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Limbo developer believes physical retail model is “still broken”

Brick and mortar mindsets, mandatory installations, and endless updates are all components of a broken retail model, says Dino Patti, head of the Danish indie studio Playdead, maker of Limbo. Appearing at the GameCity 6 festival in Nottingham City, UK, Patti ruminated on the rise of digital distribution and the drawbacks of shipping physical discs, insisting it was time the major players started fully embracing the digital scene.

"The retail model has always been and still is broken, from a developer's point of view," he told Eurogamer. "Driving discs in a big van all over the world is really inefficient. I don't understand how anyone can make money out of this. Driving a truck to Japan just to get it delivered to people when they can get it from the net? Hopefully the new consoles will embrace the download space even more."

Patti's perspective comes from his studio's recent success with the downloadable game Limbo, a critical darling which debuted on Xbox Live Arcade and has since continued to sell oodles of copies on Steam and the PlayStation Network. Further downplaying the physical retail model, he added: "I only buy the disc if I want a console game, but everything else I download from Steam. And all the new games today also need to be installed. Why did I get a console if the games need to be installed? That really sucks. That's a PC.”

Whether or not the next generation of consoles will truly “embrace the download space” remains to be seen. In the meantime, major studios like EA (Origin) and Valve (Steam) are already making significant strides in the digital downloading arena, while companies like Gaikai, OnLive and even GameStop are getting on board with video game streaming. In short, there are options—but are they enough?

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15 comments

  • WinkedUp Lozza - November 1, 2011 11:18 p.m.

    If America only had the insight to look out of their own box - the rest of the world has download limits, you know.
  • Darkhawk - November 1, 2011 11:24 a.m.

    I'll echo some others here: $15 (or $20 in Canada) for your 3-hour quote-unquote "masterpiece" is hard to justify. The great thing about the physical retail model is that, eventually, all the overpriced games (and I include $60 for Arkham City in this assessment) drop down to a reasonable entertainment price. I'll admit some irony in posting this the same day as LIMBO goes on Xbox Deal of the Week, but nevertheless I like having the option to buy from more than one retailer, and for various discounts in competition with each other.
  • CancerMan - November 1, 2011 11:54 a.m.

    Ever use Steam? They slash prices like every other day is Black Friday.
  • Darkhawk - November 2, 2011 9:48 a.m.

    Not a PC gamer, and God forbid I try to play anything on my PowerBook. (Ha! I even downloaded Portal for free on Steam once, but my poor laptop couldn't handle it.) I should also add: Shame on LIMBO Deal of the Week being for paid Gold subscribers.
  • larkan - November 1, 2011 11:19 a.m.

    Yeah...and charging people $10-$15 for a 3 hour game with very little replay value is not the way to do business either, so maybe you guys should get your sh1t straight before you start flinging it at others.
  • Arucard04 - November 1, 2011 11:09 a.m.

    Once games are all digital, I'm out. I can't stand the feeling of not really owning a game. It's acceptable for little indie and arcade games that would never get a retail release anyway, but when I can only get my Mass Effects and Bioshocks from some download service, no.
  • F0NAJ - November 1, 2011 10:45 a.m.

    See the thing is, indie developers. I hate the fact that I have to have an account tied to things that should permanently be mine. Lets say for instance I bought a f--kload of games on PSN on my account, then something happens like my account getting suspended and or banned, or my PS3 bricking and me forgetting my PSN account details. Or you know, the inevitable octopus uprising once they figure out how to live more than 13 months and start occupying our streets and pillaging our cities and that's when we end up firing all our nukes in the hopes of culling their increasing numbers, destroying our own civilization in the process. Have you played post apocolyptic games? Theres like no internet. How the f*ck is a brother gonna re-download the games he already bought when he can't enter the account its tide to because the internet blew up? One of these things actually happened to me, and now if my PS3 breaks again I'm pretty much screwed. Had I a physical copy I could live with the peace of mind that even though the surface of the earth is no longer habitable because its on fire, that I can still play my games inside my bomb shelter that only have holes that are covered with those little porous lids so as the the last surviving octopus scavengers don't go through and murder my whole family, they can squeeze through a beer bottle you know.
  • TheZigMan - November 1, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    i thought i was the only one worried about the octupus apocalypse. Phewww.
  • tomthespesh - November 1, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    I'd go along with digital only games but 3 things stop me. One I have a 120gb hard drive on my xbox and I wouldn't be able to store all my games, dlc and what have you on that. Two I kinda like having boxes and manuals (Well the few games that give them these days BF3 just had a leaflet). Three my internet speed is kind of odd. I can play games online with no lag but a 100mb download say can take me up to an hour, so downloading a full game would take a few days...
  • Plague - November 1, 2011 5:11 p.m.

    The bf3 manual is on the game disc under the extras.
  • NightfallAgent - November 1, 2011 10:14 a.m.

    I definitely agree with the developer. Downloading is so much more convenient, especially when it comes to portable games. If discs get messed up you're f*cked, whereas if your hard drive screws up you can always redownload. Just make the digital offerings $3-$5 cheaper than physical copies and digital distribution will really take off.
  • larkan - November 1, 2011 11:22 a.m.

    The problem that's starting to pop up now is that developers aren't properly testing their games, and they launch with bugs galore. Devs now have the mindset "meh, we can make a day one patch and all is well" but that is NEVER the case. Take for instance Dead Island, RAGE, anything touched by Obsidian, Fallout 3/NV, Deus Ex HR, Battlefield 3. All these games launched with huge digital followings, only to be unplayable for 20% of the customers. That's unacceptable, and until we start holding developers to create quality games at launch (namely, it starts with NOT buying a game at launch or preordering, make them sweat it out a couple weeks)
  • NightfallAgent - November 1, 2011 1:36 p.m.

    Preordering is a practice that brings no positive to the medium. In fact, it is an expanding detriment that's being exploited by retailers. It's almost silly now for developers to compete without offering preorder incentives -- it's impossible to regress now, this is something that's only going to be looked at as a problem when it is too late.
  • crazyW01F - November 1, 2011 10:08 a.m.

    Until internet service providers in the US start charging less for higher download and upload rates I doubt that full-on digital distribution will become the norm. I don't live on my own, but I know my families download and upload rates and what we pay for them. It's an atrocious robbery to say the least. Why would I ever download a retail game when it's gonna take 12 hours or more to fully download when I could go to the store and get the game in five minutes. It's definitely better for the developers and publishers to digital distribute, but not for every customer who doesn't have awesome internet speeds or those who can't afford it. I could see it as an option on the next console generation (kinda like it is now), but it won't kill physical copies in the least.
  • Y2Ken - November 1, 2011 10:03 a.m.

    I like having physical boxes, but the fact remains that I am rapidly running out of space to keep everything. The install point is a good one too - I don't play any games on 360 until I've installed them, and I would probably do the same on PS3 if it let me (although I play more games there so I'd have no disk space). My only concerns with having all games being downloadable are that: 1) I'd run out of disk space in a few weeks, so drives would need to be massive. 2) If they charge for games like PSN has been doing (£54.99 for a new release anyone?) then I would never be able to afford stuff. At least Steam has great sales...

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