The boss of successful independent developer 5th Cell has in no uncertain terms said that the full-price boxed retail model is no longer fit for purpose in the modern games industry.
The $60 boxed game is a broken model,” CEO and creative director Jeremiah Slaczka told GameInformer. It was always broken, it's just more broken now because games cost so much to develop, produce and market.
Before the model was tolerable, because the cost was reasonable enough to allow mediocre selling games to make money. Now it's just insane. If you aren't going to be a mega hit at $60, you might as well give up before you even try, because it's tens of millions down the hole.”
Slaxzka went on to cite THQ's Homefront as a great example of a triple-A release that could have perhaps benefitted from a more experimental release strategy.
Homefront was an okay FPS – not great, not terrible, just okay. But as a consumer, why would I want to play an okay FPS when I can play a bunch of great FPS titles for the same price? And that's what the consumers did.
While over 13 million people bought Black Ops last year in the US alone, smashing records, less than just 1 million people bought Homefront in the US. The consumer voted with their wallet, right?
But what if you could rent Homefront for $4.99 for 24 hours from your console? What if Homefront was only $30 dollars upfront for the single player and if you liked it you could buy the multiplayer for an additional $30?
All of the sudden it's not a binary purchase option anymore. Where before you had two options as a consumer, pay $60 or pay $0 for the triple-A experience or the okay experience.”