The Green Sheet Online Edition
January 25, 2010 • Issue 10:01:02
Game cards find heaven in 7-Eleven
Evidenced by soaring sales in 2009, 7-Eleven Inc. believes it has become a prime destination for purchasers of prepaid gaming cards. While 7-Eleven would not divulge its actual numbers, Brian Haynes, Category Manager for Prepaid Cards at the convenience store chain, said, "We are very pleased with the results. We experienced well over a 50 percent increase over last year's sales. And we expect that trend to continue."
The upward trend in game card sales at 7-Eleven mirrors the explosion of the massively multiplayer online gaming realm, where gamers take on avatars (virtual alter egos) to enter and maneuver through virtual worlds. Many of the online games are free to play.
But gamers have to pay to enhance their experiences with special weapons, abilities, and even pets. That is where game cards come in, allowing gamers (primarily from younger demographics) to purchase virtual currency, or points, to be redeemed in virtual environments.
Following the school calendar
Haynes believes trouble in the economy is a main reason why the online gaming market is expanding so rapidly.
"Basically I think the customers are strapped for income and free-to-play games are the trend, the growing trend," he said. "The console games are definitely very expensive. The customers are choosing to look for other options. These microtransaction games make it very affordable and pleasurable for the gamer."
The cards usually cost anywhere from $5 to $49.99, with Haynes reporting a rise in the purchase of the lower denomination cards, once again due to the economy. 7-Eleven, which began carrying the cards in 2007, has recognized the cyclical nature of game card purchasing.
Haynes said sales spike in November and December (7-Eleven's best month for game card sales, doubling November totals). Spring break and the summer months when school is out are also strong for game card buying, with sales remaining flat the rest of the year.
On a monthly basis, Haynes sees game card sales peaking on the first and fifteenth of the month (paydays), with Fridays "always good for us too."
Six feet of prepaid
7-Eleven stores carry about 30 different game cards for popular gaming sites such as those published by Nexon Corp. and Zynga Game Network Inc. Atlanta-based Incomm processes all of the gaming cards 7-Eleven sells.
In 90 percent of 7-Eleven stores, prepaid cards (gift, reloadable debit, phone, as well as game cards) take up six feet of retail space, Haynes said. Given the limited space for the cards, 7-Eleven can only carry so many.
"There are so many new players coming into the arena ... that it's difficult for the processors like Incomm to get them on the same platform," Haynes said.
He estimates it will be two years before the selection of available game card titles reaches its full capacity, at which time the number of game publishers will start to contract. "I think Incomm will probably have their own aggregation card at some point," Haynes said. "If we could have one card, it would really enhance our ability to merchandise and carry a broader assortment."
Currently, the game cards 7-Eleven carries are one-time use cards; players redeem the value of the cards and then throw them away. By the second quarter of 2010, Haynes expects 7-Eleven will unveil a "rechargeable" game card that will allow gamers to reload cards with whatever cash or change they have on hand.
Haynes predicts that teen gamers will carry the reloadable cards around in their pockets and show them off, like a badge of distinction. The distinction for 7-Eleven will be in increased profitability, Haynes said.
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