The future of games distribution is digital. Whether that's in 5 or 15 years' time, that's what's going to happen. Your grandkids won't be buying games in boxes. But don't tell GameStop that!
The retailer has said that an "addressable market" for the digital download of games - as in, one that needs addressing by the company - "will not exist until 2014."
And even when we do get to 2014, GameStop reckons only 25% of its customers will "have access to the technology required to download full games" by then.
Right. Let's break that down.
- Almost everybody with a PC already has "access to the technology required to download full games", via digital delivery services such as Steam and Direct2Drive. These services are already seeing big take-ups, with more and more publishers distributing their titles on them. Steam, for example, now carries almost every game from all of the big publishers, including Activision, EA, Take-Two & Ubisoft. Those publishers, unlike GameStop, can see which way the wind is blowing.
- Soon, anybody with an Xbox 360 and an internet connection will be able to download the full version of retail games. Not demos, not limited online-only games, but full, complete games, just like the ones you used to buy at GameStop.
- The PS3 already has this ability, with the full retail version of Burnout Paradise having been available for download for months now, along with other titles like Warhawk and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. It'll only be a matter of time before, like the 360, Sony begins to offer more titles.
- Especially when you consider it's Sony who will soon be launching the world's first major download-only games console, the PSPgo. While the PSP was never really GameStop's #1 earner, the writing is clearly on the wall when a company doesn't just stop at offering games for sale at retail and via download, but cuts out retail altogether.
Ask yourself this: in 2006, how many games did you download? And that question is open to anyone, PC owners or console gamers. Now, in 2009, how many games do you download, with all the major publishers on Steam and digital downloads on all three home consoles starting to hit their stride?
GameStop can twiddle their fingers and cover their ears all they like, but saying only 25% of gamers will be downloading games by 2014 just sounds crazy. They'll be lucky if it's not at that number in half the time.