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Activision CEO plays down potential of online distribution [update 1]


Bobby Kotick, the chief executive officer of Activision, stated that he believes digital distribution of full games is "so far in the future that it's almost incomprehensible as an opportunity" in the New York Times article we reported on the other day. He cites the current limits of consumer internet bandwidth and the size of hard drives as the primary concern. However, Mr. Kotick believes that there is a great opportunity for purchasing and downloading smaller add-on content like "characters, new weapons, new missions or auctioning off places".

We mainly agree with Mr. Kotick's thoughts regarding the adoption of mainstream digital distribution being a while off. Even though broadband adoption and availability numbers (soon, 99.6% of the UK will have access to 4-8Mbps DSL) are increasing, figures from December 2005 suggest that only 15-20% of Japanese, American and British people actually own a high speed internet line. Those numbers need to be closer to the level that television enjoys if mainstream on-demand digital distribution is to work.

However, the market for smaller games and episodes of larger commercial games which can be distributed entirely over the internet is on the verge of exploding; Half-Life: Episodes and Geometry Wars being the early signs. Writing off the internet as a medium for distributing games would be a bad move for many publishers, after all, the early bird gets the loyal customer! Services like Steam, GameTap and Xbox Live Arcade are already beginning to capture the mindshare of savvy gamers (i.e. gamers that are too lazy to walk to the store, lol, jk!), so if publishers want to maintain control of what they do best (publishing games), then surely they should be doing everything they can to get in first before the bogeyman middleman does.

[Image credit: Gamasutra]

Update: clarified statement regarding adoption of broadband by consumers.

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