It’s an awkward time for games-publishers as the industry and market performs a very slow and protracted migration from physical retail sales to digital distribution.
You might think that with an increasing percentage of copies of games titles being sold via digital distribution channels that the publishers’ costs would be falling. Well, it isn’t getting any cheaper for them.
For physical retail-sales games-publishers require staff to handle manuals, deal with distributors, woo and schmooze with the big retail chains, design and proof materials for boxes and for in-store advertising, deal with printers and disk-duplicators and more.
And those costs don’t go away whether the publisher is making 100% of its sales through physical retail, or just 1%. In fact, the costs are likely to rise for the publisher as they lose the economies of scale for shorter manufacturing runs.
As long as the publisher is making at least one copy for sale on a store shelf somewhere, there are costs that aren’t going to go away.
Therefore, it is to the publishers’ disadvantage for the transition from store-retail to digital distribution to take any longer than it has to. Unfortunately, the infrastructure for digital distribution channels still aren’t up-to-speed (literally and metaphorically), and the costs of going entirely digital – for a big publisher – still outweigh the costs of supporting physical retail. For now, anyway.
It’s an annoying transition phase where nobody is really doing as well out of things as they could.