When Microsoft announced their Games on Demand service, everyone just assumed that by now, you’d be able to buy a game digitally as soon as it was available at retail.
Yet, that hasn’t happened. Why? The answer is what you might have guessed — retailers hate the prospect.
“We have a lot of strong partnerships with retailer. We really need them to do a lot for us,” Games on Demand Senior Business Manager Erik Yeager said via Joystiq. “They’re the ones out there selling the consoles, selling the peripherals and, in this time, we’re trying to figure out how to fit that in to the whole digital landscape shift. We’re just taking a bit of a measured pace with it.”
Despite what some core gamers think, a lion’s share of game sales still come from retail. Having promo material in visible spots, end-cap placements, and retailer specials is still really, really important to spur unit sales. If Microsoft didn’t play ball, it’s not that retailers would drop their products out of spite, but they’d lose priority placement in stores.
Given that the Xbox 360 has held the top sales spot in the United States for a very, very long time, they’re doing something right eh?
I’m mostly curious how they’ll handle this with the Durango on the horizon. Digital distribution will be a necessity rather than a novelty in the next generation, and I’m sure Microsoft is already working out with retailers a solution that works best for everyone.
My guess is that it will involve cases with nothing but a download code inside them. That’ll make loss prevention a very interesting prospect for retailers…