Runic CEO: Digital download as profitable as full retail release

Can a lower priced digital download title be as profitable as a full retail release? Runic Games’ CEO Max Schaefer sure sees it that way.

The Torchlight 2 developer spoke with IGN on the matter as they prepare for the launch of their loot-enriched action RPG sequel.

Back in the day, when we would sell a $60-dollar box, by the time the money came back to us, it would be maybe $14 dollars a copy. And that’s what we get nowadays on Steam, selling a digital download version for $20,” said Schaefer. So from our perspective, we’re as viable and as profitable as an independent developer used to be selling $60 boxes.”

Schaefer makes it clear where the cost reductions take place, and why offering consumers a good price can go a long way to drive sales.

"We’re bypassing the publisher and box distribution and that lets us bring a $60 game to people for $20. We don’t want people to look at Torchlight as a cheap game, because we think it’s competitive with anything out there. But we like the idea that we’re at this price. It sets us apart a little bit. We also want people to buy a Runic Games product without even thinking about it, because they know it’s always a good value."

The CEO also weighed in on the what he thought of Diablo III in general, and how he believes Torchlight has branched in a different direction from Blizzard’s series.

"There’s two valid paths to go when making a game like this. You’re either going to have a secure economy, like a quasi-MMO, or you’re going to have an open game where you’re going to let people have access to all the data and all the files and let them update it and mod it as they please. We’ve chosen the latter path, and Blizzard obviously chose the former path. I think they’re both valid, but they do offer alternatives to people who are disaffected one way or another.

They’ve actually put out a significant product there. But what I think we’re offering something that some players may prefer, things like the offline single-player play. Basically, we’re not trying to create a secure economy. We don’t have to have these crazy protection mechanisms in place. We’re giving our development tools out with the game so that the modding community can go crazy with it and make all kinds of cool new stuff.”

Torchlight 2 arrives on September 20thfor PC, with Schaefer mentioning that a console release isn’t currently part of the game’s plan.

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