Popular free-to-play title World of Tanks (Wargaming.net) finally made its debut on digital console, and is now available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Having earned almost $475 million in worldwide revenues in 2013, the title is predominantly played in Europe and it’s core market Russia. However it’s release on Xbox 360 is closely being watched by other publishers as it would prove the viability of triple A, free-to-play, games on consoles. Year-on-year the overall segment is up 22%, totalling $291 million in revenues in February.

So along with non-gaming, online sales are on a steady increase, which makes me wonder about the future of gaming. Will hard copy sales eventually be phased out? Will popping to your local games shop or supermarket be as easy as downloading content onto a USB driver in-store? Or will the game shops just be cut out completely?

I mean if you have a console and you can download games directly to it, why would you bother going out to buy one in the shops; waiting around in queues, lining up in hoards outside games shops for midnight releases in the freezing cold, waiting around for the shop assistant to come back from the warehouse after you have waited 20 minutes to tell you that “sorry mate, were out of stock”? Opening retail sales revenue for any game, be it popular release or standard release, are about one thing… well two things really: Supply and Demand. You get it right? It is seriously lucrative for the retailer and the games companies. Get it wrong and you seriously impact sales as well as customer numbers. Whereas online there is no waiting, queuing, no supply and demand, logistical issues, it’s just purely demand.

Depending on the customers internet speed they can have it in the same time it would take to get to the shops before even trolling the aisles…

Though people will still go out of their way to go to the shops as I’ve found out. I asked a number of people who were waiting pleasantly in line for the launch of the new Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag game, who could have easily decided to just download it from Xbox Live. But at £54.99, even the hard core gamer (who are a lot more savvy than just splashing their cash willy-nilly) will still shop around for the best deal. One guy said “It’s £10 more expensive to buy direct from Xbox Live than it is to buy here (Sainsbury’s), so if I can get my hands on it cheaper, I will”, another said “I am the kind of person who wants the hard copy. Price matters too. I can’t understand how its more expensive, all you’re getting is the data, no hard copy, no booklet, no art etc”.

I must say I’m a little ‘quibbed’ as well as to how it’s so expensive on the consoles to download just the data, using your own connection (which you’re paying for too), with no distribution costs, no middle man expenses (retailer), no cost of disk production, hard materials production, so I would say that, for now anyway, gamers in majority will be sticking to actual retailers for their copy mainly due to price.

But back to the point of the increase in sales through free-to-play games. I believe that the increase will continue if you have the option to buy add-ons or bundles because a lot of the time, if you don’t buy the add-on or bundle, you are stuck with a pretty boring game, a shadow of what you know it can be. Also due to the fact that the bundles sometimes only retail at 99p you tend to spend more than you think over time, so you are overpaying, sometimes quite a bit more than to what the game would be worth if it was all-in-one. Clever marketing tactics? I think so. So the next time you see a game online available with bundles and add-ons, consider this, would you pay 900% interest on a £5 loan?

Do you agree with what I’ve said? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but this is something I’m going to cover in more detail in future posts so I’d like your feedback on this too readers, so send me your opinions and it could get published in my next column.

Until next week, stay Ind13!

Gary Mee

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36 Responses

  1. Alexander Pavlovsky

    Hey Gary,

    Interesting read. In my opinion the retail segment for games will evolve into something else. My local games shop is more of a nerd-heaven. It’s something like that comic-book store form Big Bang Theory. Right across from it is fantasy table top games shop with a hot goth babe behind the counter.

    I see people there all the time despite the fact that nowadays, just like you said, you can get games on your box within the hour. Still going to a shop, freezing your ass off out in the cold, bragging to your buddies how you got a signed copy of the latest Blizzard game, that’s the beautiful part.

    PS: I drive by the new Wargaming building almost everyday on my way to work. Man it’s going to be gorgeous when it gets finished. One of these days I just might drop by and leave them my CV 🙂

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