Downloading: Not (Yet) a Viable Option
There has been a lot of hype in the past couple of
about the possibilities of bypassing the retail channel with online
, offering direct downloads of the client as an alternative. Publishers like the idea of bypassing all the middlemen in the retail process and the need to pay marketing development funds (MDFs), creating higher margins on the client.
Unfortunately, the hype is once again overtaking the reality of the situation. While this is a fine idea and will eventually become a reality, we're not there yet and won't be for years:
With over 90% of the US and world market still on 56k dial-up connections, only the most dedicated gamers will even consider a download over 50 “100 megabytes (MB). Compare this with an online game client, which has an average of well over 500MB. It is true that hard-
gamers do tend to upgrade to faster Internet connections when they become available and have
tolerance for large downloads, but they are a small percentage of the overall market. Compare this to the download figures for the much smaller 10MB
for Electronic Art's
, of which fully 91.5% of downloads started were never completed.
"Of those who started down the
of registration, only 8.5% completed," EA spokesman Jeff Brown said. The rest quit halfway through, he said, in part because of the lengthy process, which included over 10 megabytes in software downloads." See "
Headed for Stores Before Thanksgiving,"
, October 3, 2001.
Broadband access is growing far more slowly than expected. In 1997, most analysts expected a full 30 million people in the US to be accessing the Internet on broadband connections by 2002; the actual total as of March 2002 is fewer than 11 million connections and, due to the failures in 2001 of cable modem provider @Home and many digital subscriber line (DSL) providers, the rate of new connections slowed throughout most of 2001 and the first quarter of 2002. Broadband access is not expected by the authors to be a major force in the US and Europe until 2005 at the earliest, and possibly not until 2007 or later. And even though Asia is laying broadband fiber far more quickly than the US and Europe, the broadband access
in the region are
equivalent to those in the rest of the world.
The exception is South Korea, which is, by some estimates, almost 75% broadband-connected. The great bulk of these connections and gameplay happen in cyber caf s, which are unique to that country and are a major force in online games. By some accounts, almost 5% of the total population is registered for one online game, NCSoft's
Lineage: The Bloodpledge
, which sees the great bulk of its
from cyber caf access fees. Interestingly, however, the number of home broadband connections in South Korea is growing steadily and is expected to reach parity with cyber caf s in the
year to two years.
At any rate, for the foreseeable future, publishers should make plans to maximize retail distribution for the client.