Hardcore Gaming's Salvation?
Quarter to Three talks to three developers about the profits and
perils of bypassing the traditional retail market
Qt3: Brad, Stardock sold Entrepreuner through retail
and found it frustating enough that The Corporate Machine is going
direct. Can you can tell us about that.
Wardell: Sure. Basically, we quickly discovered that the
PC game retail market had changed in the mid 90s to such an extent
that many large retailers had made MDF (Market Development Funds)
into a profit center. Rather than trying to make money through selling
PC games, they recognized that most games bomb at retail and thus
made it so that paying to get shelf space would be where profits
were to be made and selling games would be largely a break even
So when Entrepreneur got onto the shelves, it became apparent that
even though we were selling out of our month's order of product,
we weren't going to get enough re-orders to stay on the shelves
for long. The only way to stay on the shelves was to provide additional
MDF. Over the past coupld of years, as some of you already know,
Stardock has become pretty successful on its business/consumer software
known as desktop extensions with Object Desktop (which includes
WindowBlinds, DesktopX, etc.). We've sold this software primarily
through a software subscription network called ObjectDesktop.net
(i.e. you pay $50 and you get everything we've already made plus
everything we make for an entire year afterwards). Because all of
this has been done without any retail exposure, we've learned that
retail isn't necessary to product success.
Qt3: David, can you talk about the problems you faced with King
of Dragon Pass and what you would do differently if you could do
Dunham: Yes, we did try retail, though we really didn't
have the budget for it. It was a learning experience, though luckily
it didn't cost us money (I finally realized that one buyer was only
returning my calls when he had a new idea for how we could pay his
But we also went retail through the adventure/hobby distribution
system (which normally carries paper & dice roleplaying games like
Dungeons & Dragons, and our license, Hero Wars). This is an option
that we had as a licensed product, that most games would not have
(I think Iron Dragon is another recent exception). We've actually
sold over 75% of the copies through dealers (though direct sales
represent almost exactly 50% of the gross revenue).
Our big retail success was in Finland. Finland is a tiny country
(about 6 million), but they're very high tech, and they speak English.
They also have some excellent print magazines that cover games,
which gave us very positive reviews. On top of that, the Finnish
distributor is really good, and managed to get the game into a lot
of retail outlets -- even supermarkets! I'm told that King of Dragon
Pass was a top ten game in Finland.
Qt3: Charles, you don't sell yours direct but Battlefront does,
correct? Maybe you can tell us about that and how it's done for
you so far.
Moylan: I'm involved with both Big Time Software (which
made Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord) and Battlefront.com, which
publishes and markets the game online. We're not in traditional
retail at all. I agree with virtually everything David and Brad
have already said, so I'll try not to restate too much of it.