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'The writing's on the wall for games retail'

Industry veterans agree digital distribution set to transform videogame sales

Traditional bricks-and-mortar retail faces a bleak future, as digital distribution looks set to become the standard across the videogame market.

That's according to a number of games industry veterans, who agreed that the evolution of music sales online is evidence that consumers are accepting and demanding their entertainment digitally.

"What percentage of record sales are iTunes?" asked Brian Fargo, founder of Interplay and currently CEO of inXile Entertainment. "The writing's on the wall there. It's not looking good for retail," he said.

Acclaim's David Perry pointed to Apple's pioneering digital sales methods, which will prompt more company's to follow its lead and sell cheaply and directly to connected consumers.

"Just look at the success of the iPhone App Store, and the fact that everyone's going to copy it, and clone it and do their version of it anyway," he said.

Will Wright, the designer behind The Sims and most recently Spore, suggested that the industry was close to a tipping point, with the jump to digital as standard just around the corner.

"I think we're getting to the steep part of the curve. When CD-ROM first came out we were on that for about eight years and it seemed like nothing else happened. Then it all changed."

Fargo said that ease of use is the key differentiator for digital sales, and once users register payment methods, purchases become even more spontaneous.

"For me it's getting back to access, it's getting easier to buy," he offered. "It was difficult before but I think with the iPhone they did it right. The credit card's already in the system, it's easy to do.

"They don't think about it. 99 cents is almost free," he added.

Wright agreed that as digital purchases are so easy, the user barely considers the transaction.

"The first time you do it there's a big barrier, and the second and third time, but by the tenth time, at that point you don't even think about it."

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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