Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Digital Distribution Is Puzzling

The whole concept of digital distribution is strange, confusing and even frightening. That is, if you're Sony. Here's what SCEE head Andrew House said:

“Digital, for me, still has a challenge in that it doesn’t have the equivalent of that. Browsing is a little overwhelming and too confusing, and that’s the challenge that makes me think there’s a strong role for physical media for years to come.”

He also said that retail's been around for thousands of years because it works really well. OK, I get that... but maybe digital distribution hasn't taken over for retail thousands of years ago was because setting up an online store was really difficult prior to the widespread introduction of iron. Or the invention of electricity.

I have to say it seems like that attitude is more than shared by Nintendo. Ooh, digital stuff is scary. Kaz Hirai of Sony said he feels a digital-only future is at least 10 years away. Actually, I'll go further than that, and say that people will always be able to buy stuff in stores. Radio and newspapers are still around, right? (OK, maybe the newspapers may go away soon...) The real question is when does digital distribution become the majority of sales for games. The answer to that is considerably less than ten years; more like one or two depending on how you look at it.

Sony and Nintendo need to find some people who can figure out digital distribution. Microsoft gets it, though they need to improve the Xbox Live shopping experience and finally go all the way with a full range of titles available online. Avoiding digital distribution merely leaves a gaping door open for Apple, Google, Steam, and others. Worried that the retailers might abandon you? You mean those same retailers who are busy selling used games you don't get any revenue from? Smart publishers are looking at subscriptions, DLC, F2P, and all the other new business models that are booming.

It's a new game in town, and you have to play if you want to win. Being stuck in the old business models is a bigger and bigger risk as time goes on.

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