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Dear Retailers, U r Dum


No High Scores

Hey, that’s not me talking, that’s 1C publisher Darryl Still. Why should you care? Believe it or not, 1C (publisher of King’s Bounty and Men of War) is second in size only to Ubisoft among European-owned publishers. (I know! I had no idea either!) Also, Still has been around the block a time or two. In addition to working at EA and Nvidia, he helped launch the Lynx and Jaguar, two systems that I’m sure, in another hundred years, history will look back on kindly. (I kid because I love.) In truth, he doesn’t so much call US/UK retailers dumb as he talks about how great Steam has been for PC publishers (given the fact that the brick and mortar retailers are dumb). From his interview with CVG:

The PC has been at the forefront of most technology shifts in the market. I was very aware of this at Nvidia. Most breakthroughs in console technology have their roots in the PC market. Most leaps in games development come to the PC first and then work their way into the SDK’s of the console manufacturers. But for the longest time we’ve been told by retail, in the UK and US especially, that PC games is a dying market.

It has been getting less and less shelf space and less and less focus in store, but in all that time we, as a PC publisher have seen absolutely no drop off in demand. In fact the dichotomy between us being told by retail there is no demand for our product and us being asked by customers – by e-mail, phone etc. – where they can find our games is quite shocking.

Ribbing aside, he’s on the right side of this one. Go read the whole thing.

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Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

8 thoughts to “Dear Retailers, U r Dum”

  1. To be entirely fair though, it may be that the PC audience has simply migrated almost entirely to digital distribution much faster than the console audience. The physical retailers may have noticed this shift, and moved to stock more console titles than PC because they really aren’t selling. Now services like XBLA and PSN may be exploding with digital download titles, and it’s an awesome place for smaller, more bite-size games in the $5-$20 range. But I blame the lack of shift to digital distribution solely on the console publishers.

    There is not a single AAA console title I can think of that was also available as a digital download through PSN or Xbox Games on Demand on the same day it was released, and that is just stupid. Furthermore, the games that are there are priced exactly the same as their physical counterparts. This is even dumber. This product costs you next to nothing to actually ship because it’s entirely digital. There’s no disc to stamp, no manual to print, no box to pack, and nothing to ship. Furthermore, it’s also more restrictive because you can’t trade it in and it’s tied to whatever account you have. They get to eliminate the used game market entirely. You’d think publishers would be all over this and publish entirely digital! I see a couple reasons why they don’t, however, and they need to be addressed.

    1. Lack of HD space on consoles compared to PCs. If all your AAA titles are digital downloads, especially with Blu Ray discs on the PS3, that’s a lot of data. PCs have multi-terrabyte HDs by this point. And Microsoft, about the whole proprietary HD thing on the 360? Just stop. Let us use any fucking HD we want and just use a standard SATA interface. At least the PS3 lets you swap out the HD for another one easily. Don’t charge us an arm and a fucking leg for a paltry 250 GB drive when 2 TB PC drives are available at half the price. It’s insulting.

    2. As much as they hate retailers like GameStop for the used game industry, they actually still need them to push their physical product, so they don’t want to piss them off. Why? Because console gamers still expect to actually go and buy a physical product. If you got console gamers to embrace digital distribution the way PC gamers have, you wouldn’t need GameStop, so who cares if they hate you? How do you go about getting console gamers to embrace this? By dropping the price of your product to something more reasonable and having sales like Steam does. Look at the massive sales numbers that the crazy sales on Steam pull in. PC gamers have shown that they’ll accept the restrictions that come with buying games purely digitally, but only if the price is right so the tradeoff makes sense. If you have a AAA title that comes out for $60, and you also have it available on Games on Demand and PSN on release day for $40, people will buy that shit, guaranteed.

  2. Sorry about your post getting spam filtered. That beast is out of frigg’n control.

    Also, points well-taken and I agree about the console/retailer relationship. At the same time, seems to me retailers were shrinking down their PC inventories before Steam hit it big. I feel like Steam ended up solving a problem for PC gamers more than being the cause of the boxed-copy flight from retail.

  3. PC gaming is not “dying” in any way. In fact if anything PC gaming is growing like a weed. Look at all the people that were wrapped up in Bejeweled and Plants vs Zombies. Those game were on the computer before they went anywhere else. Those same people are playing Mafia Wars and the various Farmville knock offs in droves. Zynga’s latest game attracted something in range of 30 million players on day one and none of them were playing on PS3s or XBoxes. Even in the non-casual market games like WoW continue to rake in the cash and Valve are in no danger of going broke anytime soon. Steam has something like 40 million active users now.

    So why do we hear the constant whine of “PC gaming is dying” over and over? It’s because of retailers like Gamestop who’s main source of revenue is selling used games. Thanks to CD keys and no disc cracks you haven’t been able to re-sell computer games for a very long time. That’s it in a nutshell. Gamestop and it’s ilk repeat that PC gaming is dying to media and customers and then the PC gaming customers think, “well I better get a console then seeing as PC gaming is dying and all” and it becomes this weird self-perpetuating lie. It’s gotten so bad that if you actually want to buy a PC game from Gamestop you’ll have to have them order it for you most likely (if it isn’t on the two three foot long shelves where they keep their token Blizzard games and MMOs).

    It’s pretty sad that the platform that drives all the innovation for the others gets relegated to also ran status even though it’s solved the one problem that publishers are constantly whining about on those other platforms, used games.

  4. Perhaps PC gaming is not dieing, but lets not be unrealistic and say that something like Farmville is a game. It’s malware designed to take advantage of fools.

  5. Believe it or not Farmville (and cityville, frontierville and whatever-other-ville there is) are games. They may be simplistic, parasitic and not very good games, but that doesn’t remove the “game” label. And what of Bejeweled and it’s sequels? Plants vs Zombies? Peggle? Don’t they deserve the game label just as much as something like Super Meat Boy? Or should we remove the label “game” simply because something has wide appeal to a lot of people that wouldn’t be called “gamers” under normal circumstances?

  6. I personally feel that the main reason people feel games like Farmville and whatnot aren’t games is because gamers are desperate to feel unique. They can’t deal with the fact that some stay-at-home mother who plays Farmville and the odd few Wii titles that catch their fancy are also gamers.

    Truth is, it’s like the whole “Anonymous” thing. If you play games, you’re a gamer. Doesn’t matter what those games are. If you’re going to start breaking up everything into “real” games and “fake” games, then I’m afraid that your dickhat is showing.

    Simply put, the little crown they could proudly wear has changed into something else. So many people game now. Gamers are just going to have to either accept that fact or resign to being stuck in a bygone era where “gamers” immediately generated images of spotty, pallid teens locked in various darkened rooms.

  7. This is where I’m okay with having different terms for different types of gamers. The hobby absolutely is this broad and they’re all games, but just because my mom plays Facebook Scrabble doesn’t mean she’d have any interest (or ability to follow) a conversation about The Witcher. I know a lot of people don’t like terms like “hardcore” or just “core” but if the terms are used, without judgement, to distinguish the gamers who pay $60 a pop for 10-40 hour experiences from those playing only Peggle and Farmville for 15-mintes at a shot, I think that’s okay.

  8. Gamestop (and similar retailers) stopped stocking PC games before digital distribution really took off, but places like best-buy (that didn’t do used game sales) had much larger pc game shelves.

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