What Happened To… Hitari

Eastern Delights

Hitari, also known as Hitari Trade, was an online UK-based gaming retailer operating from West Yorkshire, UK. The company would distribute games for multiple platforms, demonstrating an impressive range for a smaller retailer, shipping throughout the UK and Europe. Hitari would also gain praise for their low, competitive pricing, allowing them to compete with online discount retailers such as The Game Collection, 365 Games, and Base.

The company held a long-standing history of imports and exports. Beginning as a multipurpose trader, the company would operate as Bruce Kaberry Marketing Limited from February 1978 to June 1990. With the retirement of the Kaberry family, the business would be sold to Kamal Ahmed Ali Hitari and the company re-branded as Hitari UK Limited. Its head office would open in Birmingham UK. Hitari would operate from June 1990 to September 1993, closing the UK operation in its then-current state.

In January 2010, the Hitari family would re-open its former offices, now operating as a fully-online gaming retailer under the name ‘Hitari Trade Limited’. Hitari’s business strategy would see the company showcase a nonjudgmental approach when it came to which products were stocked. While many retailers were displaying an anti-Asian marketing strategy and discontinuing Japanese-developed games in favour of western-developed titles, Hitari would balance its stock levels more evenly, and would regularly promote lesser-known Japanese-developed ‘niche’ games over popular ‘AAA’ western games to aid in fair coverage.

The Gal*Gun Incident

While Hitari would receive occasional complaints regarding the handling of customer service, sales and distribution as is common in the retail sector, none of these documented incidents would rival the number of customers who were affected by the company’s mismanagement of pre-orders for PS4 game Gal*Gun: Double Peace in 2016 which would result in mass complaints, public apologies and legal action taken.

Customers were able to pre-order Gal*Gun: Double Peace through Hitari at the advertised price of absolutely nothing. This price was advertised on the website itself and also Hitari’s social media accounts and Facebook ads. Customers were understandably confused by the campaign, speculating that the promotion was a limited-time-only pre-order incentive for existing customers, amongst other theories, not limited to the possibility of the game requiring a paid access key to play instead.

For clarity, pre-orders were placed and Hitari was contacted for confirmation that the price was genuine, the orders legitimate and no hidden fees were to follow. A Hitari representative known only as ‘Cyron’ would be appointed to contact customers and address concerns.

Cyron would comment:

“With pre-order[s] they are a set price and will not be changed.”

However, all affected customers would receive the following email shortly afterwards:

“Thank you for your purchase, I am afraid due to a mispricing error on the listing this order has been cancelled and refunded.

Please feel free to re-order the item on our listing if you still wish to do so.

Our aim is to provide a convenient and efficient service and I am very sorry that we were not able to meet your expectations this time around.

I apologise for any inconvenience this might cause. Thank you for your understanding.”

With the cancellation and connected email clashing with Cyron’s previous comment, Cyron would once again be approached for a solution, responding:

“I wasn’t aware of the error when asked about our policy. In regards to pricing errors, we are entitled to withdraw from the contract. Please read below:

Any contract for purchases made through the website will be with Hitari. Hitari must receive payment of the whole of the price for the goods that you order before your order can be accepted, and the contract formed.

Once payment has been received Hitari will confirm that your order has been received by sending an email to you at the email address you provide in your registration form. The shipment email will include your name, the order number and the total price. Hitari Trade’s acceptance of your order brings into existence a legally binding contract between us on these terms. Any term sought to be imposed by you in your order will not form part of the contract.

Hitari is entitled to withdraw from any contract in the case of obvious errors or inaccuracies regarding the goods appearing on our website. If an error or inaccuracy is discovered with regards to the advertised price of the goods that you have ordered, we will contact you as soon as possible by e-mail. This will be to inform you of the correct price of the goods, and to ask you if you wish to continue with the order at the amended price, or to cancel the order altogether.

I apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused.”

Unfortunately for Hitari, apologies would not be sufficient for customers who felt Hitari had pulled a deliberate ‘bait and switch’ strategy on them and misled them even after making contact to address the issue.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Gamer Scorned

Understandably, consumers were not pleased with Hitari’s customer service. Hitari would also refuse to offer compensation for customers willing to re-order the game. Complaints would bombard online feedback sites such as Trustpilot, multiple UK gaming forums, and of course, Hitari themselves.

Many would compare the incident to the 2007 Amazon UK pre-order pricing scandal involving PS3 games Folklore and Lair being listed at less than half price, only for all affected pre-orders to be cancelled without warning. Amazon would allegedly cover up the incident by removing any negative reviews which related to the matter.

While Amazon would be able to shake off their incident, Hitari would have a harder time bouncing back from the resulting boycotts, with many long-time customers blacklisting Hitari and taking their business elsewhere permanently. As a smaller company with less legal representation, Hitari could also have a harder time dealing with the UK’s Trading Standards team who represent the UK’s authority on legal and ethical trading.

With complaints escalated to Trading Standards and evidence of false advertising reported, Hitari would have to contend with the possibility of legal action and a private investigation would commence. As is customary with corporate legal matters in the UK, the outcome of any investigation by Trading Standards was not disclosed. While Trading Standards does not have the authority to force the closure of a company found in breach of its guidelines, significant fines, cautions and restrictions can be issued. Though unconfirmed, Hitari would show signs of financial and operational difficulties following these events.

The Final Countdown

2017 would bring a period of diminished contact with the public as Hitari would no longer comment on business performance and ceased sharing accounting information online. Social media advertising would gradually reduce and customers would also note that Hitari’s range of games was reducing, with even ‘AAA’ new releases not being stocked by the retailer.

On 18th December 2018, Hitari’s online business portfolio revealed the company had entered the ‘winding up’ period of trade, discontinuing items and selling off all remaining stock, though consumers speculated that this process was already well underway the previous year. Hitari would cease trading and close all social media accounts on 12th September 2019, and the company would be dissolved on 19th December 2019. Many of the staff and management would resign prior to this.

Kamal Hitari would begin anew, commenting on his still active but rarely used X (Twitter) account that “failure is progress” and removing any references to Hitari.co.uk. Now downsizing, Kamal would open gaming and merchandise trader IYMO, creating a new website but operating mostly as an eBay marketplace seller.