The Age of Digital Distribution


As Deuze points out in Media Work, the discussion of technological innovation in the television/film industry inevitably focuses on the evolution distribution and usage: “The fast-paced developments in digital, networked, screen-based and portable technologies are considered a threat to traditional ways of delivering content to audiences” (185). Across many industries, including video games, online distribution brings with it many challenges: To what extent will publishing companies have to downsize? How does it impact advertisements, which users can now skip over? Will traditional retailers continue focusing on the top percent of sellers, or will they also need to dip into the smaller titles?

It seems to me that the video game industry has adapted quite well (as has the music industry) to the phenomenon of digital distribution, and in fact the designer market has expanded significantly because of it.

That model of circumventing traditional publishers has become more and more prevalent, especially for PC and mobile games.

Developer Rodney Gibbs, whose Ricochet Labs created “Qrank,” loves the new model.

“It makes businesses like mine possible,” he said.

The lower bar to entry allows quick and nimble startups to compete in the marketplace, he said.

Gibbs has been on both sides. His previous development studio, Fizz Factor, was a traditional “box-product company,” which went through publishers to distribute through major retailers.

That was necessary because for an independent developer, it was prohibitively expensive to negotiate individual deals with retailers to distribute games, he said (

By allowing independent artists more avenues for selling their games, the industry has reached a much higher level of creativity/innovation with their products–non-traditional genres can now find a significant audience in the new publishing model. Yet physical games still sell very well; within video gaming lies two rather different markets: PC gamers and console gamers.

…don’t expect physical copies of games to disappear any time soon, said Michael Pachter, a research analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.

PC gamers are the “hardest of the hard core,” he noted, and are much more comfortable with 20-minute downloads — compared to console gamers who are accustomed to popping in a disc and immediately booting up a game (

It’s difficult to say how the television and film industries will adapt in comparison to video games. Console gamers still typically demand physical copies, and so retailers still have a market to tap; the same might not necessarily be the case with film in the near future.


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