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Is Exclusivity Hurting Digital Downloads?

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Gamasutra has an interesting look at the issue of casual portal exclusives and how such exclusives may be hurting the casual games industry — and pulling developers into a no-win fray. Russell Carroll compares the digital milieu to regular retail establishments: "I can't imagine having to go to Target to get EA games and to Wal-Mart to get Activision games," and notes that this could be a good thing if it winds up being a Pepsi/Coke type thing (which, frankly, I can't quite imagine, since beverages and games are just slightly different animals). And what of the poor developers?:

One of the most intriguing pieces of this new battle is how it brings the developers into the fray. Developers must choose between having exclusivity on one portal, potentially limiting their distribution, or fully distributing on all portals, and missing out on the rewards that exclusivity can bring.

There are certainly arguments that can be made as to which is the financially better approach, and certainly there is no clear path that is always financially more viable, but regardless of what path is chosen, developers are choosing a path that aligns them with one portal's approach or another's.

Developers are being unwittingly recruited into the battle and are at the forefront of the current skirmish, and as it true of all battles, those on the front lines are the most likely to be injured by the fighting.

Carroll notes that while exclusivity may be a positive thing for individual portals, it's bad for the industry on the whole; the developers are still losing out, since they're treading on uncertain ground when weighing the potential benefits of exclusive titles versus wide ranging distribution.


'Coopetition' - Digital Distribution's Enemy? [Gamasutra]