As the GAME drama simmer downs, many in the industry are left wondering how the company will redeploy itself in a market seemingly committed to the downfall of video game retail. VP of digital publishing at Ubisoft Chris Early believes Retail has to survive, its existence a necessary part of the consumer to publisher experience.
Burgers and fries
Digital publishing has a lot going for it compared to traditional box retail: Lower overhead and infrastructure costs. Instant delivery, with no box or packaging costs. Reduced staffing needs, a multimedia shopping experience for consumers with very competitive pricing. With all this going for it, it’s not surprising why many scratch their heads when trying to justify retail's continuing presence. So it’s quite a surprise when a digital publishing champion steps up to justify its importance.
to GamesIndustry International, Early believes that traditional retail can be an integral part of the video games market, if it evolves by the lessons GAME's near demise have taught. His focus seems to be Retail changing into a symbiotic partner of Digital rather than a straight competitor, focusing more on improving a customer’s total experience of a video game sale rather than just competing with digital delivery for their money.
Consider a customer walking into a store to purchase a new Blueray player and walking out with a set of surround speakers as well. Retail for Early is an opportunity to integrate digital 'value added' sales within a store, such as DLC codes and points. Both GameStop and GAME offer cards with codes for full and DLC content for such services as Xbox Live already, but I believe Early is pushing for a more coherent, integrated initiate across the board for retail stores. The mindset should not be 'I'm competing with digital services' but 'How do I add digital value to ensure customers return'.
GameStop has already embarked in such an initiative
with its DLC partnership with Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo 3, selling game codes and virtual goods and services in store. It's this form of symbiosis that I believe Early is thinking about when he discusses building engagement, wishing Ubisoft fans could have the opportunity to be as fanatical as sports fans who paint their houses in team colors.
It's all about getting customers engaged with brands in both digital and real world environments, whether it is value added services in a video game store or through a companion app on a mobile phone. Repeated brand exposure creates loyalty, and that’s the key to success for any company. Dismissing the power of Retail ignores this power, and would be cynics seem eager to do so, all the while missing the point entirely.
Although Early does not mention it, as VP for Digital Publishing he can't be oblivious to the family friendly power of Retail over digital stores, though its lure is shrinking as the average video game age rises. Stores continue to exist because we have yet to replicate that tactile shopping experience, and the human assistance no online customer help queue can replace. Not to mention, as video games are social mediums, so too is that family trip to the game store.
While we may see the day boxed copies disappear to be replaced with rows of card and codes, it’s hard to imagine a future without that local games store in it.
Douglas Stewart is a staff writer at iQU. When he is not writing, he devours books, plays an excessive amount of games, and is working on his upcoming fiction novel that (naturally) involves intersections between technology, gaming and society. Follow Douglas @TheGearCog