Channel bypass for Atari

Channel bypass for Atari

Games publisher, Atari, has stirred up discontent in the channel by cancelling orders for a forthcoming limited edition title in order to sell it exclusively through Harvey Norman.

The mass merchant snapped up all available copies of Unreal Tournament 2004: Special Edition, which comes with a bonus DVD and a headset, Atari said.

The vendor declined to reveal how many copies of the limited edition game had been allocated to Australia, but said it had cancelled 160 channel orders in favour of doing the deal with Harvey Norman.

“The product in question was on our release schedule for a limited time,” a company spokesperson said. “We received an offer from Harvey Norman that was both significant in terms of their commitment to marketing and units.” Atari is advising other retailers to offer the standard edition of Unreal Tournament to their customers instead.

But the exclusive deal was news to several Atari distributors and retailers, some of whom had placed orders for the title as early as October last year.

South Australian-based distributor, AFA Interactive, had been pre-selling the limited edition game to its customers until learning of Atari’s decision to yank the title last week.

Adelaide-based Berlin Wall Software had ordered 180 copies of the limited edition game, according to managing director, Rob Beaumont.

“We had 60 customer orders,” he said.

The Games Wizard chain and online retailer, Games Warehouse, were among those with backorders.

Games Warehouse had ordered 30 copies of the game in October and hadn’t been notified that the order wouldn’t be fulfilled, manager, Tiffany McAdam, said.

“If Atari Australia won’t sell it to us, there’s nothing we can do,” McAdam said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last.”

Atari had done similar exclusive deals with Harvey Norman and Electronics Boutique, she said.

Atari had put dealers in a difficult position by not keeping them informed of its plans for the limited edition game, said Beaumont.

After the game had disappeared from Atari price lists in November, sales staff had told customers it wasn’t available in Australia.

These customers would now feel lied to, he said.

Both dealers and their customers would miss out as a result of the exclusive arrangement, Beaumont said.

For dealers, missing out on a collector’s edition meant missing out on a guaranteed sell-out game, he said.

Previous special editions had matched or sold more than standard editions, even when considerably more expensive, Beaumont claimed.

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