U.K. retailers GAME and GameStation have announced that they will not be stocking any new Electronic Arts releases in March, a lineup which includes the inevitable mega-hit Mass Effect 3.
February was a bad month for U.K. retailer GAME and March doesn't look like it'll be much better. After losing Ubisoft's launch titles for the PS Vita and canceling pre-orders for The Last Story, the retailer announced today that EA's entire slate of releases for March will be absent from its shelves. That means no Tiger Woods 13, no Sims 3: Showtime and, worst of all, no Mass Effect 3.
In an internal email obtained by GamesIndustry, the company told its employees that it had convened a meeting with various industry partners last week, during which it "explained the challenges we are facing in the short term" and "asked them to trade with us using manageable credit terms" while it undertakes a strategic review and refinancing of its business.
"We committed to only stocking products on which we could get the right credit terms, regardless of the title or the supplier," the email said. "We will not stock products if the terms are not right for our business - we will not sacrifice long-term credit requirements for short-term sales opportunities."
But for reasons unknown, EA wasn't willing to play ball and that means no Mass Effect 3 for Game customers. "As a result of us taking this position - a position that we believe is critical to our long-term health as a business - we have taken the very difficult decision to not stock EA's March releases, including Mass Effect 3," it continued. "As a specialist retailer dedicated to games and gaming, it is never easy to make a decision not to stock a title, particularly one with such a strong fan base. But it is imperative that we treat every supplier evenly, that we stick to our commitment and that we don't sign up to payment terms that will hamper us in the future."
To make up for the mess, Game is offering its customers £5 [$8] of "reward points" on top of their deposit refunds. It has also issued a statement to shareholders claiming that the situation is temporary and that discussions with EA about "future releases" are ongoing.
"Today the Group confirmed that it will not be stocking a small number of titles from one supplier, Electronic Arts, during March and notes that this has caused speculation in the market," the company told shareholders with a remarkable tone of understatement. "It is always a matter of regret when customers are inconvenienced, and both the Group and EA are committed to ensuring that this situation does not occur again."
"As part of the strategic plan development process which it announced on February 3, the Group has been working closely with its suppliers, as well as other stakeholders," it continued. "In particular, the Group has been discussing with its suppliers the level of support and engagement it needs from them over the coming months. There have, during that process, been isolated instances where it has not been possible to agree launch plans for individual game titles."
Talking about a "isolated instances" and a "small number" of games might be meant to soften the blow [or at least fool people who aren't really paying attention] but there's no way that the absence of Mass Effect 3, Mario Party 9, the new Tekken and Ubisoft's entire PS Vita lineup can be seen as anything but deeply troubling. And it certainly wasn't enough to calm twitchy shareholders; following the latest bad news, the Game Group PLC share price suffered a single-day drop of more than 16 percent.
U.K. gamers concerned about the state of their pre-order can find out more at EA's Mass Effect 3 U.K. Launch Update page. Mass Effect 3 comes out in Europe on March 9.