THE Games, Nintendo?s exclusive distributor in the UK, has written to between 15 and 20 independent retailers warning them to cease and desist from renting out Nintendo 64 consoles and games.
One retailer, who asked to remain anonymous, said sales staff at THE had known from 1 March that he was renting out Nintendo consoles and games, but he had still received a letter asking him to stop renting the games.
He claimed that because Nintendo games cost up to #70, the only reason he was able to sell so many consoles was because customers knew they could rent games.
He also claimed that many customers tried out games by renting them before deciding to buy them outright. He feared the decision would have a real impact on sales of both consoles and games.
A THE representative was unable to tell PC Dealer how retailers could obtain a rental licence, but he confirmed that the letters had been sent out.
The Monopolies & Mergers Commission (MMC) investigated the computer games market two years ago and was highly critical of the limits on the rental of games and recommended the ending of all restrictions. It accepted the right of software suppliers to charge a royalty but not to forbid it outright. At the time, Nintendo was praised for not enforcing restrictions.
The MMC?s report said both Nintendo and Sega Europe?s rental policies ?restricted consumers? opportunities to try out games to make informed purchases and therefore operated against the public interest?.
A representative of the Office of Fair Trading said it would be interested to hear from any retailer that had received a letter trying to prevent them from renting. The representative conceded that many retailers were wary of upsetting the distributors.
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