"Do you have Katamari Damacy?"
"We only got in, like, eight copies, and they were gone within an hour. We might be getting in more in a week."
GameSpot News reported last week that Namco's highly anticipated, indescribable, rolling, sticking action/puzzle title Katamari Damacy had hit retail shelves. And it had indeed--but only for a little while before it disappeared, every available copy snapped up by ravenous fans.
This time, your local game store employee's dire warning came true--if you didn't preorder a copy of Katamari before its release date, you were out of luck. One week has gone by since the title's original ship date, and any attempts to find the game in the greater San Francisco area have been fruitless. Searches using GameStop's store locator, more often than not, show the game as being out of stock with "more on the way" at an undetermined time.
And yet for days, Katamari has sat atop the best-sellers list at EB Games. This would seem to be because EB Games' Web site is perhaps the only place that has Katamari Damacy in stock. The brick-and-mortar stores all sport empty shelves; GameStop's Web site has had the title back ordered for days (it was back in stock as of this morning); Amazon has never stocked Katamari Damacy.
Looking for answers, we contacted Brian Schorr, the sales channel manager at Namco Hometek, who told us: "Namco is extremely pleased with the response that Katamari Damacy has received. We have been aware of the potential of the title for some time. Our initial orders were filled and demand has already resulted in reorders from most specialty retail outlets."
"We are working closely with retailers to make sure that Katamari Damacy is readily available," Schorr continued. "However, we encourage gamers to talk to the store managers and inform them of their desire for the game. Namco has plenty of product available for all retailers that request it."
Namco, then, puts the blame on retail buyers failing to recognize the sales potential of the title. One retailer's opinion is actually quite similar. A source within the executive ranks of a large retailer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that "Katamari Damacy is a quality, unique game at a very compelling price. Some retailers may not have anticipated demand."
At any rate, for the time being, Katamari is MIA. Retailers will be restocked, but it remains to be seen whether or not retailers' reorders will match the ongoing demand for the title. The situation is much like the late '80s, where chip shortages--real or invented--caused hot Nintendo titles like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link to disappear from store shelves for months, each new batch snapped up in the blink of an eye.
The difference between then and now is that while retailers were hungry for every carton of Zelda II they could get their hands on in 1988, in 2004 it is retailers, not publishers, who may be putting the pinch on supply by simply refusing to stock all but the hottest titles. Sometimes the conservative approach pays off, but occasionally it can stifle what should be a breakout success.