First of all I want to apologize for not posting much, NaNoWriMo, school and work have pretty much devastated my free time. Now that we have that out of the way let’s get to the meat of this post.
I’ve been reading around the blogosphere constantly about what it means that Cataclysm is offering a digital download on the day of release. Previously Blizzard has delayed the digital purchase of World of Warcraft expansions due to anger by traditional brick and mortar stores wanting a piece of the Blizzard pie. Not that they are offering it day of people are crying the death knell of Brick and Mortar stores, but I’ve got a secret for you: Cataclysm is NOT the death knell of brick and mortar game stores.
How can I possibly think that? Let’s look at the simple facts. One of the biggest games retailers as far as brick and mortar goes is GameStop. Have you been into a GameStop recently? You’d be lucky to find even a new PC release and in some cases they don’t even have a PC section! Brick and Mortar stores care more for console games and they have for several years now, ever since the real death knell of Brick and Mortar (as far as PC games is concerned) released, Steam.
Other than the traditional want for a box that many of the older gamers have, there is no reason to buy a physical copy instead of a digital in most cases. In fact in some cases it’s better to buy digital, such as Steam integration or in game bonuses. I can spend an hour going to the store and buying a physical copy, or an hour downloading it without moving. If PC games still came with large cloth maps and huge game manuals then sure I would reconsider running to the store, but as it is I live in an apartment and I don’t have enough room for the boxes I have now, let alone in the future.
Another reason Steam is taking over PC game sales is their sales. You almost never see a PC game on sale in a traditional brick and mortar store, however Steam constantly has very VERY cheap deals on PC games.
In short: Cataclysm going digital will hurt the sales traditional stores were hoping for regarding the next WoW expansion, but overall will have very little effect, as PC games aren’t a big concern for most stores. What brick and mortar needs to really worry about now is handhelds coming out using digital distribution and things like being able to buy Xbox 360 games on XBox Live. The next generation of consoles may be the complete death of traditional stores, as all but Nintendo will probably be digital only, as being able to charge 30% of a games sale price for the right to sell it on their store (like Apple is doing) is far too tempting to pass up. Plus this will eliminate the aftermarket for used games.