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The ethics of console bundles

WiiMrs Basshead has been after a Nintendo Wii ever since we spent an evening playing with some friends. She’s not the sort to be impressed by technical specifications or cutting edge 3D graphics, but Wii sports had her captivated for a couple of hours. I think it’s fair to say that Nintendo have captured the market for gamers who don’t usually like computer games.

I promised I would buy a Wii after the mad Christmas bundling died down, but it’s only now starting to fizzle out. We visited the Lakeside shopping centre on Sunday, where we couldn’t find a Wii without a game bundle. Woolworths had the cheapest at £215 including one £35 game of your choice. There were only three £35 games on the shelves, and two of those had ‘temporarily unavailable’ labels. Most impressive. Game wanted £245 for a console and two games from a choice of six. The other stores were similar.

Having seen that Play.com had the console available for £180 we decided to head home and order one online. We stopped at a Tesco ’10 minutes to walk from one end to the other’ superstore for munchies and nibbles on the way home so I thought I would try the electrical department. They had seven Wii’s in the store room at £180 because Tesco don’t do bundles, but they do give you a free game with the console. So we now have a Wii.

The free game is the awful Alvin and the Chipmunks, so they may as well have given us a free drinks coaster. The point here is that at least one store isn’t forcing their customers to buy more games than they want. Since Nintendo don’t sell the bundles it’s the retailers that are boosting their profits through forced game sales. The worst thing about this is that the stores are preying on parents who don’t want to disappoint their children so have little choice but to pay. What next? The Xbox 360 you can only buy with an extended 3 year warranty? Given the claimed 16% failure rate that’s probably not a bad idea.

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