The games industry is definitely seeing--and feeling--a shift in distribution, moving from physical to retail thanks to services such as Steam, Direct2Download, and more. Actual retail stores like GameStop and Wal-Mart aren't helping matters, reducing physical copies of PC games to a mere shelf or two. But despite the trend, publishers are trying to keep the dream alive, some of which option not to publish digitally despite industry direction.
Former president of Global Retail for Vivendi Universal Games Pascal Brochier recently told Joystiq that initially it purposely avoided the digital release of World of Warcraft's Burning Crusade expansion. Although Blizzard had a clear option to go digital, it decided against the virtual release. Why? Because the midnight launch brings big, big exposure.
"When you're at the store with all of the events, you actually have people who've dropped [their subscriptions] come back," he said. "The midnight events and all of the functions help people come back who've stopped playing, but also guys who've wanted to try it will be attracted to the event and become new-found players."
He also added that retail is a very important, critical part of overall sales. "There's also a significant percentage of players who just play through pre-paid cards, and that's retail, that's a retail model," he added. "So you've got to find the balance."
Brochier said that Vivendi and Blizzard released Burning Crusade to digital channels a few weeks after the physical launch, catering to both the disc-based and digital gamers.