1C exec: Retailers bottleneck PC sales

Tuesday, 21 June 2011 10:19 GMT By Brenna Hillier

1C’s UK publishing director Darryl Still has said retailers are driving developers to digital distribution with an artificial “bottleneck” on PC games.

“The PC has been at the forefront of most technology shifts in the market. … 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.

“But for the longest time we’ve been told by retail, in the UK and US especially, that PC games is a dying market,” Still told CVG.

“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.”

Not convinced? Here’s a delightful anecdote.

“One of our UK publishers came to explain why they had only managed to get 30 copies [of a a game] into the UK’s largest retail chain. He passed on: ‘They told us there was hardly any demand for the title,'” Still said.

“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.'”

Still said retailers continue to moan about losing sales to digital distribution even as they turn down opportunities to make them.

“When Lace [Mamba, publisher] produce a stunning special edition boxed set – including T-shirts and other special items – that is designed specifically to give them something that cannot be replicated digitally, the UK’s biggest chain decline to stock it… preferring apparently to use that shelf space for fluffy Princess Peach plushes!” he said, in what I hope were tones of ringing disgust.

Despite his obvious respect for services like Steam, Still urged gamers to empower themselves by getting hold of physical releases if they want to.

“Buy the games you want in the way you want to buy them,” he advised. “Insist your supplier supports you as a customer.

“If your local retailer does not stock a boxed product you want, ask them to get it in, and if they decline, let them know that you will be using a supplier who will support their customer base.”

1C is the second largest European publisher after Ubisoft, with a strong catalogue of PC and console titles.