Some thoughts from one of our staff on Digital Distribution and where that technology is heading.
Agree or Disagree? Discuss…
In the age of super-fast broadband and always on connections which link systems with huge storage to the net Digital Distribution should be a quick, simple way of obtaining content. In reality however Digital distribution is, more often than not, a mess. To understand what is going wrong with the concept we need to look at an example of where it is done right, or at least well.
Apple has by far the most successful digital distribution platform but it is primarily a music delivery device. For the majority of people it works as most tracks they would want are included in the iTunes Store and almost always these are available at a lower cost than a CD in a shop. This should be the case though as without the retail packaging, the printing of CD’s or distribution costs there are savings which can be passed on to the consumer. In Apples case the price is discounted but only slightly, and many argue that if albums were reduced to a smaller fee revenue would actually increase through reducing the motivation for piracy.
It is likely that Microsoft, though Xbox Live and Sony, with their Playstation Network will each become the Apple of gaming but only on their own platform, in the same way our iPod is tied into iTunes. This is the case because regardless of what the Microsoft or Sony marketing teams would have consumers believe the PC is by far the most used gaming platform.
In the PC marketplace, in which we can now include Apple systems, consumers have the luxury of being digitally supplied games by the two most successful and well developed digital distribution platforms, STEAM and Battle.net. STEAM has the widest catalogue at the best prices and Battle.net serves to PC users 3 of the most popular games on the planet in Diablo, StarCraft and World of WarCraft franchises.
Where do we go from here? Well we know that many publishers will not accept, for PC digital distribution, STEAM to become an unstoppable force in PC gaming. We also know that others have a right to maximise their margin and the solution to everyone, other than Valve’s, problem may not be as complicated as it seems. Simply put Amazon will emerge as the new force for digital PC games distribution as they have the investment, the technical skills and the digital distribution model which can succeed. More importantly though the publishers will embrace them as Amazon are already a huge customer and will simply replace physical sales for digital sales. As for Microsoft and Sony, they could prosper in the same way on their own platform as Apple have, they may need to partner with Amazon to offer a wider choice of media or it could be a step towards the end of the console as a significant gaming platform.