Do you know that not every game you bought can get a warranty from its distributor? Do you wonder what is the difference of distribution process for digital and physical copies? In this article, we will explain to you the game distribution process of both digital copies and physical copies between the game publisher to gamers.
Roles involved in the game distribution process
Starting from the game publisher, several roles including the regional distributors, wholesalers and retailers will involve in distributing a game for it to reach the gamer’s hands. Here is a summary of what they do and how they contribute to the game distribution process:
Regional Distributors are the “bridge” between the game publisher and wholesalers/retailers. They are responsible for delivering the game publisher’s message and marketing plan accurately to the wholesaler/retailers. To ensure that the game can be published smoothly, they are always prepared to help the other roles (especially wholesalers and retailers) in resolving their problem.
Besides, Regional Distributors also manage a few aspects of the game such as its marketing activities, lifecycle, prices and the retailer cost. A fair benefit between both buyers and sellers are important, so the Regional Distributors will need to ensure that every retailer sells the game at a specific price too.
Wholesalers purchase games from Regional Distributors (in a huge number), then distribute them to the retailers (in a small number). Players will get the games from the retailers directly, therefore a good sales service is much needed from a retailer.
A typical retailer provides service such as pre-ordering, restocking, maintenance and Trade-in (exchange old game for new game). To avoid difficult situation like out of stock, retailers usually get their stock from multiple wholesalers.
The process of distributing a game
Game distributes in 2 ways – digital copies and physical copies. Digital copies only exist digitally and can be bought through online platforms such as Steam or PSN, while Physical copies come with the game disc and can be bought from the retailer stores.
Physical copies are usually distributed in the following sequences:
Most of the retailers will get their stock from the wholesalers but in some condition, they would get their stock directly from the agents (which is shown in the picture below).
Ways to import games can be categorized into two – Regular Import and Parallel Import. The physical copies obtained by the steps above is Regular Import, which there will be a certification mark (eg: SIRIM for Malaysia) attached to it (as certified by the government and the publisher). Game copies with a certification mark will be eligible for replacement if damaged, it also ensures that the player who purchased it will get the pre-order privilege.
While for Parallel Import, the physical copies are obtained illegally by the retailer. Since the game copies are not certified by the government, there will be no certification mark on it (which means no warranty), however the price is cheaper compared to the legal ones because no government tax is charged. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to get the special contents of the other regions’ version. For example, you can’t get the pre-order DLC contents of R3 (Asia) version if you bought R1 (USA and Canada) version.
Different from physical copies, the distribution process of digital copies only involve the publisher, distribution platform (eg: Steam, PSN, Google Play Store, App Store) and players.
The publisher will be able to get involved more in deciding the price or sales method for their digital copies too. However, digital copies usually come with lesser privilege compared to physical copies.
In short, although buying legal copies (by Regular Import) cost you more, but it protects your rights and benefits. Also, cheaper illegal copies (by Parallel Import) affect the market price of the game, thus reducing the agents’ sales results. Will you choose to buy games with cheaper price but no warranty, or games with higher price but with warranty? Tell us your opinion below!
(feature image credits to accelerated-ideas)