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"Digital domination is a marathon, not a sprint"

Alex Dale thinks Beyond Good & Evil and Psychonauts will outsell MOH: Warfighter

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MAKE A SLOW BUCK

With the benefit of hindsight, this makes the hand-wringing that accompanied Psychonauts' dismal first-month sales seem like classic games industry short-sightedness, but you have to remember this was a time when physical shops still ruled the roost and online/digital had yet to properly gain traction.

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Physical shops stock physical copies, which have to find homes on physical shelves. In this environment, your performance during the first two weeks is critical. It's survival of the fittest - or, at least, of the most sellable.

Underperform in the first instance and there will always be a FIFA or a Need For Speed waiting in the wings to knock you off the prime display slots and into the bargain bins - and, effectively, out of the public eye. This creates a high-pressure situation where the first two weeks of sale are the be-all and end-all. No wonder 'AAA' games have become so conservative and brown and shooty over the course of the last few decades.

By contrast, the internet is a shop without borders; it's possible to sell an infinite amount of copies of an infinite amount of games over an infinite amount of time - or until the planet spirals into the sun, at least. And this is how the race for commercial success has evolved from a sprint into a marathon.

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Time has a way of bleaching all but the very best from memory, and already we can see this in action on Steam, XBLA and elsewhere. Whilst the cynically-produced tat of the early noughties has faded into obscurity, the likes of Okami and Beyond Good & Evil are enjoying HD makeovers.

Factor in future sales and it's not inconceivable that Okami, Beyond Good & Evil and Psychonauts will end up becoming some of the biggest grossing games of their generation. And who could have predicted that six years ago?

It's food for thought for short-sighted publishers who can't look past their next quarterly results. A few months of polish could easily result in a lifetime of sales.

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