the box office and more than 40 per cent larger than the movie disc industry in Australia, thanks to explosive growth in social games that allow the whole family to play.

The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) today released figures showing games industry revenue was $1.96 billion in calendar year 2008, an increase of 47 per cent from the previous year.

Sony Computer Entertainment managing director Michael Ephraim said: “It’s clear now that the [games] industry is the nucleus of entertainment – it has come out of the bedroom, into the living room, and on to every kind of device, and we’re going to see another few years of considerable growth.”

Video games are no longer confined to the  bedroom. I believe its time the folks at The Herald get with the times. Video games thrash movies and DVDs…

Get gaming into the Timeout guide!

My Sky HDi > Freeview

skyI must confess that I have a pretty good home theatre set up for video gaming and for watching the odd movie.

The whole set up is powered by a Sony amp and everything (literally) runs through the amp including all the video and sound. Unfortunately one of the down sides with using an amp for video is that TV’s with Freeview built-in are pointless, so last year I purchased Freeview HD to enjoy television in high definition.

But overall, I was disappointed with the lack of HD programs that were broadcast on the Freeview channels. TV3 was excellent, but most of the TV1 and TV2 programs weren’t high definition at all. After a while I began to leave Freeview turned off and just reverted to using the old trusty Sky TV decoder. It just wasn’t worth the hassle of using an extra remote and changing the input on the amp just to watch something in slightly better resolution.

But I recently upgraded our Sky decoder to the My Sky HDi decoder and I’ve not looked back. With My Sky HDi you get SKY Sport 1, SKY Sport 2, SKY Movies, SKY Movies Greats and TV3 in proper high definition. It’s beautiful.. and watching the Black Caps in high definition has been nothing short of brilliant.

On top of the “high def goodness” you get cool features like recording your favourite programs and the live pause (which gets handier every day). You can even record two channels at once and watch a third and I must confess to even achieving that feat once so far.

My Sky HDi is so handy, it has changed my TV viewing habits. I no longer sit down at scheduled times each week to catch my favourite shows. I use MySky to record the series each week and leave it to it.

When I want to watch some TV, I don’t channel surf or settle for whatever is on — I flick through my recorded programs and watch something I really wanted to watch. The result is that I now watch less TV.

Kudos to Sky TV… My Sky HDi is a great piece of technology that makes life easier.