As Downloads Take Over, a Turning Point for the Video Game Industry

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

As Downloads Take Over, a Turning Point for the Video Game Industry.

This Christmas could be remembered as a digital watershed for the games business, the moment when the old way of selling video games — on discs in boxes — finally gave way to downloads. The problem is that asking any informed person about why you should own the console they purchsaed usually gets you a torrent of information that you don’t necessarily need to choose between the Xbox One or PS4. For a time it seemed that the PC was playing second fiddle to the console world, with developers building their games for console machines first and then producing often compromised ports to the PC at a later point.

On one hand, recent market research shows that physical game sales declined in November, and GameStop, a leading retailer, reported disappointing earnings that made its stock tumble. Industry commentators made bold predictions about how only the most hardcore would be building PC gaming rigs, while the rest of us would be sat in front of our televisions with an Xbox or a Playstation or something else. Big titles are setting sales records, and Sony, the leading maker of game consoles, says the latest PlayStation has been selling at a faster clip than any previous generation of the hardware.

A number of factors are at play, but none as significant as the industry’s march toward a future of games downloaded over the Internet rather than bought in stores, analysts said. To be honest, it never really lost it, it’s just that the game reviewers and industry at large have finally had to acknowledge that the pinnacle of gaming takes place on the PC. Sony, seems to have had a singular vision for a console that plays video games the best it possibly can, but still functions well for everything else.

Large game files could take hours to download and quickly fill a console’s hard drive. “It finally feels like the inevitable is becoming the inevitable,” said Evan Wilson, an analyst who follows the game industry for Pacific Crest Securities. “It feels like this is the holiday season where it’s finally having a big impact.” Electronic Arts, the big games publisher behind Madden and Need for Speed, says about 20 per cent of its new console games are now downloaded, compared with around 10 to 15 per cent last year. The PS4 didn’t have tons of exclusive titles, but made up for that with smart deals on this year’s must-have video games and a well-timed price cut.

Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4 video game console so that you can make the best purchasing decision for your needs and yours alone. NPD Group, a research firm that tracks retail sales in the United States, showed a 7 per cent decline in November game sales from the same month a year ago. A couple of weeks earlier, there was similarly grim news from GameStop, the big specialty retailer, which blamed a disappointing earnings report for the period ending Oct. 31 on weak new game software and hardware sales.

Executives at GameStop caused a further stir when they said one of the most anticipated games of the season, Star Wars: Battlefront, had missed their internal sales forecasts during the quarter. The Xbox Store is stuffed with digital games, apps, television shows and movies, though video games purchased from GameStop and other stores work with the console too.

Graphically the PC is always a few steps ahead of what’s possible on either the Xbox or Playstation, the eye candy on offer from triple A titles is only limited by what you’ve got under the hood. Buyers of a Kinect bundle can still change channels with Kinect voice commands or navigate the entire Xbox One experience without pushing a single button.

By comparison, it took around two years and two months for Sony to ship about 30 million PlayStation 2s — the previous high-water mark for Sony in the game business. One factor in NPD’s declining game sales is that the research firm does not include games that are bundled with consoles — an increasingly popular option for buying the machines — in its software sales data. I was concerned the Post-PC era of smartphones and tablets had reduced the PC population down to an almost irrelevant minority, but at least when it comes to gaming, my concerns were unfounded.

Switch channels by just saying “Watch, and the channel’s name.” The PS4 is a rectangular box, but one that’s sharpened and angled on both the front and back. The list of retailers that have been vaporised by the Internet is long, including Blockbuster in movies, Tower Records in music and Virgin Megastores in both.

There are limits to how much the company can sell digitally, though, since Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo operate the online portals from which the games are downloaded. GameStop has tried to diversify beyond video games by acquiring one retail chain that offers wireless products and another that sells and repairs Apple devices.

And through its trade-in program for used games, customers can get credits toward the purchase of new games. “Customers cannot access that expertise downloading a game, nor can they trade in a digital game for currency that can be applied to the purchase of their next game,” Mr. Eric Lempel, senior vice president for marketing at Sony’s American games division, agreed with the idea that many gamers want to talk to store staff members before making a purchase. For one flat fee homes can skip out on their traditional cable subscription. 2015 saw the launch of titles Bloodborne, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Rocket League. Smart deals with publishers for extra content in Batman: Arkham Knight and Star War Battlefront kept the PS4’s sales high when exclusive games ran dry this year.

Nothing like Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program, meaning players will need to rent their old games for PS3 through PlayStation Now or keep their old console.

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