1c: All PC Games Digital By 2011

By Jim Rossignol on January 14th, 2010 at 11:08 am.


1c’s international publishing director Darryl Still has claimed that retail is to blame for the decline in PC software sales. Talking to industry trade publication MCV UK, he predicted that PC software will vanish entirely from retail by 2011.

“There is still demand, but retail is forcing PC games out. Digital is fantastic, and we’re very pleased with it. But it is not us as the developers and publishers driving products to digital – it is because the options for the PC at retail are so limited… Q1 2011 is my estimate as to when PC games will be sold completely via digital. I have seen the predictions that by 2013 more than 50 per cent of our revenues will be earned digitally. But if the PC games market has to wait until 2013 then we are all in trouble.”

Still says that there are challenges ahead for digital distribution, not least because of the number of outlets now available. “We have contracts with 25 of them at the moment, and of that amount six or seven are producing decent revenue numbers.”

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108 Comments »

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  1. Casimir's Blake says:

    The last time I attempted to peruse my local Game, there was bugger all PC games in there. I think I spied a shelf or two near the back, but it was nothing compared to the racks of console games. Well, about 15 years is a good run, I suppose.

    Remembers picking up Gods for PC, and Thunder Force 4 in Future Zone amongst racks of Megadrive games in a rather poorly-lit (which was somehow compelling) store. Heady days.

  2. Bob says:

    It better not go all digital as the prices are a rip off! Before buying anything off Steam I always check http://www.find-games.co.uk/ ,then end up saving a tenner or more

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      On the up side, if it goes all digital distribution the publishers won’t have to bump up their prices to keep friends with the retail shops any more. Well, I suppose they might anyway, to not cannibalize their console sales, but hopefully the prices for digital distribution will drop faster.

    • Rich says:

      I thank thee for the link. I’ll remember it in future.

    • Alex McLarty says:

      Agreed.

      £39.99 for Mod Warfare 2 on Steam when you can get it for £29.70 on Amazon? Bizarre.

      If devs want to push digital, then be fair with pricing. Digital copies are easier to create, moderate and distribute. But they’re no cheaper.

      Bah!

    • Psychopomp says:

      Alex, the dev/publisher sets the price on steam, and as such you appear to be under the assumption that Activision cares about PC gaming.

    • CT Dahl says:

      I’d say sale prices, like those during the Steam holiday run, and the weekend sales helps keep digital prices competitive, at least for a limited time.

      While some games I never see go on sale (I’m looking at you, Modern Warfare!), Valve and 1c sometimes offer their games for 50% off.

    • Alegis says:

      For those not in the UK

      http://www.gamestracker.com/

  3. Bobsy says:

    Game are notably ‘orrible when it comes to PC games. Commonly you’ll find a shelf or two hidden at the back or in the queue area, almost always impossible to actually get at. And their prices for new are rarely particularly competitive.

  4. Brumisator says:

    It’s understandable to be afraid of that.
    However, DVDs are prone to ageing as well, even commercially bought ones, and having them lying around is probably more detrimental to their degrading than having them on a server far far away.
    On Steam anyway, I haven’t found any other srvice I trust enough to keep back-ups of my games anyhow…come to think o f it, no other company does keep them on record.

    The problem with digital distribution is that atm, only Steam does it right, lots of small competitors are trying it out, but none can dish out that superior kind of service.
    EA’S store is a joke , so is Micorsoft’s, I guess Direct2Drive isn’t too bad, and goodoldgames has its own little agenda.
    And competition is (or at least used to be) the force of advancement which brings goodness to the end user.

    In conclusion, <3 Steam, it's not their fault if nobody does it better. Makes me feel bad for the rest.

  5. Bob says:

    The steam sale was great, but alot of the older games should be that price all the time! It seems with digital the prices don’t come down as the game gets older

  6. gulag says:

    Personally, I currently split my purchases of games about 50/50 between digital and box copy, and those box copies more like as not come from an internet store these days. As much as games retailers have abandoned PC gaming, I’ve abandoned them. It’s a natural progression. If it weren’t for the occasional deal or Xmas shopping, I’d probably never walk into a Game or Gamestop again.

    However, an all digital future is right about when we run full force into the abject failure of anyone to address the pitfalls of DRM on ‘our’ games. Without some means of forcing failing companies or defunt publishers to release the shackles on games we buy in good faith, we face a future where every digital purchase is a roll of the dice on the odds of being able to play that game in 5-10 years time.

    “But it’s a product, and I payed for it, why shouldn’t it work as I expect?” You think you bought ownership of something? Guess again. The EULA you clicked past probably spells out the terms of your ‘license of use’, and guess how much say you have in what happens your ‘property’? Zip. Nil.

    As long as everyone at the table continues to pretend that digital distribution ensures a parity of ownership and exchange between customer and retailer, this problem is going to continue to lurk below the surface.

  7. Monchberter says:

    The popular perception is that PC games are dead. It’s a shame that none of the mouth breathing public console owners actually look beyond to see what their laptop / netbook may well be capable of. They’d be surprised.

    Give pc gaming the clout of that which Google is giving it’s Chrome browser, with adverts EVERYWHERE and perceptions may change. But for now, we’re increasingly seen as an irrelevant niche.

    That said, i have a discrete media pc in my living room that is pumping out Crysis Warhead at 1080p with full xbox pad support. I’ve had a few naive console owners ask after it after blowing their minds on the visuals, only to be taken aback when i say it’s a pc game.

    • Clovis says:

      Enjoying video games on a dedicated machine for playing video games does not make one a “mouth breather”. Many people just want to play a game from their couch occasionally, but have a life outside of playing games.

      We are all very impressed with your 1337 machine too.

    • Monchberter says:

      I enjoy my prejudices with a hint of sarcasm and gentle ribbing. That i’ve built a pc that turns me into a ‘mouth breathing sofa dweller’, the irony is not lost on me.

  8. Persus-9 says:

    I doubt it, I very much doubt it. Not completely digital, not in one year. I think mail order places like play.com and amazon will keep selling PC games for longer than that. I also I think we’ll be seeing those stands in places like PC World selling old and casual games for £4.99 a pop for a while yet. Places like Game and the supermarkets might well stop stocking PC games within the year but I don’t think it’ll be entirely digital by that point.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      I’m pretty sure that Amazon will be offering a digitial download service in the not too distant future, as will any of the other larger players who want to remain competitive in PC gaming.

      The other alternative is that they decide it’s not economically viable and the pool of places from where we can buy PC games decreases still further.

    • Persus-9 says:

      The former seems likely to me but that won’t stop them selling the physical products. I mean they still sell CDs even though they now sell MP3s as well. I’m sure at some point it will stop being viable to sell the physically products but it seems like a considerably more viable model then retail at the minute since most retail outlets have to devote shelf space in every branch in the country in order to stay in the game. A mail order firm could stay in the game just with one pallet load of games in a warehouse in jersey. Thinking about it that way I can’t see the mail order firms leaving the game completely for a few months after the last of the physical publishers quit and I don’t think that’ll happen with a year.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      People, being physical beings and what not, will always place value on physical copies of media. There will be a market for physical media for a long time to come. Digital distribution of ALL other media has not destroyed the demand for its physical media counterpart. Of course it has decreased the volume of physical media sales. But not everyone is willing to adopt a digital only mentality. And they won’t for a very long time, and may never. People like things. Bits of 1s and 0s are not seen as things by most people.

  9. LewieP says:

    My local HMV recently changed the PC section to the “Guitar Hero/Rock Band” section.

    They now just have a chart section, “The Sims” section and “EA” section for PC games.

    • Monchberter says:

      sad but true. But i’m pleased with EA and consoles at the moment. Henry Hatsworth on the DS is an absolute classic

    • LewieP says:

      At least they still have their “Game of the week” selection:
      http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/1435/03042009025.jpg

    • iainl says:

      Given the way DJ Hero and Beatles Rock Band in particular, but to some extent _all_ the instrument games failed to perform to expectation over Christmas (look at the daft price reductions on them for an obvious indicator), I wonder if that might even get switched back at some point?

  10. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    Whenever I go shopping, I play a fun game of “see what PC stuff the stores have in”, and make sure to keep note of the worst cases. The GAME in the White Rose Centre, for example, has 1 (one) rack of PC stuff, but so far the crown goes to the HMV in Liverpool, which has NOTHING.

    • Rei Onryou says:

      Seniath: I also play this game. My worst instance was at GAME in the Westfield shopping centre (largest in London). 1 spinny rack of PC games, half of which were Sims or WoW. What’s worse was the size of the store and it had so much empty floor space.

      The sad thing is, everytime we play this game, we always lose.

  11. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    Even though books are normally cheaper online than in stores, I probably still buy most of my books in stores. Why? Simply because bookstores are pleasant places to wile away 10 minutes or so browsing, where you might spot a rare gem you haven’t heard of and available of some bargains – whether a percent off the prices or 3 for 3 offers.
    By comparison, games stores are normally shoddy, luridly lit places with overpriced stock and no attempt to either order the shelves in any discernable manner or allow customers to properly “browse” (that is, play the games). The miracle is that people are still buying from them.
    I’m not sure which retailer is worse; HMV probably deserve a special mention for making a Norton virus utility their “game of the week” once.
    P.

    • Monchberter says:

      This is becasue games are probably as commercial, if not more than any film. And the target audience seems to be evenly split between the casual ‘birch wood and ikea sofa’ crowd, and the console ‘LED, chrome and LOUD NOISES’ teenage crowd. See also any branch of the miserly CEX.

    • mbp says:

      That is a terrific point Ocean that I had never really considered. It makes me wonder if there is a gap in the market for a game store that actually helps people to choose games that they really like rather than just tries to flog as many copies of the latest movie tie in.

    • Starky says:

      It has been tried before, the problem with the reality of trying to run a store that allows people to try games out, demo them and have a relaxed informed discussion with customers is that your store will quickly be filled up with school-truant teenagers wanting to spend all day abusing your generosity.

      A gaming store could do the same as book stores, couches with demo systems, staff offering help and advice maybe even a coffee – but how to you get rid of the undesirables? Those people that will never spend a penny but will happily use your services all day if you allow it.

    • Caiman says:

      I fondly remember visiting Microbyte in Wakefield regularly, where Kath the friendly sales lady would happy load whatever game you wanted to look at onto the computer or console of choice. She controlled the “I just want to have a go” kids easily enough, kicking them off readily in favour of real customers. I must have visited this place about 3 times a week, it was as much a place to chat as a place to buy games. This was also back when most games were a few quid, and I bought hundreds of them. This was a time when small companies could make lots of money, before the suits stepped in and took over the business and destroyed what made it work in the first place. As per usual.

      But digital distribution of all games? I’d like to have a little knee-jerk reaction and rebel against it, pointing out all the great things about buying stuff from a shop, but frankly I can’t do it anymore. There is absolutely zero appeal to going into a games store and buying a game anymore – I hate them. And now that my internet connection finally allows me to download a massive 50Gb a month (!) I can at least buy the odd game digitally without blowing my bill out. Still, I’ll probably wait for the grandiose sales and buy everything at discount then. Assassin’s Creed II will be just as good next Christmas at 10 bucks as it was last Christmas at whatever ridiculous price they were selling it for.

  12. mbp says:

    While I agree that the death of retail PC games seems inevitable I am worried that the digital distributors are still not ready to adequately replace them. For one thing they are mainly preaching to the converted – they are robbing customers from retail but I do not believe they are helping to create new PC gamers. When was the last time you saw an ad for STEAM or Direct2Drive on prime time TV or in a mainstream publication?

    One simple example – my wife bought me a PC game for Christmas. As a non-gamer she had no idea that it could be bought as a gift on STEAM and in any case I don’t think she would have been comfortable wrapping up a confirmation email to put under the Christmas tree. Thank fully she was still able to go into my local GAME and buy a retail boxed version from their ever shrinking shelf of PC games.

    What about kids? What about the next generation of gamers who are not able to buy stuff on-line themselves and who’s parents are not competent or comfortable doing so? I know that their gaming needs are very well served by consoles but if at least some of them don’t discover PC gaming then the entire mode of gaming has no future.

    I am not saying that on-line digital retailers cannot expand their reach to these non core gamers but I have yet to see them make a major effort to do so.

    • Monchberter says:

      Problem with steam is that it’s an intangible service. Where as with something like an iPod, you connect it to your computer and you’re gently prodded towards itunes and buying more, there’s not PC equivalent to ease you in.

      Advertising digital distribution would be tricky as it involves assuming people are comfortable with using software, know their hardware and will be able to make wise choices. Such as not expecting the latest graphics card tester to run on an Eee PC. This is partly why i’m intrigued to see how Google will fare with its adverts for Chrome.

      If anything, digital distributions such as Steam should be able to tell you instantly whether the game you are considering will run on your pc, and how well; something like the rather crap Microsoft Windows Experience Index but clearer.

    • James says:

      They should do what Waterstones are doing with digital books. You can buy essentially a code to download the book.

      Have little plastic cards like vouchers with the game art on, as they are so small they could stock a lot of games in a tiny space and retailers can still get the money from digital sales.

    • mbp says:

      @Monchberter the hardware compatibility issue is just as much a problem for retail PC game sellers. My local GAME practically forces you to sign an indemnity that your hardware is up to scratch before they let you walk away with a PC game. As you rightly point out the digital distributors are uniquely positioned to address this issue because their client side could be used to run a compatibility check prior to purchase. The integrated DRM means that they can even easily offer free trials and “sale or return” deals. Automated patching ala STEAM is another great boon to non hard core gamers.

      I do think that digital download could be packaged and sold as a “user friendly” way for non hardcore gamers to play PC games. Some form of high street presence such as @James suggests with game cards or vouchers that can be bought for real currency will probably eventually be required.

      I do think digital distributors could replace high street game shops and help to grow PC gaming to new heights but to date the digital distributors have not been ambitious enough and I don’t think they are ready yet. There are some very positive signs however. The recent experiments in pricing by STEAM and others has indicated that they are no longer prepared to be subservient to retail pricing rules just to avoid stepping on the toes of the big distributors.

  13. CMaster says:

    And there was me thinking that computer games had always been digital…

    • Quinnbeast says:

      How wrong you are. My copy of Left 4 Dead 2 came on an LP.

    • Persus-9 says:

      I believe I’m right in saying that ‘Tennis for Two’ actually ran on an analogue rather than a digital computer.

  14. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    Arf – I have an identical pic taken in their Grafton St store in Dublin.

    P.

  15. Alexander Norris says:

    Here’s the thing: digital distribution has outrageous prices both because publishers feel they can charge outrageous prices and because they sometimes have to.

    Publishers feel they can charge outrageous prices because Steam is the only major distributor on the digital market. Sure, you have GamersGate and Impulse and everything else, but none of those have the popularity (and marketing budget, I think) that Steam has. Publishers also feel the need to protect the retail business with which they have very lucrative agreements. Thus, digital games sometimes show up a few days later than their retail counterparts, and their prices usually go down a lot slower.

    The thing is, in theory, these are all growing pains. The retail obligations will disappear when retail becomes a bit-player and loses its financial bargaining power. The monopolistic price levels will disappear once Steam has a true competitor, one with as much bargaining power and as big a catalogue – at which point, they’re going to have to fight each other by slashing prices on popular titles, much like retail does now.

    The real question, of course, is when or even whether these will happen. The worst possible scenario we could have is one where digital distribution grows straight from the publisher, allowing publishers to price their games at the exact same price no matter what digital store they’re selling them on because the digital distributors are platforms rather than stores (i.e. they have no control over their prices).

    I’m not sure how much control Steam has over individual title prices, but it’s my understanding that they don’t have any beyond deciding when to have sales (and even then, the publisher has to agree). In any case, a scenario where Steam becomes an actual monopoly on the DD market is as bad as one where the publishers only have to compete with each other, cutting out the retailer (digital or otherwise).

  16. James says:

    A little piece of me dies every time I see the PC section in Game/Gamestation/HMV etc get smaller and smaller.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if digital downloads weren’t more expensive than boxed copies most of the time at launch. I’d like to think the cost of digital distribution (especially via Steam where there’s already the hardware bought to deal with it) is much cheaper than physical transport, and of course no manufacturing costs for physical goods. So who does the extra money go to when a new game is costing £40 on Steam, a price I haven’t seen for a regular (ie non-deluxe) game for over a decade?

    Also, as well as the cost of the game there’s the cost of my bandwidth allowance. I have a 20Gb cap a month and the average (non-indie) title these days will be 4Gb, so that’s an extra cost in a way.

    Steam only earns my forgiveness because of their brilliant sales :)

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      sigh.

      how many times does it need to be pointed out to people before they actually understand it?
      VALVe don’t set the prices on Steam, the games publishers/developers do. The only thing VALVe do as far as pricing goes is run sales & even then the publishers/developers don’t have to participate.

  17. Clovis says:

    If peope keep buying older games at the current price why would Steam or the publisher reduce the price? Maybe reducing prices would increase sales enough to make up for the difference, but it is not guarenteed. The goal here is to make money, and they don’t have to worry about clearing shelf space.

    Also, no competition from used games. OTOH, they do have competitiion from pirates, who offer a DRM free game at a very low price.

  18. Clovis says:

    I can’t imagine Sims X and WoW Expansion Z not being on the shelves. Other than that, I won’t be too surprised when PC titles disappear from most stores.

    Currently in my area (N. Ky, USA), Best Buy and Target (??) have good PC sections. Gamestop is pretty empty.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Exactly. And Target and Best Buy’s selections are just fine. Target (most often) has the new releases for the first month. And Best Buy usually has an excellent selection, on par with any shelf space they put towards any one console system.

      The fun thing with all this is, at least in the US, the “game stores” (Gamestop, Game Crazy, etc) have never catered to PC games. Ever. Growing up I never went to those stores, I always went to an electronics store like Frys or Best Buy to buy my PC games because I knew the selection was better.

    • Clovis says:

      Hmm, my experience was different. In the late 80s any game store carried plenty of PC titles. In the 90s there was even a good selection of used games at Electronics Boutique/EB Games/Gamestop. The used market suddenly dissapeared in the early 2000s. About 2 years ago all the Gamestops in my area put all their PC titles (besides Sims, Wow) on clearence. Now there is just Sims/WoW and a couple big budget titles.

  19. Radiant says:

    The reason why digital games don’t go down in price with age is because they do not have to shift old stock.
    An HMV in Hammersmith with a diddy old copy of Defender of the Crown is gonna want to shift that just to clear the one copy left.
    On digital you never have just the one copy left and the game is still relevant regardless of age.

    And that’s just going to get worse.

    As we hit the ceiling in terms of visuals and branch out into a more stylistic look nothing is going to be left that will date a game enough for it to be termed ‘old’.
    All games will remain relevant; there’s no reason for Peggle to come down in price until it hits saturation and even then a price drop will only be temporary.

    There’s a lot of issues with digital only that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
    As the guy up top who said he has hundreds of games at the mercy of his steam account pointed out if Valve go under, as they eventually will, then all that is gone.
    Like if Google suddenly pulled out of the UK, I do most of my work/technical documentation via google documents/mail, or if they decided to make us pay to guarantee the safety of what they hold, I’d be utterly shafted.
    And there’s no legislation to protect us from any of that.

    It’s trusting someone because they have a smiley face.

    • Monchberter says:

      I will personally preserve Gabe Newell’s living brain in a jar rather than lose my Steam purchases through the demise of Valve.

    • Radiant says:

      It might not be up to him.
      Say he goes off to do something else and Lombardwhatisface or some other marketing/business fella gets to steer the ship.
      Steam as a service will probably get leveraged pretty severely.
      Maybe start charging to guarantee your games or to hold them indefinitely on their servers.

      Or charge for additional services.
      The trick is to see what they /should/ be doing but haven’t yet and that will probably be what’s to be sold to you.

  20. Incognito says:

    The digital prices will be reasonable when don´t have PC games retail anymore. As of now, publishers with good retail contracts don´t want so set a competitive price on Steam and other services like that, because of those contracts. For them, digital distribution is only bonus money now.

    • Radiant says:

      Prices will go up with less competition.

    • Incognito says:

      Prices will go up without competion?

      1. Different services for digital distribution = competion.
      2. HIgher prices than now? More thant 50-60€ for one game? I think not. People how certain ideas of what a game should cost.

    • Colthor says:

      @Incognito:
      1. It’s not competition if the same entity (ie. the publisher) sets the prices on all of them.
      2. See: Activision.

    • Clovis says:

      @Colthor: The different game companies are still competing for my limited entertainment dollars, so they won’t simply keep the games at full price. If I have to choose between DA:O2 for $40 or GTAV for $60, then I’m spending my money on DA:O2.

      It would probably still lead to a small increase in price though as distributors won’t be cutting into (or removing) their profit margins.

      It should be interesting to see how pricing develops on the PSP Go.

    • Clovis says:

      I don’t think any of this will make a huge difference though. All throughout the Steam Holiday sale MW2 managed to get into the top 5 selling games at 59.99. “AAA” games are going to increase in price because people are obviously willing to pay that much.

  21. Colthor says:

    Actual retail shops haven’t been competetive with online sellers (Amazon, Play et al) for at least five years. I imagine the same is true of console games – seems to be the case for the DS, at least. (Oh, and as well as find-games there’s http://www.gamestracker.com – but use a popup blocker.)

    If online sellers haven’t been shifting boxed copies of late, maybe publishers (including 1c) playing silly buggers with the copy protection over the past couple of years, adding most of the disadvantages of DD with none of the advantages, has put people off.

    And whilst the normal prices charged by DD sellers are ludicrous, their sales are pretty good. If you get a stack of games in the Chrimbo sale for the price of one new one, you might be less inclined to buy the next big thing for full price – especially if you’ve not played the ones you’ve got yet.

  22. Subject 706 says:

    2011 seems very early unless he is speaking about the UK/US only, since there are other countries where pc games have a very much stronger presence in retail.

    That being said, sooner or later all games will be delivered digitally. Hopefully our all-digital future will include prices not set artificially high to keep retailers happy, and the ability to transfer games between different services, in case of one of them going bankrupt. And of course, developers free from the shackles of only making mega-blockbusta-epic-shoota-19035.

  23. Hmm says:

    Maybe ISPs will start looking at getting involved. They can automatically allow exceptions from any download limit and such, give you free games for signing up. Maybe a free game per month, or something. I’m surprised Virgin wouldn’t have considered it.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    On Steam anyway, I haven’t found any other srvice I trust enough to keep back-ups of my games anyhow…come to think of it, no other company does keep them on record.

    Actually, all the big ones do it: Gog.com, Impulse, D2D, Gamersgate all allow you to download your game when you want.
    Also, Gog.com has no DRM (so no limit on anything), GG gives you more activations if you ask, Impulse tells you if there is and which kind of DRM the thing comes with, so you can avoid troubles.

  25. fullbleed says:

    I still buy most of my games in boxed copies, my internet sucks so I’d go well over my bandwidth limit buying everyhting from Steam and there’s no chance of someone hacking my account and stealing my games with boxes. I don’t ever buy from high street shops anymore, I buy everything from Amazon or Play, esspecially since it’s cheaper than steam ussually.

  26. Tei says:

    I could remove the DVD from my PC, i almost never play a DVD based game. All my games now are digital downloads.

  27. Muzman says:

    The theory makes sense I guess. Here in west Aus big department stores like Myer and Target (outside of their big flagship places in the city) have reduced the PC games section to one shelf with a few kid’s games and the Sims and that’s pretty much it. The local EB has a PC section that consists of one little segment of wall; half of it stacked waist high with cheap re-releases, the rest seemingly preorder boxes for big titles.

    Since I don’t buy new games all that often (like two a year) most of my games are re releases anyway. I’ve bought a lot of them through steam lately (naturally) and even though I prefer something solid to reinstall from at will, for the money I’m not that worried if valve goes arse up and I have to buy them all again at the moment. The convenience aspect is mostly working well. Now I just need to get around the bandwidth drought…

  28. ET says:

    No way. What about those of us in countries where A) there is no Steam, b) the internet is depressingly slow? Piracy is sky high in these countries, yes, but at least importing game boxes was an option before!

  29. GRIMDARK says:

    I get really nervous when people talk about the death of retail. The reason is because I think it hurts price drops due to shelf atrophy. Retailers will lower prices on games to clear shelf space, so games inevitably drop price if they stay on a shelf too long. However, what happens when there are no shelves? I don’t think there will be that much pressure to move product in the digital business.

  30. Dave says:

    This will go the way of all “there will be no more X by Y” tech predictions. Remember how Kurzweil said the computer as we know it will disappear by 2009, because computers will be in everything? Remember the “paperless office?”

    I don’t foresee the end of that little section in Wal-Mart or Target with $5 crapware and that copy of Thing Thinger III that’s still priced at $50 eight months after everyone else dropped it to $20.

    • Clovis says:

      I find that Target often has good prices. They put stuff on clearance too.

      Wal*mart, not so much. They did have Sims 3 for $25 on Black Friday, but it was sold out by the time I got to it.

  31. yns88 says:

    I think all this talk about retail prices vs digital prices is a specifically British problem. The Gamestops in the USA sell all their titles for more or less the exact same price as you’d find them on Steam. The problem with the UK and i guess Europe as well is that the MSRP is placed higher than people are willing to pay for their games.

    • Colthor says:

      @yns88:
      Brick-and-morter shops in the UK tend to charge similar prices to DD (ie. £30+ for new releases), wheras online retailers will rarely be above £25, and sometimes as low as £18. Probably encouraged a few years ago because things below £18 posted from Jersey and suchlike were exempt from VAT, so all new PC games cost £17.99 online for a while. I think that hole’s been closed now, so prices have been creeping up again recently (notably things like Sims 3 and MW2), but they’re nowhere near DD.

      Companies that have both online and high-street shops, eg. GAME, will usually be cheaper online.

    • TeeJay says:

      @Colthar

      The tax ‘loophole’ still exists:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value-Added-Tax-free_imports_from_the_Channel_Islands

      If you look at TheHut you will notice that prices jump from c.£17.73 to £22.73 with almost nothing in between, because anything in between £18 and c.£22 would actually mean them getting *less* than £18.

  32. Po0py says:

    Maybe digital only is a good thing. Everytime I go to game or gamestation on my local high street the PC shelf is quite often exactly that. I dinky little shelf in the corner somewhere. Quite depressing.

  33. Lavitz says:

    Wow, Im glad someone has come out said this about the PC gaming when it comes to retialers killing off pc gaming. I walked into an Eb games to purchase a game not too long around christmas time.. Boy was I ever depressed to be around 2′ x 4 ‘ rack of games..LIke I was buying stuff out of a bargin bin or something. Its really see how bad retial has gotten for pc gaming.. I hate not having retial box of something for just the assestic Look. I gues there will be a huge oppurtuinty for someone who would sell digital copies of the game as well as PHYSICAL copy shipped. Till that happens ill just try to purchase most of my games in the retail stores that remain..

  34. terry says:

    THE PC games in stores scenario reminds me of when woolie’s stopped stocking budget spectrum games, there was only pick n mix left and the feeling was so hollow :(

    I’m honestly struggling to think when I last bought a retail game though…. I think… maybe Oblivion? Steam is better for me because I’m lazy and games appear like magic and I get to keep my feet warm.

  35. Jace says:

    I wouldn’t mind total digital distribution but only if my idea was followed up – that is when a game is downloaded, from Steam for example, they post out the relevant ‘paper’ manual. For the price that they charge for most games it should be compulsory anyway.

  36. Azradesh says:

    I don’t mind buying games online, but I’ll always want a physical copy. I really miss the big meaty manuals. :-(

  37. The Orly Factor says:

    All of the PCs games that have come out recently don’t really interest me. I play older games and I have physical copies of them, so I’m set. About the only future game I see myself getting for the PC is Doom 4 when/if it comes out and, if I recall correctly, I read an article where John Carmack said that Rage and even Doom 4 would be too big in file size for digital distribution.

    At least I have other options besides Steam for digital distribution should I buy a PC game that way. I’m not touching Steam, not until it’s made optional rather than mandatory, which I don’t see happening anyway.

    • Kadayi says:

      Because Steam is such a tyranny, yes?

    • The Orly Factor says:

      @ Kadayi

      Depends on the person. Most people like it and, of course, they’re the most vocal. The minority is made up of people like me who can’t stand it. I don’t think Steam is this one-size-fits-all solution for everyone when it comes to digital distribution. Steam has the most restrictive DRM practices (to me, at least) and offers me nothing of use to warrant even having it on my PC just to play a damn game.

      I acknowledge that Steam works for most other people and that’s fine. However, it doesn’t work for me. The costs of having Steam on my PC outweigh the benefits. I don’t want it, especially when there are less restrictive, more flexible, less hassle-prone alternatives regarding digital download services available for me to choose from.

    • Kadayi says:

      @The Orly Factor

      Pretty vague stuff. Care to elaborate?

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      How can anything be ‘too big for digitial distribution’? Even if they were 100 GB in size each (or five times bigger than the biggest PC games around so far) it’d still be far quicker to download them now on broadband than to download a full-size movie just a few years ago, and plenty of people did that at the time.

  38. bookwormat says:

    One thing many of you British and North American people will not know is what “buying from a local retail store” means for us gamers in the non-english countries:

    Most retail copies I used to buy as a kid were only available in german translations, with very cheap german voice actors. All german videogame voice acting has the quality of the english voices in Men of War

    Seriously. I used to play everything with Men-Of-War-style voice acting.

    Imagine how this was for Half-Life, Starcraft, Baldur’s Gate, Grim Fandango.. Think THE LONGEST JOURNEY – Men of War – style.

    And of course this “voice acting” took month of work, so we got our games much later and payed more.

  39. SwiftRanger says:

    You all living in the UK? Because here in Belgium and on the European mainland I’d wager we’re not seeing the same “PC games are dead at retail” apocalypse. In fact, I’d bet a lot of money on it I will still be buying PC game boxes in the next few years and not even at such silly day-one prices as on Steam.

    The best deals on release day and shortly after are done at the online shops like Amazon and co, not at the digital distributors (Steam, D2D, Impulse) or in the regular brick & mortar shops. The latter two do make up for that by discounting PC games heavily afterwards. I picked up UTIII for 10 euros two months after its release, CoH @ 30 euro three months after its release etc., Crysis for 20 euro five months after its release. Retail isn’t going away imo or plenty of games will lose an audience they still need to survive, especially in Europe where the PC is still strong.

    Everyone has heard the horror stories about how much of a cut normal retailers get from games but it would be absolutely silly to suggest that digital stores would lower their prices if PC games would ever really disappear at retail stores. In the end developers might get more income but the consumer is being left in the cold and cheated at the same time.

  40. Matt W says:

    I suspect that the pricing endgame (from a publisher’s point of view) is dynamic pricing based on sales. I.e., the price of a title is determined by a formula whose primary variable is (say) sales of the title in the past month. This pretty much guarantees that the publisher is getting maximum income as the price for their games is always optimized without them making any extra effort. It’s also not a bad deal for the consumer either, as it means that price drops will happen naturally without having to wait on a publisher to pull their thumb out.

  41. Kadayi says:

    I pretty much only buy games either E-tail or DD these days. Street retail is so far removed from what it was, that I just don’t waste my time going out of my way to actively hunt it down any more. I think it was on the decline anyhows Vs the Steams & Amazons of this world, but the recession kicking in and retailers across the board running down their stock rooms has accelerated the process considerably.

    The problem long term is obviously that without a physical presence the PC as gaming platform is at risk of becoming a less obvious choice. Which is why I thought it was telling that Valve & Dell partnered up to ship Steam pre-installed with their Alienware machines:-

    http://store.steampowered.com/news/3154/

    Albeit Alienware are at the top end of their range. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point Dell start adding in ‘Do you play Games?’ type questions to their lesser models as a precursor to shipping those models with Steam as well.

  42. Vinraith says:

    Personally I still prefer to have a physical boxed copy when DRM isn’t an obstacle to doing so. I’ll keep getting boxed copies of games preferentially until there’s no longer an option to do so, and will supplement with Gamersgate, GOG, and DRM-free stuff off D2D. All of these allow for easily creating my own physical backups, unlike certain other services which shall go unnamed.

    • Premium User Badge

      luminosity says:

      I honestly just don’t get this “must own physical copy” thing. You don’t need a physical copy to keep back ups. It just seems like an enormous and useless waste of resources, especially for a product which is inherently digital in nature. It seems… antiquated.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Vinraith

      You do realise that as the games are tied to your account you can download them again (free of charge) if you want to yes?

      @luminosity

      Antiquated for sure, but you have to remember that pretty much every Vinraith post is a shout out against progress. The idea of embracing the new is an anathema to him.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Not if the service goes down, which they all will one day.

    • Hattered says:

      @luminosity:

      The thing about having a physical copy is that its presence lasts longer than a digital-only copy. I have digital-only games I don’t even remember exist, and there’s a chance I’ll fry my drive or upgrade my computer and forget about them completely. Having a physical copy gives a sense of permanence. I can forget it in a box somewhere and find it fifteen years later. “Ooo, Sim Isle! I remember you somehow! Oh! Vista doesn’t use the same help file whatever thing so the game text is inaccessible. Good times!” That’s not going to happen if I have to re-download it from a site for which my membership lapsed a decade ago. Basically, if you value nostalgia, you’ll want a physical backup of some kind. (In addition to the “not having to re-download if lost” factor.)

    • Kadayi says:

      @Psychopomp

      Is that someone claiming the sky is falling in I hear?

      Steam isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. That more and more games are becoming available on it should be proof enough that publishers are finding it a profitable road to go down. In all seriousness the idea that it’s going to suddenly disappear overnight without warning or a takeover is utter bunk.

      @Hattered

      You’ve probably more chance of your old games installing via a digital distribution service than you have from physical discs 15 years from now, because the installer software can be updated to whatever version of Windows we’re running then. I doubt very much that Windows 10+ will be still be supporting Win 95 & 8 bit installers.

      Fahrenheit only came out in 2005, but it wouldn’t physically install onto a Vista 64 bit machine, and Atari weren’t offering up any solutions or viable workarounds. The Steam version I bought at Christmas though? Absolutely no problem installing to Windows 7 64 bit.

    • Vinraith says:

      As Psychopomp says, no online service is forever. You don’t know when it will go down, you don’t know when it will be bought and have its terms of service changed, and as Bhazor recently discovered you don’t know when the owners might get senselessly asinine and lock you out of your own games. You also don’t know when your internet will go down and, in the case of Steam, lock you out of the ability to download (and in many cases play) anything you have through them. You can call me “anti-progress” all you want, possession is still 9/10 of the law and as far as I’m concerned if I don’t have a copy of it locally, I don’t really own it.

      Fortunately, with DRM-free games this isn’t an issue, and Gamergate’s installer pretty much backs up your game for you when you download (and doesn’t ever require an internet connection to play), so it’s not as though digital distribution were inherently a bad thing (indeed, I own tons of games on quite a few services). It’s certainly provided tons of great sales that have exposed many people to games and genres they’d never have otherwise tried, and considering the absolute dearth of retail PC game boxes in brick-and-mortar stores these days it’s an absolute godsend. I’ve got nothing against digital distribution, but I’m certainly going to miss printed manuals, maps, boxes, and printed DVD’s. Choice is always a good thing, and I think this (potentially brief) period where we can access a game either as a physical box or a digital download really is the best of both worlds.

    • Hattered says:

      @Kadayi

      Heh, true. However, I currently have no idea what my Steam password might be. I don’t know what email address I was using ten years ago. The chances that I’ll be able to access my current account on any distribution service after a decade of neglect are close to zero. The chances I’ll even remember I owned a given game or that it even existed are also close to zero. The chances that I’ll find, say, my EU3 disc in a dusty box and try to install it are much better than that. Whether I’ll be successful in installing it or not is another question, especially given current practices.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Hattered

      Maybe as a radical suggestion you could perhaps write things down on maybe make a notepad file? I think you’ll generally find it’s what most people do.

    • Hattered says:

      @Kadayi

      Yeah, I started doing that after my last move, since I had to set up half-a-dozen new accounts or so. Writing them down in one place, that is. Technically, my Steam password is written down somewhere, I’ve just lost track of where that scrap of paper might be.

      Anyway, my arguing the benefit of physical copies doesn’t necessarily reflect my own personal preference. Only 20% or so of the games I’ve purchased in the last three years have been boxed copies. I find Steam annoying, but I still use other sites. The only reason my last purchase was a boxed copy is that it takes less time to walk to the store and back than to download anything over 300 megs at our new place.

      There is still that residual dread in not having a real, boxed copy of an important game (having grown up with downloaded games being throwaways), but I’m not fool enough to believe that ten years from now I’ll care at all about replaying the games I played during this period. For one, nostalgia seems to be reserved to our more formative years, meaning I’m doomed to reminisce of Nintendo and Tandy 1000 games (I still have all of our 5¼” disks for some reason). Secondly, most of the games from now will be more interesting to talk about than to play (like how apparently KotOR was a good game, though watching someone play part of it killed any interest I had in it). But enough of this blather. I’m going go enjoy my games while I’m still capable.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Hattered

      Indeed the rosy eyes of nostalgia often hide the deep well of ‘WTF’ and downright jankiness that comes when you try playing old titles again. Sure generally criticisms of dumped down etc are apt for a lot of modern titles, but generally the one thing they excel at is having far more intuitive control schemes as well as improved responsiveness.

  43. Kadayi says:

    @Vinraith

    Potentially I could walk out my front door and have a meteor land on my head. Should I perhaps invest in a hard hat just on the off chance? Or maybe not venture out at all just to be on the safe side?

    Perhaps Psychopomp might like to predict next weeks lottery number as well, given his apparent iron clad ability to foresee the future. Time to quit Gmail because Google isn’t going to be around forever? Forget Flickr, because those picture are bound to get deleted sometime, no? After all forget the dwindling oil stocks, what are we going to do when we’ve run out of interweb space? I’ve seen the research, we peaked in 2005, it’s all downhill from here. Archive the porn whilst you can lads.

    All I see in these sort of posts is FEAR , (and not even the good kind that involves scary little girls) and that makes me think of this: –

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    — Frank Herbert, Dune – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

    Live a little.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Kadayi

      Good grief, where to begin? The odds of Steam ceasing to exist as it currently does in the next, say, 10 years are astronomically higher than the odds of you being hit by a meteor. I suspect you know this, but if you don’t you really should take a class in or read a book on elementary statistics and probability.

      Gmail and Google won’t be around forever, but it doesn’t cost me any money for them to disappear as I’m not a stock-holder. Similarly with Flickr, there’s no monetary investment there and I’m not foolish enough to have anything of value to me on either gmail or flickr that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

      You’ve inadvertantly stumbled on a good analogy there, though. Would you have valuable photos, things of great sentimental attachment for you, that you ONLY had on Flickr? No local copies, no physical copies, just absolute faith that flickr will always be there should you ever want to get to those pictures? Because that’s exactly what you’re proposing people do with Steam, have absolute faith that it will always be there and they’ll always be able to get their games from it. If you want to do that, fine. For my part, I’ve ALREADY been locked out of my Steam games too many times to continue to have that kind of faith in the service.

      But then that’s where we hit the sticking point, isn’t it? You want to buy things on Steam, I want to buy things retail, on GOG, on Gamersgate, and wherever else. I think we should both be able to do what we want, you seem to think we should only be able to do what you want. Odd.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Vinraith

      The point is not about the odds, it’s about taking a wild possibility and making it a definitive threat. Under what possible circumstances is Steam likely to disappear in the next 10 years wholesale? It’s a system that has consistently improved and proven to be a viable & profitable platform not only for mainstream developers, but also independent ones as well. Even if Valve (a company who probably garner more gamer feedback from most in their development approach) did somehow go to the wall, Steam itself could always be sold off as a viable asset. No ones going to buy it and suddenly shut it down, or suddenly attempt to charge monthly rates and alienate 20+ million gamers in the process.

      Also when it comes to digital information there is no such thing as safe physical media. A DVD or a CD only needs a scratch here or there, or a bit too much sunlight and it can be fubar.

      As for getting locked out of Steam. Perhaps you need to check your internet connection? Maybe change your provider? I think if the 5 or so years I’ve been using the service I’ve only been locked out once. Gmails gone down more often in my experience, however I’m not swapping out that for Yahoo quite yet. But if internets is down I can’t play games!!! *sad face**frown**lower lip quivering* . I like games, but I’m not so sad that not being able to play them due to temporary technical fault once every 5 years is reason enough to cut off my nose to spite my face.

      Also I don’t think you need to do as I want. I just think you need to get over your FEAR and face up to the inevitable reality of how the PC games industry is going instead of making like King Canute with almost every post attempting to turn back the tide.

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Kadayi

      I’m far from afraid Steam will disappear in the near future. As a matter of fact, I only purchase my PC games on Steam these days, the sole exception being Stardocks work. That doesn’t change the fact that 20, or 30 years down the line, there’s a chance that someone at Valve is going to fuck up big time. The other, less successful ones? Unless they’re DRM free, I’m not going to touch them with a 10 foot pole.

    • Tei says:

      Re: dune.

      “The witch’s are powindah. Fear is a preservation system of the meat.

      — Anonymous Tei’laxu “

    • Kadayi says:

      @Psychopomp

      30 years from now the games we presently play will seem like 8 bit compared to what will be available to us. Sure you might suffer a retro moment, but by then pretty much everything will be emulated directly through the cloud.

    • Nalano says:

      Yah, sure, there will be a time when we don’t all view the internet through Firefox, update our accounts on Facebook, chirp about our days on Twitter, search the internet through Google and peruse our messages on Gmail, or buy our games from Steam.

      There will also be a time when our current operating systems will be so utterly different than the ones we currently use that backwards compatibility will be a serious liability that the OS companies will simply drop.

      There will be a time that the format we use to store our stuff is wholly different that how we currently store stuff, and we will no longer be using recognizable versions of the physical drives we use now.

      In computer lingo, ten years is an eternity. Even science fiction of ten years ago looks hokey and ridiculous compared with what we have today. New technology that drives the industry doesn’t even last as long as fashion fads do in the stores. Entire technological industries – not just companies – have boomed and died in that time.

      So yes, you can safely say that Valve will not be here forever. But then again, you can safely say that your favorite game will be so freakin’ old that no modern computer could play it anyway without a lot of third party programs, emulators and hackpacks – hello dosbox – assuming people don’t just rip it and re-release it under a new engine.

      So you can sit here and complain that the industry might make you buy the Beatles’ White Album yet again in a new format at some undetermined point in the future or you can accept that nothing lasts, everything fades and you can’t take your money with you when you die.

      Shit, I bought Fallouts 1 and 2 just recently from Steam even though I still have the original CDs in a big spindle of Old Games, because it’s easier and quicker to have it just be there than have to deal with the hassle of installing and searching online for patches.

      Will I mourn the loss of PC games in brick and mortars? I haven’t been to a brick and mortar for two years, and I buy a game a month.

  44. Ragabhava says:

    I’ve clutched on to my vinyls; I’ll stick to my analog PC games as well.
    No bits and bytes for me, sir!

  45. neems says:

    Are ‘they’ perhaps over-estimating just how good average internet connections are world wide? I certainly look forward to downloading all my games over a half meg line.

    Internet retail, on the other hand, is fantastic. Great prices and quick delivery.

  46. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    You’ve inadvertantly stumbled on a good analogy there, though. Would you have valuable photos, things of great sentimental attachment for you, that you ONLY had on Flickr? No local copies, no physical copies, just absolute faith that flickr will always be there should you ever want to get to those pictures? Because that’s exactly what you’re proposing people do with Steam, have absolute faith that it will always be there and they’ll always be able to get their games from it.

    If you are really worried that Steam is about to go down, then download a torrent of the game you’ve bought (morally I can’t see anything wrong that), or after a few years buy a very cheap second-hand copy.

    P.

  47. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    There is, I feel, a difference between selling only virtually and selling only digitally. Um, by which I mean using the internet to buy physical or digital -or- using the internet to buy digital only. Me, I still have a preference for boxes but I also tend to order them over the internet these days.

  48. dreamhunk says:

    console make game devs go bankuprt proof is here

    http://www.develop-online.net/news/33622/Study-Industry-hit-by-11500-layoffs-since-late-2008

    Study: Industry hit by 11,500 layoffs since 2008

    New research also tallies ‘record number of studio closures’

    The global game industry has been hit by as many as 11,500 job losses since late 2008, a new study suggests.

    Research by entertainment analyst group M2 Research says that “the final count for layoffs since the economic meltdown in late 2008 reached 11,488 worldwide, with the majority of the losses coming in 2009.”

    The study has identified staff redundancies from 95 individual studios, adding that 52 of the affected studios were situated in the US.

    M2 adds that the majority of layoffs come at “studio level”, with QA staff often being the first to go.

    The analysis group adds that 2009 saw a ‘record number’ of studio closures, including 3D Realms (pictured), various Midway studios and EA’s Pandemic Studios.

  49. Bret says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Yah, sure, there will be a time when we don’t all view the internet through Firefox, update our accounts on Facebook, chirp about our days on Twitter, search the internet through Google and peruse our messages on Gmail, or buy our games from Steam.

    There will also be a time when our current operating systems will be so utterly different than the ones we currently use that backwards compatibility will be a serious liability that the OS companies will simply drop.

    There will be a time that the format we use to store our stuff is wholly different that how we currently store stuff, and we will no longer be using recognizable versions of the physical drives we use now.

    In computer lingo, ten years is an eternity. Even science fiction of ten years ago looks hokey and ridiculous compared with what we have today. New technology that drives the industry doesn’t even last as long as fashion fads do in the stores. Entire technological industries – not just companies – have boomed and died in that time.

    So yes, you can safely say that Valve will not be here forever. But then again, you can safely say that your favorite game will be so freakin’ old that no modern computer could play it anyway without a lot of third party programs, emulators and hackpacks – hello dosbox – assuming people don’t just rip it and re-release it under a new engine.

    So you can sit here and complain that the industry might make you buy the Beatles’ White Album yet again in a new format at some undetermined point in the future or you can accept that nothing lasts, everything fades and you can’t take your money with you when you die.

    Shit, I bought Fallouts 1 and 2 just recently from Steam even though I still have the original CDs in a big spindle of Old Games, because it’s easier and quicker to have it just <i>be there</i> than have to deal with the hassle of installing and searching online for patches.

    Will I mourn the loss of PC games in brick and mortars? I haven’t been to a brick and mortar for two years, and I buy a game a month.

    Mostly quite a good point.

    Except getting Fallout on Steam. I mean, I love Steam and all, but Good Old Games is way more optimal for Fallout purchasin.

  50. timepull says:

    If you’re worried about playing your old games in 10-15 years (assuming you have a box version) then instead of getting rid of your “old” computer when you buy one with Windows 12, just keep your computer with your old OS (and hope theres no problem with DRM). If Fahrenheit doesn’t run on Windows 20 128-bit, then install on your ancient Windows XP box.

    As for cloud computing, OnLive, etc, whether or not they’ll try and become a mainstream games distro is not the question (they’re going to try), the big question will be how well their service is. How many times to they go down? Is there any sort of network lag? Etc. Anyways, it’s not like methods of media distribution suddenly disappear – just because there’s a new player on the block doesn’t mean that everything switches overnight. People were saying similar things when Steam was first announced (7 or 8 years ago now I think) and I can still order box versions of games online easily. Also, box versions will probably always exist in some capacity, since nowadays every game seems to have Collector’s Editions or Ultimate Editions, such as Modern Warfare 2 or God of War 3.

    Pretty much, unless you’re in a position to direct things the way you want them to, just sit back and see what happens in the next few years. But certainly not by 2011. That’s probably just marketing shit.