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Special Reserve

Port Plexus COO Marko Hein explains why Special Editions have a strong future at retail

Earlier this week Port Plexus announced that it had hired former Nintendo, THQ and Bigpoint senior exec Marko Hein to its ranks, as COO, with the aim of expanding its Special Editions business in the games industry.

Here, Marko himself explains more about the company's ideas, why Special Editions could be standard in the future, and how the music and film businesses could be next in line.

GamesIndustry.biz You've plenty of experience in the industry - what draws you to a company like Port Plexus?
Marko Hein

Many people have asked me, after Bigpoint - which was completely concentrated on the online business without any physical boxes - what my reason is to move. I've preached that online is the future, and gone to a classical company that's producing boxes...

But that's actually very easy to explain - yes, I see the future as online, and I think online distribution and gaming will become increasingly important. But nobody thinks that physical distribution will go away completely, so this means that you need to provide something of greater value to customers than you're doing now.

I think the Special or Collector's Editions of today could become the standard editions of tomorrow, because you have to differentiate your physical product from the digital download or online game. There's a certain need to provide more additional value to your goods, to stand out against digital distribution in the future.

GamesIndustry.biz So you think that the trend towards digital distribution for games will continue?
Marko Hein

Exactly - when you look at the numbers from the latest PriceWaterhouseCooper report for the entertainment industry, you can see that for games, movies and music, physical distribution is declining year-on-year, while the digital distribution of those products is on the rise.

Saying this, the boxed product has a problem, which is that it doesn't necessarily provide additional value to what you get when you download a game. That means that if your company is in the boxed product business, you need to think how you can provide additional value that doesn't exist in the digital download.

Otherwise, when you can download the product for €10 or €20, there's no need for the consumer to pay exactly the same price for the box.

GamesIndustry.biz Well, if the publisher can bring a digital game to market more cheaply, while also using the same conduit for ongoing content or support, and also building up communities of its own - is there any need for boxed product at all? What's the draw for them of Special Editions?
Marko Hein

That's a very good point. When we brainstormed last year specifically about the strategy for Special Editions we saw so many different angles that a Special Edition could provide - they can help acquire new consumers who aren't yet into the games, while customer retention could be very important too, in reactivating a certain consumer base.

Then it also gives a certain value to your brand - when you have a big brand such as World of Warcraft and you have a loyal customer base, you can bring added benefits by providing a special boxed version to those customers. A Collector's Edition could, for example, extend the life cycle of a product, starting from pre-sales and the announcement of a special box, to the end of the life cycle - when you can probably pick it up again by providing certain editions with exclusive content, digital or physical.

So coming from different angles, these Special Editions can provide strategic value to the company, and I only see a few publishers really making use of these Editions in a really clever way right now.

GamesIndustry.biz You talk about attracting new consumers to games - how would Special Editions do that?
Marko Hein

If you look at the current Special Editions, they're mostly aimed at the core audience - you have your classic game in there, and then probably a figurine, or whatever.

But imagine you have a game like The Sims, which has a certain heritage. Some people who might be new to the brand would never have experienced the game before. Or the German game Anno, which is very complex, and might need a certain type of introduction to the game - so you could provide an Entry Edition, or Beginner's Edition, that explains the game in a completely different way by providing either the previous games in the series, or maybe a book or strategy guide that helps the player coming fresh into the brand.

Therefore, people who might have felt before that a game was too complex, or that it was too far into a series, if they see a boxed set that gives them the heritage, or the help to get into the game - that might be a trigger to getting new players on board who have previously shied away from the franchise.