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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Larian Studios - Should Indies Go Retail?

Default Larian Studios - Should Indies Go Retail?

January 30th, 2012, 22:28
Swen "Lar" Vincke discusses why indie developers should think about retail releases more often compared to only going for digital publishing on his personal blog.
Larian’s distribution strategy can be summarized as follows, sorted by how we prefer a sale to be made.
  • 1. Direct Sales – Via Larian Vault & forums. Full control, largest margin, allows direct contact with our players.
  • 2. Steam – Reliable, report on time, pay on time and regularly, are very developer friendly
  • 3. Other digital sales – Easier than retail, monthly payments, you occasionally ned to yell a bit to get your money.
  • 4. Retail in key markets – It’s possible to work with civilized companies that are ok, even if they are stressing for the moment.
  • 5. Retail sales in non-key markets – Need to work with either finished goods deals, so sales/messaging can be controlled – be damned sure about who you are dealing with.
More information.

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January 30th, 2012, 22:28
Unless there is a very, very measurable physical disk demand at retail, sounds very risky due to limited shelve space. It would be much better if you just mailed physical copies from your offices as 3dRealms used to do.

Honestly I'm thinking from the perspective of the US market and mail system, so this might not be feasible for you guys. Though when dealing with International mailing, it might be possible to use Amazon (Partner?) system for physical disks.

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January 30th, 2012, 22:56
The need to pay for production, packaging and distribution, just to spread few thousands copies around the world, not necessarily where your customers are, and then fighting for some exposition space on shelves?

I'm sorry but I don't think the risk is worth the effort, unless you have strong faith in your product and its potential popularity.

I can't speak for them, but I wouldn't do it for my hypothetical indie game.
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January 31st, 2012, 00:45
If you have a publisher willing to take that risk and take it to retail, if the numbers make sense, then sure - go for it. They have eliminated development risk - your game was fully funded by you, the indie, and is ready for sale - so they only have the risks from production and distribution.

But if a publisher came to me and wanted ME, as an indie, to assume that risk - no way. Basically they'd be acting as a distributor at that point, and I don't know that business. And if I did, why would I need them?

So it's not an automatic deal for me. That, and a lot of indie game *players* don't even bother going to the stores anymore for PC games.
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January 31st, 2012, 01:21
The numbers I’ve seen from my own games but also other games show that 70% of digital sales are made via promotions where reductions between 30% to 75% or even more are offered to players. That clearly impacts the average revenue per unit in digital (though for players it’s great ).
That quote from the article was pretty interesting. I buy most of my games during Steam sales these days. I bought Divinity 2 for 50% off last summer. I bought several during the Winter sale this year too, so I have enough to last me to the next sale if not beyond.
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January 31st, 2012, 03:35
I think the days of putting games in stores are quickly coming to an end. I don't really care much for Steam, but it seems like the best way to get your games to your customers in a 'no hassle' fashion.

But I still like the idea of being able to buy a 'boxed' game, directly from the publisher, online with a map or a few goodies for a little more money.
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January 31st, 2012, 05:08
Originally Posted by Sir Markus View Post
But I still like the idea of being able to buy a 'boxed' game, directly from the publisher, online with a map or a few goodies for a little more money.
Definitely. In contrast, I don't see Indie developers doing anything but losing money should they take a traditional retain chain store approach. More often than not, stores typically treat PC titles as red-headed step children - so much to the point that even well known PC titles flounder off in some dusty corner.
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January 31st, 2012, 06:06
To my understanding, while the PC retail market is dead as a doornail in the U.S., it is still doing pretty decently in a lot of European countries.

For example, according to the Newzoo survey, about 2/5ths of U.S. PC entertainment software sales is boxed (i.e. - not digital). However, this value is 2/3rds in Germany, 3/5ths in France, 3/5ths in the UK, 3/5ths in Italy, etc.

I generally agree that retail is risky, but it still represents a good chunk of global PC sales. If you feel a little bit more confident, it might be worth going for retail at least where it still sells.
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January 31st, 2012, 07:50
Interesting numbers - hadn't seen those yet, thx for that. I'm curious how much of the PC/Mac digital sales represent Mac sales.
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January 31st, 2012, 08:23
I think it would certainly be worth considering if somebody was doing a fantasy/medieval game and they were getting a lot of page hits from Germany.

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January 31st, 2012, 08:26
I think they should stay completely digital it will save them lots of discs, printing and distribution money also time.
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January 31st, 2012, 08:34
Originally Posted by Drithius View Post
Definitely. In contrast, I don't see Indie developers doing anything but losing money should they take a traditional retain chain store approach. More often than not, stores typically treat PC titles as red-headed step children - so much to the point that even well known PC titles flounder off in some dusty corner.
It just doesn't make sense. Who goes to Target or Kmart to buy Gothic?
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January 31st, 2012, 08:39
Originally Posted by mwe12 View Post
I think they should stay completely digital it will save them lots of discs, printing and distribution money also time.
From a business perspective, you're 100 percent correct. It's not like there are a whole lot of people walking around in Target or Walmart, or even Gamestop for that matter, and decide to buy a copy of Risen because they see it on the shelves.

I do like nice manuals, though.
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January 31st, 2012, 08:53
Well, Larian's games have production values where a retail release makes sense, they are basically AA(A) games. For most indies as we know them, that is not the case. But for self fundend full-scale studios like them, I think he is right.
Last edited by GhanBuriGhan; January 31st, 2012 at 09:27.
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January 31st, 2012, 09:17
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Well, Larian's games have production values where a retail release makes sense, they are basically AA games. For most indies as we know them, that is not the case. But for self fundend full-scale studios like them, I think he is right.
I think that the option should not be fully ignored by Indies beforehand since it could be a good way to get more leverage for your games. I do agree that it's a more risky move than the save and cheap digital sale.
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January 31st, 2012, 09:23
Originally Posted by Sir Markus View Post
It's not like there are a whole lot of people walking around in Target or Walmart, or even Gamestop for that matter, and decide to buy a copy of Risen because they see it on the shelves.
It's funny you mention Risen…Where I live (U.S.), I checked around all over the place looking for a boxed PC version of the game…and I could not find a single place that had it. Risen became one of the first games where I gave in and bought a digital copy, and since then, I rarely even check for the boxed versions of PC games; only the biggest PC games are guaranteed to be available, whereas the medium-sized companies that produce games like Risen have pretty much disappeared from retail shelves.
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January 31st, 2012, 20:49
Related : An interview with the CEO of Paradox : http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/magicka/1216907p1.html

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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February 1st, 2012, 04:03
Good find Alrik! (Though it's missing one big question: "Sword of the Stars 2 - what the Hades happened!?")
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February 1st, 2012, 09:12
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
Related : An interview with the CEO of Paradox : http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/magicka/1216907p1.html
This however is patently untrue:
And Steam is very generous about what games they bring up on Steam. As long as it’s not a virus, I think they’ll accept it.
Steam is very selective, and very secretive about their criteria!

Edit: I am quite curious how War of the Roses will turn out!
Last edited by GhanBuriGhan; February 1st, 2012 at 09:25.
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February 1st, 2012, 14:00
I think he specifically meant what Paradox brings them. That's a long established partnership.
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