Trion Worlds, developer of recently-launched MMO Rift, has shone some light on the growing importance of digital sales to PC games.
While CEO Lars Buttler declined to give GamesIndustry.biz exact numbers on the retail/download split for the game, which reached number 19 in the UK all-formats retail charts and number 2 in Germany, he did hint that digital was the larger provider.
"I can only tell you that digital is even stronger than we expected and even stronger than people would expect given historical trends. Digital is clearly a super-important channel."
This was not purely true of large third-party services such as Steam and Direct2Drive: "We are also selling a large number of games direct on our own site."
However, Buttler was adamant that place for retail remained even for entirely online games such as Rift. "For this particular game there are people who like to have a box, and who like to have the retail collector's edition.
"People tend to generalise. There is a trend towards digital but that doesn't mean in any way that retail is dead or not important to some people. We decided that as there would still be a significant number of people who wanted a retail product, we would absolutely offer it."
All-told, initial uptake of the game was "going better than we had ever hoped for," with 31 extra servers laid on to deal with the load.
Buttler also maintained that a subscription rather than free-to-play model best-suited the game. "Our audience for Rift has told us clearly that they want to earn their achievements in the game, that they want a game with deep, live content pipeline and not overcrowded with shops and other things."
He claimed that a long-running, large-scale beta had led to a significant number of players getting "hooked", which had helped ensure a subscriber base at launch. However, Trion was "not religious about any business model."
Buttler also revealed that Trion's upcoming partnership with TV channel SyFy would involve it creating an original, self-owned IP for a new MMO. "SyFy is building a TV show that takes places in the game world based on our game. We developed the game first, we gave them a giant bible. Trion owns the license and the franchise."
The CEO felt that "a license is often a big constraint to making a fantastic game. To make a triple-A experience where everything is thought through over time for the gamer and not for the person that experienced the movie or the book, the license is in many cases constraining."