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Steam has completely taken over the game-buying experience on the PC, and digital storefronts from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are threatening to do the same thing to console players. So why have so many indie developers decided to work with publishers and distributors to launch their games as boxed retail releases?
GamesIndustry.biz’s Christopher Dring has several theories. For starters, he believes there’s still a lot of money to be made with physical game discs. But many developers also love the idea of seeing their small labor of love sharing shelf space with the big boys.
Last week, Stardew Valley was released in a box, as was Yooka-Laylee. In the coming weeks, Tequila Works is preparing two boxed products for Rime and The Sexy Brutale. There are several businesses that are set up to help indie studios release their games in places like GameStop and GAME, such as U&I, 505 Games, Sold Out and Badland Games. Other publishers include physical distribution as part of their key selling points, such as Bandai Namco, Koch Media, GameTrust (GameStop’s publishing arm) and a stream of others.
Yet it’s a risky area to invest in. Boxed products are costly and lack the flexibility of the digital marketplace. Going through retail also loses some of that direct contact with the customer. So why bother?
Dring spoke to indie developers like Psyonix (Rocket League) and Sold Out (Overcooked) to learn about their experiences with launching a boxed retail release, and he makes his case that more indie developers should explore the practice at GamesIndustry.biz.