Rein: Big Publishers Will Run Digital Distribution, Too

Illustration for article titled Rein: Big Publishers Will Run Digital Distribution, Too

Has digital distribution made games cheaper? Uh, no. But lots of people thought it would. That's not the only myth surrounding the digital delivery of games: the idea persists that selling your games online will be a way to get around the dominance currently enjoyed by big publishers in the bricks-n-mortar retail sector. Well, according to Mark Rein, that's all a load of codswallop:

Digital distribution is not a replacement for a publisher...They'll be paying for marketing just like they do for positioning in a store. The big publishers are going to own the front of those online stores.

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Were I a small-time developer, that would be terribly depressing, but since I'm not, I will admit it does sound like a fairly predictable scenario.

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DISCUSSION

Advertising exists now, separately from production. Unless the big developers are planning on squeezing all available space for advertising for themselves and driving prices way up, a purely digital distribution takes away most of the cost of production (and the risk, since a flopped game won't be taking up space in warehouses and a game that hits much larger than expected won't need to worry about running out of copies) and doesn't change the price of advertising.

Sure, it's not toppling the system, the big guys aren't suddenly going to be on the bottom while indie developers are striking rich, but it makes it easier for the market that wants the games by the little guys to get them, and makes it easier for the little guys to put something out there. The smaller publishers get a boost, even if the larger ones aren't taking a hit.