Newsweek's N'Gai Croal hosted a GDC discussion about digital distribution, featuring panelists from Bioware, Valve, Microsoft, Telltale Games, and GameTap. The session interested us most for its comments on how retail and digital distribution work together and thoughts on the media's lack of digital-only games coverage.
Valve's Jason Holtman said, "The myth of digital distribution cannibalizing retail sales isn't true. ... The first couple times we ran [free weekends for games], we found out they increased retail sales as well [as digital sales.]"
Holtman later said, "We love selling our boxed products. We like selling our digital products, too. ... Retail is going to be here to stay. It's a great channel for games. Digital is also a great channel for games."
Ray Muzka of Bioware said, "They're incredibly complimentary. ... You can get research, you can get data from your digital distribution to make better games."
Dan Connors of Telltale Games described how his company's games benefit from initial digital distribution. He said, "By the time it gets to retail, it's a known quantity. ... It was thought of from the ground up that we're going to launch online and [move to retail.] ... I think we've managed to take revenues from a range of places."
Near the end of the session, Croal asked if he and other journalists had covered digital distribution enough. Rick Sanchez of GameTap vehemently said that the press hadn't and that they don't know how to treat his game-download service. The other panelists thought their projects were getting enough coverage, although they echoed the slow recognition of their digital projects.
Other than Microsoft's Xbox Live games, GameTap represented the only company with a digital-only distribution method. Could that affect GameTap's recognition, because the public -- and journalists -- still need a boxed copy to take notice?