UK games specialist Frontier Developments will release its two self-published games at boxed retail.
The company has stepped away from work-for-hire projects in recent years and has moved to publishing its own IP. The first two games being Elite: Dangerous (2014) and Planet Coaster (2016).
Now the studio has teamed up with Sold Out to get the games out at physical. Although a shrinking side of the games business, physical retail remains a lucrative area for the industry and a potentially successful place to release typically digital-only products, as we established last week.
"Almost any quality game works as a boxed release," Sold Out boss Garry Williams explains to GamesIndustry.biz. "You wouldn't ask 'why does Call of Duty work as a boxed release?' Circumstances meant that the Xbox One version of Elite was part of the Game Preview programme, and you can't deliver a preview in a box
"Quality games will sell whatever the distribution method. Rocket League would look rather silly if they had stayed digital-only and missed the recently announced 1 million boxed sales. Disruption offered challenges like early access, digital pricing and episodic content, which distracted from traditional publishers, and developers are now starting to see the value of delivering to consumers what they want, and in a manner that they want to receive content."
The PC boxed version of Planet Coaster arrives on May 23rd. It's a notable move because, unlike console, the PC market is almost entirely digital. So why bother releasing this particular product at stores?
"With over half a million Planet Coaster Steam sales since launch, you can see that demand for PC gaming is still high," Williams explains. "Code strippers and other pricing challenges had started to make boxed versions look like they could end up as collateral damage, but the data shows that with key releases, boxed product can still outperform the market. We see this as an opportunity to implement some new ideas. So watch this space."
Alongside Planet Coaster, Frontier and Sold Out will release Elite Dangerous: Legendary Edition later in 2017 for PS4 and Xbox One. The game will also feature the Horizons expansion and 1,000 Frontier points.
Both games arrive a little after their original digital launch, and although Williams acknowledges that this can still be a successful model, he does recommend releasing at physical retail at the same time as on Steam, Xbox Live, PSN and other digital marketplaces.
"In our experience, hitting day-and-date, where possible is always more advantageous," he says. "However, with genre-defining products such as these, the demand has always been there, and we're delighted to help Frontier meet the customer on their terms, however and wherever they chose to buy."
Frontier is the latest major British studio to sign with Sold Out in recent years. The firm also boasts Team17 and Sniper creators Rebellion on its books and has already launched Sniper Elite V4 and Yooka-Laylee this year. Williams says he is proud to have the 'best of Britsoft' as part of the company's line-up, and believes it is well placed to capitalise on the recent evolutions within the digital and indie marketplace.
"We wish to keep laying the ground for a fresh restructuring of the industry, one that returns emphasis to the publishing functions that were trampled underfoot in the initial indie gold-rush and, into the bargain, helps to provide consumers with clearer assurances of quality," Williams says. "A new breed of publisher may be the only answer to the problems created by digital storefronts we were once told were going to make publishers extinct."