Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Downloads Kicking Ass, Taking Names

According to a new study released by NPD, digital downloads of full games in 2009 reached 21.3 million units, compared to purchases at retail of 23.5 million titles. Digital downloads have arrived, baby. Does anyone think physical copies will outsell digital copies in 2010?

The implications are immense, and yet to be fully grasped by traditional publishers. The distribution method typically dictates design constraints. For instance, novels have a certain minimum and maximum length in order to fit into price point and physical book publishing constraints. A 100-page novel is too thin to sell, while a 1500-page novel is too massive to actually produce. So authors have learned to write novels to fit into these sizes. Similarly, games have had to meet certain numbers of play hours to be seen as a worthwhile purchase for $50 or $60, and publishers usually feel compelled to include lots of expensive cinematics.

I think part of the reason we're seeing massive growth in mobile and social games, and digital download games outside of normal retail channels, is the freedom from these constraints. Development costs can be lower, and the rewards greater. This is really the emergence of entirely new game media; old media won't die (just as TV didn't kill radio), but they will need to change.

Publishers need to realize that digital distribution is their most important channel starting now, and build their business strategy around that. Or let other companies reap the massive growth in new markets...

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