During the Q&A session with analysts and investors on EA’s earnings conference call, Chief Executive John Riccitiello pointed out that the PC games industry is actually doing just fine when you look at the total picture rather than isolating “soft” retail sales.
“I certainly recognize that the box side of PC is soft. It’s been soft for some time. Frankly, if it were not for The Sims and World of Warcraft PC box sales, it’d be a pretty dismal sector,” he acknowledged.
Thankfully for the PC market, retail is just one very small slice of the complete picture. “I would point, out, however, that one of the fastest growing parts of this industry is the subscription and micro-transaction [business] and casual games, much of which is centered on the PC,” Riccitiello continued. “So one of the things we try to look at at EA is the total business… and we’re seeing a growth business there. In fact, it’s been growing for several years. It’s just been categorized wrongly by simply looking at the box side of the equation.”
Yay! “…retail is just one small slice of the complete picture.” Preach on brother! Retail, box-product is in fact a dreadful place for the sort of entertainment products PC’s are best suited towards: Innovative, online, mass-market (dare I say casual?) games.
Not to toot their horn too much, but Gametap gets this. In fact, they are banking on the weakness of the “shelf-space driven box-product” model to drive their profits. Their unique offering is the equivalent of a mile long “shelf”, with minimal “rent”, and a “shop” that never closes. Where a retail PC game MUST sell strong in the first days/weeks, MUST fit into some pre-defined genre-category/slot, and MUST be driven by copious amounts of pre-awareness (translation, marketing $$$) – digital distribution allows the model to be turned upside down. All those “musts” become “eh, whatever”. To some degree, if the product is good, the audience will eventually come – and better yet, new audiences can continue to discover the product years after the equivalent box-product would have been tossed into the “discount bin”.
Grimm is going to be an interesting test of the model. I think we have good content. Gametap has the right distribution mechanism in place. All it takes is for the right audience to discover what’s on offer…
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