What supermarkets can tell us about videogames

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my pet theories is that you can tell the shape of consumer technology by going to the supermarket. Supermarkets care very much about making money, so they don’t stock what they don’t think they can sell – so for example Blu-Ray is still conspicuous by its absence, and films on Sony’s UMD format barely appeared before disappearing again. So it’s interesting (to me, at least) to see what the three big supermarkets in my area are up to with videogames.

In the last couple of weeks, all three big chains – Tesco, Asda and Morrison’s – have changed their games aisles. Previously you’d find three equal sections: Wii/DS, Xbox/PC and PS3/PS2. Now, all three supermarkets have reshuffled things. The winner? Nintendo’s Wii. In my local Tesco it has two sections to itself, with a third section shared between the Xbox, PS3 and DS titles. PS2 and PC are relegated to the bargain buckets.

The reason is obvious: supermarkets make money from Wii games in a way they don’t from more serious consoles. Maybe it’s because Xbox and PS3 gamers buy online, or go the preowned route (I do the latter, which is why I’m currently being irritated by Army of Two before turning to Mirror’s Edge). Or maybe it’s because the Wii market dovetails nicely with the typical supermarket buyer, who doesn’t read Edge and who hasn’t heard of Metacritic. Whatever the reason, it’s proof that Nintendo has cleverly carved itself a whole new niche in gaming: games for people who aren’t gamers.

While we’re on the subject of supermarkets, my printer needed a pair of ink cartridges last week. It worked out £2 cheaper to buy a new, better printer with ink in it than to replace the cartridges in my existing one. If you had any doubt that the money’s in the ink and that printer firms sell hardware like Gillette sells razors…