1C Company's Darryl Still has been speaking to CVG about the state of digital distribution. He describes the dichotomy between retailer's in-store stock levels, and customer's demand for products as "quite shocking."
According to the publishing director, the recent growth in digital distribution was inevitable: "I think of it as less a revolution, more a filling of a void. A new government coming in to a territory that has been pretty much ungoverned for the previous few years."
1C publish the Men of War, IL-2 Sturmovik, and King's Bounty series', among other PC stalwarts.
Still credits PC with the industry's technical advancements of late, saying: "The PC has been at the forefront of most technology shifts in the market. I was very aware of this at Nvidia. Most breakthroughs in console technology have their roots in the PC market. Most leaps in games development come to the PC first and then work their way into the SDK's of the console manufacturers."
He also says that PC gaming is still in a strong position, and that customer's lack of demand for boxed products is vastly exaggerated: "For the longest time we've been told by retail, in the UK and US especially, that PC games is a dying market.
"It has been getting less and less shelf space and less and less focus in store, but in all that time we, as a PC publisher have seen absolutely no drop off in demand. In fact the dichotomy between us being told by retail there is no demand for our product and us being asked by customers - by e-mail, phone etc. - where they can find our games is quite shocking.
"My favourite example is when one of our UK publishers came to explain why they had only managed to get 30 copies into the UK's largest retail chain. He passed on: 'They told us there was hardly any demand for the title.'
"At that time I had my digital sales reporting tool open, which tracks download sales instantly as they happen, I hit refresh and informed our partner: 'In the few seconds that's it has taken you to explain there is only demand for 30 units in the UK, we have sold twice as many as that digitally,'" concluded Still.
Digital distribution, and Steam's dominance over the market is a contentious issue. E.A's own download service, Origin has been creating all kinds of headlines over the past few weeks. When was the last time you bought a game in-store? Rich claims Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was his last boxed game, whereas Tom S, Tim and I all bought Starcraft II in-store thanks to the "nice box."