Home Gaming Buying Halo Reach: South Africa's Retail Gaming Industry Is In Trouble

Buying Halo Reach: South Africa's Retail Gaming Industry Is In Trouble

8 min read


Yesterday saw the release of Microsoft’s biggest title of 2010 by far, which as you all know, was the latest entry of their flagship series, Halo Reach.

What is Halo Reach to the gaming industry? It’s money, and lots of it. The game had already surpassed 2 million pre-orders worldwide, and at an average price of around $60 globally, that means that the game had generated over $120,000,000.00 (roughly R900,000,000.00) before it was even released. So why then, on the day of its release in South Africa, is the local gaming industry not only ill-equipped for the event, but uneducated as well?

My experience over the next hour or two was enlightening to say the least. Bare with me as I take you on my journey through retail-shopping-land and the discovery that South Africa’s retail gaming industry has a lot of work cut out for it.

As most of you well know, I receive a lot of games direct from distributors in order to write reviews, which of course, comes with the obvious perk of not having to buy it myself.

For the release of Halo Reach, I was supposed to receive a review copy but still needed to buy an extra copy for my wife. After the review copy didn’t arrive, I decided that I was happy enough to spend the money to support the game, so we went out to buy two copies instead.

I headed over to the Menlyn Shopping Center in Pretoria, which as you may know, is one of the largest malls in the Southern hemisphere, and an extremely popular one at that. If Halo was going to be raking in sales from your everyday gamer, surely this would be one of the places that the business would be going down.

I had last minute urge to try and get my hands on a legendary edition, even though I knew my chances were slim, so I chose to visit all of the gaming stores in the mall to see if they had any stock.

Out Of Reach

BT Games was closest to the entrance that we used, so we headed there first. When I asked the staff about stock for the legendary edition of Halo Reach, they knew what I was talking about (expected from a dedicated gaming store) and informed me that they didn’t have stock, but did have the normal version. So I promptly thanked them and went on my way.

Next up was Look and Listen, which was just around the corner. They had a few promo boxes of Halo Reach on the shelves, and when I enquired about the legendary edition, they said they would only be getting stock of it later in the week, but did have the limited and normal version available.

So far so good, believe it or not. What came next was a shocker, and inspired me to right this very article.

Hay What? Ha-Lo

I headed over to Musica next, which was also just a few steps from the Look and Listen. Looking at the shelves, there was no sign of Halo Reach, so I enquired about stock at the counter. After checking the computer, the sales person then made a point to confirm with me that Halo Reach, was in fact, a DVD movie.

Yes, the biggest Xbox 360 title of the year, and he hadn’t even heard the name, nor did he even know that it was a video game. Great stuff, Musica. They hadn’t received any stock, of a game like Halo Reach, on launch day. Why didn’t they have their stock yet?

Next up, I visited the rather large CNA, which has a big section of its store dedicated to gaming. When I arrived I noticed large Halo Reach Promo boxes and cardboard pop-ups in the windows. This looked promising. After being completely ignored by the staff for a few minutes and with no sign of the game on sale, we hunted down a sales person and asked them to check what they had available.

Believe it or not, she too didn’t really have a good idea of what we were talking about, but proceeded to tell us that they hadn’t received any stock yet. That’s two stores that hadn’t received any stock. Strange, considering BT and Look and Listen both had stock.


I proceeded to Top CD, which if you don’t know, is a chain of stores based only in Gauteng that is very similar (and in fact older) than Look and Listen. While I don’t always agree with their pricing, their gaming section is usually pretty jacked-up and the staff is always knowledgable and helpful.

The manager of the store actually approached me to ask what I needed and when I mentioned Halo Reach, lo and behold, he knew exactly what I was talking about. Unfortunately, it was only a few moments later that he informed that there stock had not arrived either, later mentioning that with the distributors, it just happens sometimes.

Strike three. That’s was the third major store in the mall to not have received their stock, but more on that in a bit.

I finally headed over to Incredible Connection and upon mentioning Halo Reach, I was met with yet another baffled look on the sales person’s face. He proceeded to do the now-very-tedious task of checking the store computer, and after staring at a list of Halos, told me that they didn’t have any game called Halo Reach.

That was, of course, moments before I pointed out the words “Halo Reach” in the list literally milliseconds before he closed the program. He disappeared off to the back room to check for stock, while I stood around noticing that they too had the promo boards, but had stuck them in a dingy little corner of the store.

He returned with a copy of Reach in his hands. Great news, they had Halo Reach, but why in the heck was it not already sitting on the shelves on its day of release. They were the cheapest in the mall, so I left with two copies, simply baffled by my experience. Screw the legendary edition, there were bigger problems going on.

This experience made a few big problems very evident.

Show Me The Money

First is down to the stores. When a huge chunk of bow-tied money comes your way, why would you not have bothered to educate any of your staff about the title? I’ll bet the sales guy could have talked the shit out of my ear about the latest Twilight Movie.

Second, if you were fortunate enough to actually receive stock on or before launch day, why the hell is it not up on your shelves with a big sign saying “you can throw your money at us here”.

Down to my third point. What on earth is going on with our distribution channels? How is it possible, that out of six major retail stores that pull in major business, only half of them received stock, even when a store that didn’t was a 5 second walk away?

Quick, Blame Someone!

In this case I believe that the finger has to be firmly pointed at Microsoft South Africa, right? Not only have they failed to provide stock to all of the retailers that ordered, but it quickly becomes obvious that they didn’t make a big effort to let them know that hey, by the way, Halo Reach is our biggest launch of the year.

They aren’t solely to blame though, as the stores themselves should be educating their staff on their products, especially when it is expected to be very popular.


In Comparison

When we attended E3 in Los Angeles this year, we were flabbergasted by the monumental amount of Red Dead Redemption advertisements placed all over the city. When we say “monumental”, we mean that we couldn’t drive more than a few blocks away from one, without seeing another one up on a billboard or plastered onto a bus stop. We guess-timate that over the whole of Los Angeles, there were easily around 250 – 500 of them, no kidding.

South Africa clearly didn’t get the newsletter that mentioned that the gaming industry has completely surpassed the film industry in terms of revenue generated, and that if they put in a bit of effort, they could start selling a ton of units.

Instead of hearing “Hey, did you know that the latest Halo is out today”, I was hearing “Halo what?” and with a title as popular as this… it’s no wonder that our country has taken so long to get services like Xbox Live.

What do you think about the situation in South Africa? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and opinions.

Last Updated: September 15, 2010


  1. i can fully agree and i can rant on for days on what they got wrong here in this country i can’t even waste money and get what i waste it on its too much to ask for the gaming retailers here
    they wanna sell u a product when they feel and at double the price and half the extra’s thats the attitude i was shown hence i move on till i find a store that actually wants to do some serious business


  2. Uncle

    September 15, 2010 at 10:53

    Thats why I always use gaming stores like Zaps they know what a big deal it is. It is also the reason why I pre-order so I don’t have to hassle with that ordeal!


  3. Fox1

    September 15, 2010 at 10:59

    I buy through retailers all the time and it doesn’t get any better than your experiences. Once I wanted a copy of SC:Double Agent from Musica Megastore. The sales lady went into a day dream then replied they are out of stock. Then i went to the little Musica at the other end of the mall that told me the big Musica has stock.

    Firstly, the pricing between retailers and MS SA is messed up. For 2 years now our exchange rate has being locked at R10-$.

    Who is taking the extra bucks gained? Where is competition? Can’t they be like EA Games SA and release their games at a realistic price that’s relative to the rest of the gaming universe? Have a look at these prices and these are AAA titles

    Secondly, that’s so hideous for BT Games and IC to be uninformed considering they have their own dedicating gaming sites/blogs and mags.


  4. Fox1

    September 15, 2010 at 11:04

    If only there was more Zaps stores countrywide 🙁


  5. Moody

    September 15, 2010 at 11:04

    LoL – Halo What?


  6. bo0m

    September 15, 2010 at 11:05

    Story of my life!

    What about Toys R Us that doesn’t even sell anything Xbox?
    MS SA needs to shine the hell up.


  7. Moody

    September 15, 2010 at 11:10

    Thats why we have a online shop Fox


  8. Jonni

    September 15, 2010 at 11:17

    I had almost exactly the same experience when trying to get halo reach in durban gateway. There is zero hype in SA for such a huge title. I hope this reaches high up microsoft peeps. The launch of halo 3 in SA was crazy!!! midnight launches, thousands of preorders, stores sold out. Halo reach has been a huge fail. Thanks for making this article:)


  9. Uncle

    September 15, 2010 at 11:18

    I think it all comes down to marketing. Who has the distribution rights for Reach in SA? Its their responsibility to market their product.


  10. D4RKL1NG

    September 15, 2010 at 11:19

    Great article! But like someone said,Story of our lives here in S.A.
    I once went to CNA in Centurion mall to ask for a copy of Uncharted 2,the lady at the counter (Who look 12) also looked under Dvd movies,when I eventually told her it was a game she checked on the pc and told me: “Unfortunately we only have stock of the Wii version”. Needless to say I just smiled and left. :face:


  11. eXp

    September 15, 2010 at 11:24

    The biggest problem is that you did this whole process in Pretoria, where people hang blue balls from their Bakkies.

    Just sayin’



  12. Hey...

    September 15, 2010 at 11:26

    Nick, firstly, you ended up “throwing your money” at a store which you listed as the worst of the lot. Put your money where your mouth is. If you don’t believe they deserve your business, don’t give it to them. It’s very simple; support the good companies, and the bad companies will have to catch up.

    Secondly, did you bother to contact Microsoft SA about this? There are bigger things at play here, and the logistical side is huge and complex. I can understand your desire to “blame Microsoft” from a consumer point of view, but as a journalist, you have a responsibility to the truth.

    If you wanted to make this article valuable, you should have called MS up, or spoken to an Incredible Connection representative.

    I assume that, since you are writing on this website, you are at least trying to embody journalistic ideals? Or is this just a mouth piece for another disgruntled, opinionated local gamer?


  13. WeRRieS ZA

    September 15, 2010 at 11:31

    Never buy anything from BT, not even sliced bread!ZAPS or Kalahari all the way!


  14. WeRRieS ZA

    September 15, 2010 at 11:33

    And one thing I’ve learned being from Bloem, (yes we actually have some retail stores here, incl a shocking BT Games) is to pre order/order all my games online! Can’t believe there are okes still paying R700 for a game from their local Look and Listen or whichever store! Hell, I should open a store here, I would make a killing! :devil:


  15. ReAVeR

    September 15, 2010 at 11:33

    I think you guys are all missing the most relevant question here…. Why does Nick have shit in his ear?


  16. ewie

    September 15, 2010 at 11:42

    This just sound so familiar, and I would lay the blame on the retailers themselves, they do not have a dedicated “gaming” marketing manager or such. Someone within the company to drive the sales of games, a few years ago one of our favourite on-line retailers kalahari.net was in exactly the same predicament. You just knew that when you ordered a game it will be few days late. But all this changed when they got someone that understand gaming and that gamers more than any other media want the games on date and day of launch. The service weith them have exceeded expectation from when “AM-NESIA” took over and made work of it to make sure games are available on launch.

    Retailers by now should know that up to 40% of the games sales happen on day 1 and most likely 60% in the first week. So by not having the games near launch they are potentially loosing on 50% sales of a game in a few days.


  17. PewPew

    September 15, 2010 at 11:43

    Hey there. Just a question if I may…. I would like to know why neither Incredible connection nor Microsoft were contacted for comments pertaining to the issue at hand


  18. EtienneK

    September 15, 2010 at 11:52

    Welcome to our world, buddy.

    This is how its been for a while now. That’s why I have mainly switched over to Steam for most of my PC purchases. Console games I preorder from Kalahri.net, Take2.co.za or BT Games online. I don’t dare preorder from a physical shop anymore.

    It’s all going online. And with service like what you’ve mentioned in your article, it’s not hard to see why.


  19. EtienneK

    September 15, 2010 at 11:56



  20. PewPew

    September 15, 2010 at 12:00

    I :wub: Nick de Bruyne


  21. Atomic

    September 15, 2010 at 12:07

    Maybe CNA was being punished as they have been known to break release dates 🙂


  22. moose007

    September 15, 2010 at 12:19


    I think he was replying to reavers

    “I think you guys are all missing the most relevant question here…. Why does Nick have shit in his ear?”


  23. Fred

    September 15, 2010 at 12:19

    Halo : Facepalm
    Did you see any Move advertisements or promotions on your travels?


  24. AC!D

    September 15, 2010 at 12:21

    😆 @EttieneK: He was replying to Reavers comment 😆

    Anyways this isnt news. South Africa has the worst service industry in the world. I could tell you guys some horror stories about other industries in our country and gaming is mild in comparison. But yeah Kalahari and online is the way to go. Ive never had a single problem with them and they have always been the cheapest in the country.


  25. Jq

    September 15, 2010 at 12:28

    Bwahahahaha, But he for sure as hell is a damn good writer. Nick even if you have shit in your ear, I will still love all of your articles.


  26. Fred

    September 15, 2010 at 12:32

    Kalahari , very good , never had issues with any purchase since ps2 days.
    They are our Amazon.


  27. ReAVeR

    September 15, 2010 at 12:35

    I actually taught him everything he knows…

    … and by “everything” I actually just mean dirty jokes.


  28. Field Marshal JR Lenoir

    September 15, 2010 at 12:54

    I don’t find it surprising that Microsoft SA has dropped the ball on the local Halo launch or even bothering to advertise it. It should be clear to everyone that we’re a fairly inconsequential peripheral gaming market. I sincerely doubt that the total number of xbox 360s in South Africa would be in the high tens of thousands if even in the low hundred thousands. I wish someone would be kind enough to post some local numbers, but in any case, for a population of just under 49 million, only a small fraction of which can actually contribute to taxes, draw a salary and thus buy xbox 360s. Of course, we’re not going to get noticed.

    Let’s not forget that some local retailers have been shunning the xbox 360 for the last few years because of the reliability issue. However, the feather in the hat, is ultimately that Microsoft SA’s main focus has always remained the computing side, regardless of their claims to the contrary.


  29. Field Marshal JR Lenoir

    September 15, 2010 at 13:02

    Bollocks! The worst in the world? Nonsense! South Africa is pretty shitty, I’ll admit and our government sucks ass, but it’s hardly got the worst service industry in the world.

    It took me months to cancel my telenor ISP account in Sweden, and even when I finally got it cancelled, they still billed me. Same thing happened in France, when I struggled to get my deposit back from the landlord from hell and when I tried to install and subsequently 2 years later tried to cancel my phone line and ISP. :getlost:

    Don’t diss SA until you travelled. Denny Crane!


  30. NATO

    September 15, 2010 at 13:42

    I also did the Menlyn rounds yesterday with mostly the same results…

    The SA gaming industry is for some reason still very much considered a underground/cult thing by the local retailers. It’s time they catch a wakeup. :getlost:


  31. Nizahm

    September 15, 2010 at 13:50

    i had the same problem just this morning when trying to buy a PSN Card. Called Musica Vangate and the guy on the other side of the line didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. When one of the biggest Playstation 3 exclusives launched this month I saw only one store in all of Cape Town that had some sort of effort done with instore advertising and a midnight launch. But what I can see happening is that alot of stores tend to aim at the Casual Market rather than the Hardcore. South Africa is small blip on the international gaming front so I guess Casual is where the money is for most retailers and BTGames is the only dedicated gaming store around…


  32. Uncle

    September 15, 2010 at 14:14

    Try http://www.evopoints.co.za they are excellent for cards/points.


  33. ewie

    September 15, 2010 at 14:25

    @Field Marshal JR Lenoir

    Last time someone reported numbers XBOX was almost at 100 000. so it should be just around there.


  34. ewie

    September 15, 2010 at 14:44

  35. Generic ZA

    September 15, 2010 at 14:56

    Sadly this sounds about normal for any store that is not a dedicated game outlet.

    That said I’m off to Menlyn as I really want a copy of that Halo DVD, if it’s anything like the short promo movie for Reach it’ll be excellent. :biggrin:


  36. Milesh Bhana

    September 15, 2010 at 15:08

    Chain stores usually get stock at a central depot and distribute to branches, so i’m not surprised that they dropped the ball.

    What’s interesting though, is that when MI Digital were the distributors. Halo 3’s launch was greeted with radio ads and massive billboards. Also big billboard ads for Forza 2.

    I think that whoever took over doesn’t want to spend that kinda cash.


  37. Gavin Mannion

    September 15, 2010 at 15:12

    Balls… you try get any sort of service out of anyone in Australia before you state South Africa has the worst service industry in the world.

    SA can improve but we are miles above the worst.


  38. Nick de Bruyne

    September 15, 2010 at 15:16

    Sorry that was meant as a joke for Reavers “shit in the ear” joke. Stupid WordPress app didn’t reply in the right place


  39. ewie

    September 15, 2010 at 15:23

    @ Milesh Bhana,

    Or they are saving all the marketing money for the launch of Kinect.


  40. Dawie

    September 15, 2010 at 15:35

    You know why they didn’t have any stock? Because they can spot a kak game a mile away… :whistle:


  41. Field Marshal JR Lenoir

    September 15, 2010 at 15:46

    Exactly! 120 000 consoles sold over a period of 4 years, where the total population of South Africa is almost 50 million. The statistics are not on our side, thus it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re practically ignoring us as a market.

    In comparison, 120 000 of the new slim consoles were sold over a few WEEKS in the US. Why would they buy advertising in South Africa, when the demand for the console is not that great?


  42. Steve Hofmeyr

    September 15, 2010 at 15:52

    Pitty that kak game is selling like crazy… They must be kicking themselves.


  43. Zombie Dredd

    September 15, 2010 at 15:54

    Funny thing is that I’ve been into Musica stores and had to help Musica’s clients with their requests because the “assistant” didn’t know what they were talking about. About music.


  44. Fox1

    September 15, 2010 at 16:08

    Not exaclty. The 360 Arcade used to be sold out for weeks when it was priced at R1700 and bundled with some goodies.


  45. Cleric

    September 15, 2010 at 16:23

    You know, I’ve been trying to avoid saying this lately, but wtf has happened to the quality of grammar and prose on this site? “very similar than” is not a sentence. Something is “similar to” something else, not “similar than” something else.


  46. OutOfReacH

    September 15, 2010 at 16:39

    Some retailers are more concerned about stock loss through theft than active selling so they leave the bulk of the stock in the back and put one on the shelf. What happens when that unit is purchased? DOH !!! No one puts stock in the front again.


  47. koldFU5iON

    September 15, 2010 at 16:39

    and the winner of the random/off topic award goes too … lol :silly:


  48. Geoffrey Tim

    September 15, 2010 at 17:07

    Rest assured, Nick will be beaten.


  49. Nick de Bruyne

    September 15, 2010 at 17:10

    Sorry, it was because I saw it coming from the word in brackets “older” so, “older than”. It happens sometimes when you change a sentence and don’t see it, sorry :cwy: . My mistake, to be fair I wrote this article at a very unearthly hour even by my standards. Still, I should have spotted it, but if you spot issues please do let us know.

    Thanks for the comment


  50. Aussious

    September 15, 2010 at 18:41

    Eisha we’ve all kinda grown accustomed to that kind of service in SA, but I must say this generation it has gotten alot better than previous gens when gaming was seen by many retailers as niche and insignificant market. But i personally do all my gaming shopping at Zaps and normally R350 for used new releases, bt wit halo i used kalahari.


  51. xdvd

    September 15, 2010 at 20:23

    A couple of things … Comztek has the distributing rights to Microsoft published xbox 360 games, not Microsoft South Africa, and they have never marketed any of Microsoft’s big titles (Alan wake, Forza 3, etc.) so I am not surprised that they didn’t spend money advertising Halo Reach.Secondly, only dedicated games stores (BT Games, ZAPS, etc.) are guaranteed to stock any new release from day one. Thirdly, (@ Nick) the Halo Reach Legendary edition had very limited quantities reaching our local shores (with shortages reported in the Guateng area pre – launch), so if you have not pre-ordered yours you might struggle to find any at any retail stores, but I think that Kalahari might still have some. Off topic … a friend of mine (that works at BT Games coincidentally) goes to Musica Cavendish square in Claremont, Cape Town to buy the Book of Eli dvd movie featuring Denzil Washington, right. He asks the sales assistant if they have Book of Eli in stock. The sales assistant replies ” sorry sir, we are not a book store”……., so the Halo – what! response doesn’t surprise me.


  52. Nick de Bruyne

    September 15, 2010 at 20:30

    Yeah like I said, I knew my chances of getting a Legendary edition by simply walking into a store were very slim, so I didn’t really expect to find one.


  53. lans

    September 15, 2010 at 21:54

    You should go to Animeworx, and Look and Listen in Cresta, they always have limited edition Stuff

    There is an animeworx in Fourways mall, they have 1 legendary edition left, it costs R1125 for members


  54. Gavin Mannion

    September 20, 2010 at 01:38

    The truth is that the game wasn’t available at all retailers on day one. Whether Microsoft can explain why really isn’t the point of this article and as such they were not asked for comment.

    The point is that local retailers are missing out on a large and willing market and it is they who should be pushing all the distributors much harder to ensure stock and marketing material is available on time.

    Granted problems do happen but since some stores had stock on day one then it goes without saying that stock arrived in the country so in my mind Microsoft’s main job was completed and the retailers are more at fault for not ensuring their stock arrived and that the sales team were not aware of the launch.


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