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Three Services, Three Stores: Analyzing XBLA, PSN and Wii Shop Channel
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Three Services, Three Stores: Analyzing XBLA, PSN and Wii Shop Channel

June 17, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

Seasonality in Digital Distribution

Persistence is a key feature of digital distribution. Once a game is made available for purchase and download, it need not ever go out of stock again. Consider also that all of the consoles -- the Sony PlayStation 3, the Microsoft Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii -- have had fewer new digitally distributed games during the first half of 2008 than the last half of 2007.

Are these service providers intending to stack the second half of the year with new software, in time for the holiday season? The possibility is there, although several reasons for the slowdown in each service have been discussed above.

If anything, I would have thought these services would strive against the currently holiday-driven cycle. Since digitally distributed games do not need to fight for limited shelf space in retail locations, they offer an ideal means to smooth out a drop in revenue throughout the spring and summer.

I will look at the release schedules for these consoles again in early 2009 and we shall see then how each service may have changed during the holiday period.

ESRB Ratings of Digitally Distributed Games

Last November I examined the distribution of ESRB ratings on various consoles. There are now enough games being distributed via console storefronts to ask what types of games each service is offering, based on ESRB ratings.

First, the PlayStation Network's profile:

The graph above shows that a majority of PSN games are rated E (for everyone), with the T rating (for Teen) the second largest category. Only 1 in every 20 PSN games is rated M.

The Xbox 360 has a different but similar profile of ESRB ratings on its download service:

While there are proportionally fewer E-rated games, the E10+ rating (Everyone 10 years and older) accounts for more games than does the T-rating. Interestingly, most of the M-rated games are Xbox Originals, not games designed specifically for the Xbox 360.

Finally, it should come as no surprise that Nintendo's Wii does not have a single M-rated game on its download service:

In fact, 84% of the Wii's digitally distributed games are rated E. Most of the T-rated games are Virtual Console NeoGeo releases.

If we consider all three consoles as a larger whole, the world of digitally distributed games looks like this, through the lens of ESRB ratings:

For comparison, here is a graphic of all ratings assigned by the ESRB for all games in 2007. (Source: ESRB.)

It appears that E-rated games dominate the digitally distributed store shelves more than in the larger market. Moreover, T- and M-rated games are half as common in these online marketplaces as they are across the industry as a whole. (Note: The comparison of the data of released games with that of rated games is not entirely apples-to-apples, but is still reasonable.)

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