Last week's Dreamcast launch may have netted Sega 100,000 sales in 24 hours, but independent games retailers were fuming after being left without stock on the morning of the much anticipated launch.
While more than 100 major electronics retailers opened at 12am to queues of eager Dreamcast fans, many of the independent stores were faced with empty shelves.
One store in the West Midlands didn't take delivery until 1pm - 13 hours after the likes of Tower Records and Electronics Boutique saw their first consoles going out the door.
"They've done it to all the independents," said a store manager in east London.
Will Copeland, of Norfolk based One Step Beyond, did take delivery of the Dreamcast reasonably early, but only by hounding the companies involved.
"We got all the stock on shelves just one minute before we opened on Thursday morning, and we were bloody lucky to get that. A lot of independents didn't," he said.
"The only reason we got them was because I made a nuisance of myself and hassled the courier."
"It's another example of the independents going to the back of the queue," he added.
From a spark to a flame
The first mention of the Dreamcast's 128bit processor and Internet access immediately sparked huge interest, with 40,000 advance orders taken in the UK. This suggested even the most hardcore Playstation users would switch to Sega instead of sticking with Sony and waiting a year for the Playstation 2.
"People have loyalty to technology, not a company. They just want bigger and better consoles," explained Chris Ratcliff, owner, editor and publisher of Game Guide and head of the G30 consortium of independent games retailers.
The independent stores anticipated some stock shortages but were helpless to act as neither Sega nor Gem would say what percentage of Dreamcast consoles would be allocated to the independents. According to Copeland, however, Sega had allocated just 12 per cent to this sector.
Before the launch Gem did want to assure the independents that they would all receive the console. "They will get a fair and significant allocation of stock, because they're an important sector," said Paul Donnelly, managing director of Gem.
However, while independent stores are said to represent 15 per cent of the total, Copeland believes they are hugely underestimated, so there would automatically be shortages.
While most of the retailers were resigned to the delay and uncertainty surrounding the biggest console launch this decade, there were concerns that if demand became too great, the stock shortage would continue and then the real problems would start.
"The chains are taking deposits on Dreamcast and some are saying the first batch is already sold out," said Copeland. But for stores that had only a few consoles to start with, "the real acid test is when the second delivery comes. If the shortages are extended to the third week, then there will be problems."
A week before the launch Ratcliff was still excited about the big day, but was concerned that all the hard work by the independents will be overshadowed by stores such as Toys R Us and Woolworth's undercutting them.
"Thursday will be the bonanza we were hoping for," said Ratcliff. "The only thing that will spoil it is if the Beanie Babies and Barbie retailers get in on the act."
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