Thursday, November 16, 2006

Who pulls what strings?

GamesIndustry. biz reports that Sony is pulling the plug on the print version of Official Playstation Magazine (OPM) in the US, preferring digital distibution to dead tree technology.

OPM is published by Ziff Davis, characterised by Felix Dennis in his book How To Get Rich as a highly aggressive, persistent and determined company. It would be worth a bet that they did not go gentle into that good night.

However, ZD president Scott McCarthy seems to have recognised the present reality in his statement:

"With this next generation of game consoles, the days of having to bundle a disc with a magazine to distribute games-related content are over," he explained.

"And the disc has clearly been a major driver for consumer interest in premium-priced, platform-specific magazines in the past, when the magazine disc was the only way gamers could get such content."

No more cover mounted discs? Should I sell my shares in Future immediately? (Maybe, maybe not)

OPM is (was) produced under licence and, like all contract publications, that licence only holds good for the length of the contract. Sony's decision is, in that context, just another example of disintermediation. Why go through a third party when you can communicate with - and sell to - your customers directly?

Or as a Sony suit put it: "We are focused on delivering content via the PlayStation Network and PlayStation.com website, not discs.

"While we have enjoyed a very good run with the printed version of Official US PlayStation Magazine, we feel it is important to shift assets online to meet the needs of today's PlayStation consumer. This is a natural evolution of our content delivery strategy."

This fits exactly with other recent decisions by ZD on computer games console magazines, also reported by gamesindustry.biz

However, although this would seem to be a story about print versus digital, it is also a business story and other factors must be considered. Magazines are subject to auditing and audits sometimes reveal uncomfortable truths, such as slipping sales. With the new Playstation widely regarded as being expensive and Nintendo's wii about to launch, maybe Sony decided to take one possibly negative option out of the mix.

ADDENDUM: Sony's decision has certainly got things buzzing: buzz 1.
ADDENDUM2: Maybe they saw it coming: wii vs PS3 sales


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