Hype surrounding soon-to-launch products offers a wealth of opportunity for retailers to cash in on the demand

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Why are we talking about this now?

This week brings the launches of both the Nintendo 3DS and the Apple iPad 2. While there have been some reports that the launch of the iPad 2 might be delayed as some of its parts are sourced from Japan, which has been crippled by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, both the iPad 2 and the Nintendo 3DS are due to hit British shelves on March 25.

How do product launches help retailers?

There is an obvious sales benefit to a new product launch. If the product is viewed as a must-have item for certain consumer groups, then retailers can build the excitement and cash in on the event.

Certain types of products drive anticipation including music, book or DVD launches, new technology launches such as iPhones or new consoles and games launches such as World of Warcraft or Call of Duty: Black Ops.

How do product launches work?

There are several ways a new product can be launched. A launch date is set by the manufacturer, then retailers plan their events, with many opening at midnight or holding in-store activities to pull customers in early.

For the Nintendo 3DS launch, HMV opened 100 stores at midnight and expected queues to form a few days before.

Games specialist Game hosted a launch for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm at a venue in Leicester Square in December and the designers of the game held a

Q&A session there, hosted by The Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury. Both signed copies of the game for shoppers and there was also a costume competition with prizes.

What are the sales benefits for retailers?

Games retailers such as HMV and Game consistently cite new product launches as key to their trading peaks and troughs. The benefits can be huge. The publisher of Call of Duty: Black Ops said it was the best-selling PS3 game of all time. It declined to give figures but that meant it would have topped games such as Gran Turismo 5 (6.37 million) and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (5.2 million).

Publisher Activision said the game surpassed the $1bn (£615m) mark in worldwide sales in about 42 days from its launch last year on November 9.

At the start of the month Nintendo said it was on course to surpass its target of 100,000 pre-orders for its 3DS, meaning that pre-orders have exceeded the Wii already.