Like a Lemonade Stand

Being a gamer, and reading game related news, I was a little surprised at this article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun, which talked about a shift in policy on EA’s part regarding the marketing and sales of games on Steam:

HMM. This demonstrates incredible confidence in EA’s own brands, but the key back foot they’re on is that they don’t have any other publishers they can bring on board. What would change everything in the war against Steam is if the other major publishers launched their own Origin-like services and restricted their download sales to those. I won’t be at all surprised if that happens, as a few are quietly building the infrastructure – THQ have a store, Ubisoft have that uPlay thing, Blizzard obviously sell their own digital stuff direct… You could even see Call of Duty: Elite as heading vaguely in that direction.

It feels like this is a trend that’s moving very quickly. When we see artists, developers, etc. selling their own stuff without a store or aggregation service to market their wares for them, we enter into a different kind of relationship with the creator- it’s more one-to-one as opposed as separated by the rift of the store.

Before, people would go to a single place to find stuff. This method of curation led people to associate their buying and their consumption with a place, a store, an entity somewhat divorced from the source of the goods. This is a fallacy, and can be frustrating for a customer because they don’t necessarily know where their stuff is from. It also robs people of creativity and imagination.

Now, with the proliferation of creators on the internet, there’s an increasing emphasis on discovery. That means that people need to be more self-aware and understand their wants and likes more. It also means that the creators have to have more clout since no one is doing their marketing for them. Either that, or a lot of really awesome relationships to build on.

This reminds me of Trent Reznor’srecent push into digital publishing:

Like a more magnanimous Radiohead, Reznor’s called into question the major-label reserve clause for established, profitable musicians by not just coming up with a new way to monetize music, but just giving it away for free, no strings attached. Instead of “tip-jar,” it’s “this one’s on me.”

and, of course, there’s always the “original” self-released album:

This is a hint of things to come. Over time more artists will decide to self-release music in this fashion, thus creating long, staggered release windows that place serious fans first and more casual fans further back in line. Traditional retail must wait in line, too. That means service companies that provide the tools and expertise for the online self-release of albums will benefit from this self-release strategy while the second wave of consumers are left to retailers.

What remains to be seen is if self-publishing will win out over a curated experience like the various “App Stores” that are cropping up all over the place. Clearly, if a developer or creator of something wants all the money, they’re going to have to sell it themselves. If they want maximum exposure, they have to give a little of that up to be on one of these stores. This will be interesting to watch, for sure. Will we see increasing fragmentation or consolidation? Or, still possible, some strange hybrid of both.

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