Game aficionados will no doubt be curious as to the result of the legal deathmatch between Vivendi Universal games, and Valve, developer of the insanely popular Half-Life 2 blockbuster. The settlement, which will see Valve's entire boxed inventory yanked off shelves and moved to online distribution should raise a few eyebrows and the blood pressure of retailers hungry for software sales.
Although it is not yet clear whether Valve will find a new distributor for the retail channel - the possibility of a direct customer model is one which most development companies will be watching closely.
Publishers have typically commanded rich premiums for their marketing and retail distribution power, which combined with heavy subsidies for retail campaigns - added up to significant barrier to entry to any emerging developer hoping to independently distribute their product.
Online distribution solves two problems for game companies with a nascent hit on their hands - cutting out margin hungry distributors, and making life hell for software pirates. Still, it is not all perfume and roses.
By all accounts, many customers have had a less than golden experience with Valve's much hyped Steam distribution service. And you can't ignore one of the most powerful marketing channels of all. Dozens of brightly designed boxes of your hit game sitting in major retailers around the world are a highly effective way of drawing attention to your product - even if, like many unrepentant gamers - you do spend most of your life sitting in the dark playing with yourself.
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