In the second of a series of features answering the biggest questions about the industry's future, James Batchelor investigates how much life is left in physical products.
Should we give up on boxed games?
The duo of divisive D-words will be abundant at E3 this week – we expect to lose count of how many pitches and game demonstrations use the terms ‘digital’ and ‘download’.
But let’s not forget the three Bs: boxes are big business.
True, downloads have become a sturdier pillar of the industry than they once were, and current charts sadly neglect to account for digital sales when measuring a game’s success. But they have not outstripped those of boxed yet.
Earlier this year, MCV revealed that the UK boxed software market generated £1.42bn in 2011 – outperforming the combined revenues taken from browser and download games (£520m) and mobile games (£158m).
In the grand scheme of things, boxed games remain the best way to service consumers.
Yes, downloads may be more convenient for PC owners who wanted to play Skyrim within seconds of the game’s launch. But only dedicated gamers have a rig or broadband connection solid enough to make this process easier than picking up a disc at the shops. How many people would have preferred (or even known about) a digital version of Zumba Fitness? Would millions of Call of Duty fans buy a download code at a midnight launch?
With the next generation approaching, the size and complexity of games are inevitably going to increase. Surely, the disc will remain the most convenient way to access these new releases? Retail will always be needed to launch new consoles – and where there are consoles, there are games waiting to be purchased.
“Whilst we see a steady stream of new ways to deliver game experiences, there remains a large proportion of gamers – young and old, hardcore and casual – who are keen to purchase, enjoy and trade physical product,” says Gem’s group strategic development director Alex Croft.
“Boxed product is far from dead.”