PC Retail Sales Becoming "Impossible" for Small Publishers

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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PC Retail Sales Becoming "Impossible" for Small Publishers


Focus Home Interactive [http://www.focus-home.com/] CEO Cedric Lagarrigue says retail sales of PC games in the U.S. and U.K. have become "impossible" for small publishers because the market has shifted so sharply toward consoles.

Focus Home Interactive, for those who don't know - and let's be honest, that's all of us - is a PC-focused French publisher of small-budget "niche" games. Its most popular franchises include Cities XL [http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Cycling-Manager-France-Download/dp/B003SHDP68/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1290443050&sr=8-1], so it's not exactly an industry heavyweight but it does cater to very specific markets that don't have a lot of options when it comes to their particular flavor of fun. But the dire situation for PC games in the U.S. and U.K. is making it increasingly difficult for publishers like Focus Home to reach its audience.

"It was impossible for us to secure a strong place at retail because of difficulties with distributors and the extremely unfavorable conditions of the PC market," Lagarrigue told MCV [http://www.mcvuk.com/news/41921/PC-market-impossible-for-smaller-publishers?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mcvuk%2FoXMK+%28MCV%3A+games+industry+news%29]. "It has become very difficult to sell a good PC title [in the U.K.]."

But while the retail market is being squeezed, potential salvation for some small players may have already arrived in the form of digital distribution. "If people can't find a product they want in stores, they will buy online," he continued. "It is the same in the U.S., where PC does not have the place at retail that it had before. It was no surprise when NPD announced in September digital sales had exceeded [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/103632-NPD-Group-Digital-PC-Game-Sales-Outpace-Retail] that of boxed product for the first time."

Lagarrigue also noted that while digital sales are going gangbusters in North America, the situation is different in countries like France and Germany, where the PC game market is still a big player and digital makes up only 15 percent of total sales.


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Bobzer77

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I remember it was only a couple of years ago here in Ireland, half of Game used to be shelves full of Pc games while the other half of the shop was divided into shelves for console games.

Now there's two shelves in the corner for Pc games and Gamestop is even worse.

Quite sad actually.
 

Asehujiko

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This has more to do with focus home interactive selling garbage then with the state of the market.
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
what I would really like to see is the ability to buy digital but then get a boxed copy of the game shipped to me from the publisher, like telltale does
 

Dzil

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I was shocked a couple years ago when long time carrier of PC games GameStop had store fronts that either ignored the PC entirely, or exiled them to a tiny out of the way rack on the side with no flare whatsoever. But in truth... the PC is the foremost platform lending itself easily to digital distribution, and I for one LOVE having clouds like battlenet and Steam carry my purchased games, rather than have to hunt for CDs (oftentimes scratched up from inadequate storage space and kids) every time I go to a new computer, or decide to reload that old classic. Every PC game I've purchased in the past 2 years has been online, as likely will all going forward.

Honestly, with the increased focus of online in the PS3 and XBOX360, and even the Wii, I could see the consoles following closely behind.

What's great about this is that it's GREAT for indie developers: no longer do you need to compete for the limited space on the shelves of the brick and mortar stores, you simply need to work with Steam, Impulse, possibly other online retailers and let the networking of their massive userbases solve product awareness for you.
 

Casimir_Effect

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Probably more of an indication that incdrebily niche titles like those are no longer viable. They only really were in the first place because production costs were so much lower a few years ago. Now they, like every other developer, feels the need to have great graphics in their games which throws the price up. But when it comes to a boat simulator, I'm pretty sure their fanbase will remain the same. No matter how bitchin' your water effects may be, you won't get a CoD fan changing games.

On a side note, there was a story on the BBC website last week about that Railworks game selling over 40000 copies. So maybe the developer in this story is just, y'know, shit.
 

Denamic

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Okay, so, they're trying to secure a 'strong place' while being a niche developer, making games like Pro Cycling Manger, Virtual Skipper and Cities XL?
I don't think console games are your problem, man.
 

antidonkey

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Sure, the shelf space for PC games is pretty much gone but if you're a small developer, put your crap on steam. If the people like it enough, you'll get an actual retail release. Just look at Torchlight.
 

SenseOfTumour

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If you're not COD, WOW, or the Sims, and you're trying to find space in Game, then just give up.

Get your game on Steam, or GOG, or one of the other competitors and start selling it. Just don't start too cheap on Steam, as you'll want to be able to drop by 50-75% when the sales and weekend deals come around for a fresh boost in sales.

As for Telltale, I did not know that, damn...

If that became widespread, imagine how much nicer buying online would be.

You buy and can play straight away, followed 2 or 3 days later by a disc and maybe some nice little extras falling thru the door.

Hey Steam, here's my idea for FREE!

Gamers like hoarding and collecting stuff, right?

Offer a free minature model of the game hero with every game sold for $1 more. Watch sales shoot up as gamers start lining their shelves with mini Heavy's and the like. Even buying games again just to get the damn figure.
 

Delusibeta

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Mar 7, 2010
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SenseOfTumour said:
As for Telltale, I did not know that, damn...

If that became widespread, imagine how much nicer buying online would be.

You buy and can play straight away, followed 2 or 3 days later by a disc and maybe some nice little extras falling thru the door.
Yeah, I got the disc for Sam & Max Season 2, and it is excellent for extras.
 

Sebenko

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Dec 23, 2008
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yeah, retail suck.

I'm pretty much buying only on steam now, especially since I'm living at home and Uni- lugging a box of games, not fun. Remembering a name and password? Easy.

I still like boxed games, don't get me wrong, but actually getting hold of them is fucking awkward. Last one I bought was missing a disk, too.

At lease when I bought a boxed copy of Civ IV's expansion from... somewhere online, I didn't have to look in a depressingly small corner for ages.
 

paketep

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Jul 14, 2008
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This guy and his company put StarForce in Virtual Skipper, Trackmania and (I assume) many other games. Their stupid DRM broke my burner.

Excuse me if I have zero pity if they disappear. I have no tolerance for companies that harass their customers trying to capture the rainbow.
 

Waaghpowa

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Apr 13, 2010
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Sober Thal said:
The people have spoken.
I assume you mean the people have said "We don't want pc games"? A great number of people who buy pc games typically buy them on steam. The convenience of the steam store trumps retail.
poiumty said:
We got steam, who cares.
Exactly, small indie developers get their breaks with steam. If it weren't for that, I probably would never have heard of Amnesia.
 

KSarty

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Worgen said:
what I would really like to see is the ability to buy digital but then get a boxed copy of the game shipped to me from the publisher, like telltale does
Stardock offers that with Impulse as well. Or at least they did, not sure if they still do but that is how I got Sins of a Solar Empire.

OT: I am more than willing to bet that those games would not sell any better through retail for consoles. Nobody walks into a gaming store looking for the new sailboat game.
 

Worgen

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Whatever, just wash your hands.
KSarty said:
Worgen said:
what I would really like to see is the ability to buy digital but then get a boxed copy of the game shipped to me from the publisher, like telltale does
Stardock offers that with Impulse as well. Or at least they did, not sure if they still do but that is how I got Sins of a Solar Empire.

OT: I am more than willing to bet that those games would not sell any better through retail for consoles. Nobody walks into a gaming store looking for the new sailboat game.
oh really? Ill have to install impulse again, I got it awhile ago when I got sins but since I last reformatted I havent gotten around to putting it back on