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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Will Nintendo Turn Its Back on Rental Dealers If GameCube Winds Up Winning the Game?

13 Aug, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I love it. Nintendo of America is talking to Blockbuster and other big video rental chains to line up support for its new GameCube video game system,which is scheduled to launch Nov. 5.

"We hope to have a deal in the next 30 days or so," Nintendo senior marketingv.p. George Harrison told Video Store Magazine/Hive4media's David Ward.

Hmmm. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Nintendo that was furious when video retailers first tried to rent its games in the early 1990s, to the point where what was then the world's leading video game maker even used thecourts to try to pull the plug on rental.

In 1994, as more and more video retailers began renting games, the video trade magazines made a concerted push to attract video game advertising. They met with very little success -- until Nintendo, on the eve of the VSDA convention, booked a full-page ad in one of them.

The account executive's joy was cut short, however, when the actual ad arrived. It was a warning to video retailers to stop renting Nintendo gamesor risk legal action.

But now times have changed. Nintendo is no longer No. 1. The momentum is with Sony, still riding high with its PlayStation 2, while the buzz is with Microsoft and it's foray into gaming with the Xbox.

Nintendo is scrambling for attention, and with the fourth quarter approaching, the game maker appears willing to try anything it can to lift its new system above the competition.

Don't get me wrong -- I think it's great that Nintendo is welcoming video retailers with open arms, and I think rental dealers who rent GameCube systems and games -- assuming, of course, that Nintendo doesn't giveBlockbuster or the other biggies an exclusive -- will find not opposition butsupport, perhaps even in the form of perks like co-op advertising or specialhardware-software rental packages.

But smart dealers will also watch their backs. I have a hunch that if Nintendo happens to succeed in its uphill fight to regain the gaming crown, old attitudes will prevail and the company will turn its back on the rental dealers who helped it score this come-from-behind victory.

Rental dealers should know, by now, that they have no real friends in thisbusiness. They only get treated well if someone deems them useful.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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