Retail model is "broken" for developers, says Playdead

Limbo dev sees installing console games as another inconvenience of the old boxed market

The boxed retail model is no longer viable for the development community, according to Playdead boss Dino Patti.

Speaking to our sister site, Patti suggested physical distribution is outdated, and he hopes that future consoles will take download models much further than current offerings on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.

"The retail model has always been and still is broken, from a developer's point of view," said Patti.

"Driving discs in a big van all over the world is really inefficient. I don't understand how anyone can make money out of this. Driving a truck to Japan just to get it delivered to people when they can get it from the net? Hopefully the new consoles will embrace the download space even more."

Playdead's Limbo was a smash hit on Xbox Live Arcade, before being ported to PlayStation Network and PC this year.

Consumers have shown they are embracing downloadable games and content, but recent demands for console players to install games before playing is a step back, according to Patti.

"There will be discs for a long time from now, but the world has adopted download. When your mum and dad start to download things, that's when it's everybody who does it.

"I only buy the disc if I want a console game, but everything else I download from Steam. And all the new games today also need to be installed. Why did I get a console if the games need to be installed? That really sucks. That's a PC," he added.

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Latest comments (22)

Joakim Månsson Senior texture Artist, Ubisoft Massive8 years ago
It´s only PS3 that need installs, right? On 360 it´s optional, rage?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
I wouldn't class the 360 BF3 high-res texture pack as optional. :D
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
People love going to malls, or other shopping opportunities in the real world. It is not just consumption of goods, it is also the social experience. Not renting a truck to ship you product there and not trying to sell a product there is at your own risk. Companies eliminate risks, hence retail products are being sold at stores, even if there is no longer a technological imperative to do so.

I bet there is more than one small publisher interested in putting Limbo in a store to make some money.
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Show all comments (22)
Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments8 years ago
Shipping boxed product around is not necessary to have a bricks and mortar presence though - look at the financial services industry.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
Haven't the ridiculous "i'll ship an HDD or USB drive somewhere far away and try to beat the direct download... only to always discover that the HDD/USB drive trumps the data/speed ratio of the download every single time".

I have to say that, until the internet and download/upload speeds are better (to cut down on ridiculous "installation, decryption and decompression times) then physical wins every. single. time. Let's put it this way:

I can wander down the street to my local retailer, wander back, turn on PS3/PC and install game within 20 minutes. (I live very close to my local store) OR i can get something on steam or another DD store... wait umpteen hours to install (Half Life 1 takes about 2-3 hours for me)... then wait at least 20-30 minutes to decrypt and install.... THEN i have to make sure all the connecting bits of faff that the publisher decided were a good idea (rockstar club, EA forum sign-in, Games for windows etc.) on TOP of whatever is required for the digitial distribution service i used all work properly.

At the moment, the only decent online portal that I appreciate is Good Old Games. The rest are just inconveniences i have to suffer in order to practice my hobby.... and TBH, some parts of indie gaming aren't much better.
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Klaus has a point. For that experience, why not sell just codes? Like they already do for WoW subscriptions, Live Arcade points and so on. Then again, that's not good for mother nature either, for her it's all the same if there's discs or cards in that van.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
Can't seem to edit my comment for some reason so i'll repost the gist of my edit here:

"I think Playdead's viewpoint is entirely predicated on their install size rather than an actually thoughtful assessment of different games' requirements."
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Jarvis Crofts Data Analyst/Manager 8 years ago
Developers Gone Wild - lite

1. Denmark has a great internet infrastructure, most other countries? Not so much…

2. Benefits of Discs: No internet required, giftable, tangible, sharable, re-sellable & collectable.
Benefits of Downloads: No need to leave the house, eco-friendly?, “collectable”.

3. Why is he mad that packaged gets too much focus when he himself packaged LIMBO in retail?
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Ian Brown IT Developer / IT Infrastructure 8 years ago
I'd be interested in downloading games for my console like steam but the issue im concerned with is the prices. Currently some of the game son the Xbox Live service to download cost a fair bit of cash. Okay you can buy Fallout 3 for £20 but if i go to my local game store or even a quick look on the net i can get a boxed version for much less than that. Unless they readjust the prices or have worthwhile sales (such as when steam made the £30 L4D only £12.99) i'll still be buying the boxed version for consoles every time. Its just hard for me to see the average person paying the full RRP for a product they cannot even hold or see physically. Make them cheaper and im sure the uptake will increase.
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Gregory Keenan8 years ago
People always like to buy a physical copy of some items. I personally have very intermediate Internet access, and therefore preffer having and actual copy.
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Daniele Azara Creative Director, Palzoun entertainment8 years ago
What will happen in my opinion is that they will continue to exist package version of the game only in the form of "collector's edition" at the price of actual "normal edition" ones. It will work very well for people who love to collect or as a gift. The prices of the digital delivered games will probably go down a bit.

I see also "pay per play" formulas: think to the levels of an FPS. I play the first one for (ie) 1.99 dollars and at the end of the level the game asks me if I want to continue (paying another 1.99). And so on, with special discounts for an upfront payment for the whole game.

Another way will probably be the "subscription": you will decide the "channels of games" you like (ie Sports, FPS, adventure, etc) and you will be able to download everything at pre determined price (as happens with some satellite tvs). The more channels you pay for, the more discount you will earn.

The very difference it probably will be made by the "genre" of games. Some business models may be succesfully applied to level based games, but not to mmorpg as an example.

And there is also the "cloud" gaming. But for that I agree there is (an will be for a long time) a infrastructure problem to be solved before crying for a new way to intend playing videogames.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
As I keep saying, until 100% of gamers have great connection speeds AND you have 100% security, it's never going to happen so fast. Or work as well as some think it will. If the big publishers want to kill retail, they can put THEIR money on the line and sell packaged games direct to consumers from an official website. Given that they're killing used sales with all sorts of shitty restrictions, they can basically say to users: "You CAN sell your used games, BUT the poor sap who pays for them HAS to pay to unlock that content!"

That would suck royally, but it's what's happening now anyway. Bastards.

Also, the minute the much-vaunted cloud goes down like the Hindenburg in a targeted hack or other big technical issue is a day things go to hell because no one will be able to get anything they "own" and there go your saves, as well.

And we all know that any sort of decent customer service will include fine print that says if they or someone else is responsible for screw-up, you have NO recourse but to take the hit and the digital coupon with the sorry face on it for your free dollar game and a weak-ass promise that it won't happen again.

Oh well... don't say I didn't warn you.
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reading between the lines, Game company see decline in X - decides to decry - oh no, X is totally dead, doomed and finished, at the expense of stating and expounding the benefits of its products in its current formats.

Retail is evolving, and Digital is being constantly being redefined. The two will both survive, and its all useless posturing trying to predict XYZ, when really, NO one can perdict whats on the horizon. Right now, smartphones and tablets are hot, shall I say facebook, digital and casual/social are doomed?
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters8 years ago
This guy's seeing the world from a single perspective: the hardcore gamer who buys his own games. Retail and marketing can push people to buy things they didn't even know existed before they left the house. It inspires people who don't even have a PC or console to buy a game as a birthday present just because they walked past and saw it on a shelf. Retail's not a service to transport the product to the customer, it's to *make* the customer want to buy the product.
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@Jarvis - he didn't actually package it in retail. Microsoft offered to do so for the Japanese market, and bundled it with Trials HD and Explosion Man. That same package was then brought out in the rest of the world, seeing as it was actually selling quite well.
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Ryan McGeough Studying Msc in Strategic Management, Dublin Institute of Technology8 years ago
The idea that the retail model is broken doesn't mean necessarily that downloads are the way forward. There is a significant difference in experience in going to buy a physical product in a shop that feels like it's yours and simply downloading something. That's not to mention downloading times. I never play PC games as I don't care enough to spend time installing and figuring out how to get this stuff to work. I play xbox 360 because once i have it I can put it in the console and it plays immediately.

I agree the console model is flawed, but it doesn't mean it needs to be thrown out.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology8 years ago
i agree with the people saying that untill internet speeds get good enough to download a game quickly retail (physical) copies of games will win everytime.

i to agree if your a indie developer that online (steam,orgin,GFWL) is the best way to go as it allows many people to get acess to your product and is cheap to do so compared to retail.
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Eddie In Project Manager, Ndoors8 years ago
Here in Korea pretty much all games are purchased over the internet; be it online games, direct downloads or internet vendors who ship boxes.

I have to disagree with Klaus on the point that the retail shopping experience for gaming is not all that interesting. I remember walking into the nearest Gamestop with messy shelves where you can't find anything and the latest launched game taking like 2 walls to itself. I love shopping but until retailers figure out how to get games shopping to feel more like other shopping - it's steam for me.

Having said that, I recently spent some time in the Philippines on business and MAN did Steam suck. So until the telecoms in the rest of the world get off their butts and offer affordable fibre - direct download won't overtake retail. (I hear some telecoms stopped offering unlimited internet?!)
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Sergei Klimov Director of Publishing & Business Development, Snowbird Studios8 years ago
the fact that retail currently sucks, doesn't mean that the retail experience is dead in general.

i could walk into a music store and ask the guys to find me something i would love, and the would do it.

that's still better than reading Metacritic's messy assembled scores and trying to figure, is this game high because it's American and American press loves that stuff? or is this game low because it's a great game but visuals are not that impressive? (about which i don't care)

yes, retail distribution model is problematic. not so much because of the way of business model, but more because of the lousy companies that did little to develop the model, but just remained parasites, benefitting from great games and letting all the rest rot.

retail model built this industry, let us not forget about this. publishing, in the '90s, shaped up the way we play, pay and develop. this has to come back, in the digital age. the vision, the promotion, the positioning, the inventiveness of, say, Virgin Interactive's team in the early days... without this creatively commercial part, hard to imagine developers making good money.
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Daniele Azara Creative Director, Palzoun entertainment8 years ago
I can't understand. Everyone is used to watch films or series, not having buy them. Whay seems it so unnatural to have not a physical copy of an object? There are millions of "new" kind of gamers and games out there. It's very important to undestand the game are on the way to become "services", not anymore "products".
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
While I'm sure the traditional retail model must seem broken for some developers - in particular, smaller developers who've found a lot of success with downloadable release(s) - I think it will always have a place in our industry, and as people have mentioned above there's a definite appeal to going into a videogame store and buying the latest release you're massively excited for, or getting that game through the post a day early.

However, I am warming to the idea of having proper, full games installed on my hard drive, with no need to change discs or look in the cabinet, or have a stack of BD cases beside my PS3 & digibox. A couple of nights ago I played Limbo (finished it; what an excellent game), Eufloria and Crysis all directly from my PS3 hard drive, and there is an appeal to having all these games instantly available. The only issues are with my internet connection - I think I'm on up to a 10MB connection, which took for instance about 3 hours to download Hydrophobia Prophecy's 1.8GB, and the worry that should my HDD decide to die on me (which has happened a couple of times) I'll have probably over 100GB of downloadable games to get back.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises8 years ago
He's right, even older 360 games I install just so I don't have to hear the ridiculously loud DVD drive spinning it constantly. My PS3 isn't as bad. And my Wii? It's whisper quiet collecting dust somewhere, my phone has better games than that console.
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