28 December 2010

A Game Store For Developers - by Benjamin Quintero

      Posted 08/12/10 12:00:00 am  

I keep reading that “digital distribution is the way”.  It seems to be the strong push, and future generations will likely accept it more easily than I have.  I still don’t know that I have accepted it, as I own very little digital content outside of my music collection (which I translated from my CD collection). 

The only thing that I seem to have accepted is digital services, like Netflix.  In a strange way, I justify it as a bargain because I watch far more movies and shows than it would cost me to purchase them, so the economy works in my favor.  With video games, I just can’t bring myself to paying for anything digital, other than little dollar games.

There is something about the video game experience that begins before you even sit to play the game.  The thrill of the hunt for an anticipated title, getting your buddy/girlfriend to drive because you know that you’ll be reading the manual on the way home, cracking open that case and holding a physical medium in your hands, knowing that what you have in your hands cannot be taken away because your account provider doesn’t want to support it anymore. 

I can’t imagine paying for digital content and having it taken from me, without warning.  This has already happened in several other forms, such as digital books.  All of the things that digital content can not provide are lost to a generation of people who make purchasing decisions from the first 2-5 minutes of the game.

 I had a dream about a week ago, a vivid dream where I walked into a boutique that sold games.  It was small and quaint, a real country mom-&-pop type of vibe to the place.  Even the sign outside was just a generic “Video Games” store sign.  When I walked inside, young kids were playing a music game on a small ground-level stage, in the front corner of the store.  It wasn’t anything fancy, just a console and some guitars. 

What caught my attention was an older man; the store clerk, talking to Gabe Newell.  They were laughing it up pretty good before Mr. Newell found his way to the door.  The clerk noticed me and just said, “Yeah he is a regular here.  He likes to support what we are trying to do.”  When I pressed for more information, he was glad to tell me all about their grassroots efforts.  Apparently, most of the games in the store were used games.  At first, I heard this and kind of grumbled, thinking of the now popular Gamestop racket.  He was quick to jump on that however. 

What stuck with me, even after the dream had ended was their profit sharing program.  Sales made from used games would be shared with the developers, similar to digital sales.  The prices of the games were only a few dollars less than a new copy; not unfamiliar to any Gamestop regulars, but part of the profit was then shared with the developer. 

Generally the sharing sat between 10-15% because of the additional inventory and staffing costs.  These aren’t the obvious gains of 50-70% that we see from digital sales, but that 15% was money that was previously unavailable.  It was pretty great, even if only a dream.  I have no idea what Gabe had to do with it, but he was there, what can I say?

Anyhow, I thought this was an interesting alternative to the issue of used games.  I know that the logistics don’t add up.  I know that the money would have to flow back through the distributor, who passes it to the publisher, who cuts a check to the developers; each taking a piece as it trades hands. 

I know that it would amount to $0.10 per sale by the time it got back to the developers, but it was a nice dream to wake up to.  It was a nice thought that I could even consider used games in my purchasing, while still owning a physical disk, and not screwing my fellow developers out of a paycheck.

Ian Fisch
11 Aug 2010 at 11:50 pm PST

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