It’s become par for the course at this point for physical games to be heavily discounted whilst digital ones stay pricey. It sounds a little counter-intuitive; surely the copy of the game that requires printing onto a disc, putting in a box, and then driving over to a shop would be more costly than the version that’s just copied from a server? Well Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot was asked this during its Ubisoft investors call today, and Guillemot shed some light on it:
“Digital is more reactive than what we put in stores, but at the same time, it doesn’t react as fast on consoles than it does on PC,” Guillemot said. “What we can say is that when games are older than one year, digital is a lot more dynamic on console because there are less units in stores. It’s a new business, a new trend, and we think all this will get more in line with time, but for sure, at the moment you see all sorts of prices depending on who is doing a promotion for that specific week.”
“If you look at the PC trend, I think you will see that on consoles, but you will have to wait a little bit of time for that to happen with the same speed,”
Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez added to Guillemot’s argument, stating that “On digital we will not sell for a lower price compared to physical. After a few weeks or few months things can change, and as Yves has been saying, sometime you might have a promotion on Amazon not on GameStop, but we can also react on the digital side.”
“We are actually more aggressive on the PC side where digital is very, very strong. We tend to be more conservative on the digital side for more console and more flexible on PC.”
So in short, it seems that Ubisoft have more direct control over their pricing for digital releases, especially on PC. Ubisoft is far from the only publisher which engages in these practices, but with 30% of the games being sold being open world, and most of Ubisoft’s games being open world, Ubisoft holds a significant market share. Despite the increased price, The Entertainment Software Association’s annual poll on gaming habits suggests that in 2014, digital sales of games overtook physical for the first time, due in no small part to subscription, dlc and mobile purchases.