Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Retailers Want To Let Off Steam

A retailer getting Steamed?
A UK game industry site,, is reporting that UK retailers are threatening to keep PC games that include Steam off their shelves. Apparently the retailers are afraid that Steam, with 80% or so of the digital distribution market, threatens their business.

Well, yeah, it would... if their PC business was anything to speak of. Have you been to a retail store and looked for a PC game lately? Not a lot of shelf space allocated there, and it's usually poorly arranged and jammed with an assortment of non-gamer oriented titles based on game shows and such. It's been years since PC games at retail mattered all that much to the retailers; they make most of their money from console games. Aside from the occasional megahit, that is... like Blizzard's upcoming Cataclysm release. But such AAA titles are a market force unto themselves.

I think retailers are concerned about publishers concentrating on more downloadable content that the retailer doesn't get a chunk of, as we've already heard about from THQ and others. Major publishers are already heading in the direction of digital distribution, at least for add-on content. So retailers are trying to stop the tide from coming in... but it's going to come in regardless. Banning games from stores may just push customers to looking for them online, thus bringing about what the retailers fear.

I haven't heard of this revolt occurring in the US, perhaps because retailers here are already exploring ways to deal with digital distribution. (Like GameStop buying Kongregate, for instance.) It's really going to pinch retailers if publishers start pushing for the release of console titles through digital distribution, not just the occasional map pack or scenario. Perhaps that's one of the reasons so many retailers are exploring used games as a revenue source.

Retailers are nothing if not adaptable, though, especially the mass-market chains. Audio CDs not selling the way they used to? Reduce the shelf space allocated, expand the area devoted to something else. When it happens with games, we'll see the same thing. Publishers have to be concerned about visibility for their titles, and hardware makers are especially concerned about their retail presence. I expect there will be a lot of pushing and shoving going on between retailers and publishers over the next couple of years.

No comments:

Post a Comment