In short: Amazon briefly removed MacMillan books from sale when the publisher told the retailer to stop dropping the prices of its products on digital book reader the Kindle. The resultant stand-off didn’t last long, but it highlighted a key issue around the control over pricing for digital products.
It’s not an issue this industry has had to face yet, but I believe it will be very soon.
There’s already been a lot of talk this year about how the industry’s end-of-year figures don’t tell the full story, and that significant digital revenues go uncounted by the figures released by ELSPA and NPD.
I’m not convinced that this is a watertight assertion just yet – sometimes the above comment comes from those with a slightly vested interest – but there is definitely a vast amount of potential in the download space.
And yet, anecdotally at least, the core digital distribution market for PC games is still rigidly locked, with fixed prices the norm giving consumers no reason to shop around or bargain-hunt – one of the core forces that keeps commerce ticking over.
If the digital world is going to take over, then the industry needs to be as prepared to experiment with concepts such as flexible pricing models as it is to talk up the power of free-to-play games and bargain-priced apps for iPhone.