Is JB Hi-Fi Planning To Launch Its Own Digital Distribution Service For Video Games?

Is JB Hi-Fi Planning To Launch Its Own Digital Distribution Service For Video Games?
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JB Hi-Fi’s annual report was released today and among all the information regarding sales (video game sales have seemingly declined, but at a slowing pace) is a niggling piece of information with regards to its streaming service JB Hi-Fi NOW.

JB Hi-Fi NOW started life as a music streaming service in the vein of Spotify, but expanded to offer eBooks and is set to offer movie downloads in the near future. Ultimately JB Hi-Fi is looking to create a catch all digital store that’s modern and up to the task of serving tech-savvy consumers.

But until now, JB Hi-Fi hasn’t really discussed video games.

In a quote from its annual report, JB Hi-Fi said the following (emphasis ours):

JB Hi-Fi NOW… will provide users with an integrated experience across a range of digital content including music, movies, games, books and music videos.

But what does that mean exactly? We asked JB Hi-Fi to clarify.

“It has always been inferred to the market that JB Hi-Fi NOW would ultimately aggregate digital entertainment solutions for all content experiences including interactive gaming,” claimed a representative, in a statement sent to Kotaku. “However, what this may entail specifically remains undisclosed at the moment as there are a number of models we are still considering. At this stage the key next step development focus for JB Hi-Fi NOW remains with the introduction of on demand Feature Film & TV Shows.”

So in short, yes: games will be part of the JB Hi-Fi NOW service, but at this stage it seems the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ is still a work in progress. JB Hi-Fi could probably go down one of two roads: it could set up some sort of Steam/Origin style online service that sells digital versions of video games direct to consumers, or it could be in the process of setting up some sort of streaming service that allows users to play smaller budget games.

We’d put our money on the Steam/Origin style online store.

Regardless, it is interesting to see JB Hi-Fi in the process of trying to future proof its business. It’s often believed that the slow death of the games/retail business model would result in stores like JB Hi-Fi moving out of gaming, but it looks as though JB is attempting to evolve. This might be a way for traditional retailers to stay in games as we move to an all digital future.


  • It really is only a matter of time before the JBs and EBs of the world start experimenting with digital models for games and movies. Unless they want to go the way of Blockbuster they have to give up on the pre-owned market as their primary source of revenue from game sales.

    • Gamestop, EB’s parent company in the states, is already working on their digital model. In 2011 they purchased an existing digital model (Impulse) and rebranded it…. From my understanding it’s a miserable failure.

      • Why did it fail? My guess is crappy pricing and sloppy customer service. That guess is based on my experience with EB games. 3 years ago I’d purposefully go to a mall primarily to check out and buy some EB Games games. Now I just steer clear, and will only have the quickest of glances even when they have the most dramatic sales. The online retailers just beat them too much.

        • Impulse had a lot of regional restrictions on their games to anyone not in US & UK. Stayed the same when it got bought by Gamestop.

      • I have / had an Impulse account when Stardock owned them and it automatically “upgraded” to a Gamestop client when they were bought out.

        The client is annoyingly fiddly to use, but I mainly started ignoring it when I saw a few games prominently on sale only to be told that I wasn’t allowed to buy them from Australia. If you aren’t going to let somebody buy something, don’t waste their time trying to sell it to them…

        In terms of actually playing the games, some of the games I’d bought on Impulse complained that they weren’t registered when run from the Gamestop App.

        Impulse was never particularly outstanding, but Gamestop managed to break the few things it did right. I think I bought Arkham City from them at one point because it was cheap, but later picked it up on my Steam account to save the hassle with juggling DLC.

  • I’d say they’ll just start offering digital game codes as well as disk based games moving forward before slowly moving towards a more digital only environment

  • So we’d get the convenience of digital distribution, but with the huge Australia tax markups? Yeah, no thanks JB.

  • If they can complete (which I doubt) with Amazon/GMG,G2P,etc in prices I would buy but again I doubt they can. Unless you can trade in games for giftcards to use online like EB do with Steam Wallet.

  • ozgameshop have increasingly offered digital codes for games so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take that route. Offering their own servers to download from would be a costly way to go about it when you can just offer codes to use on already established digital stores like Steam, PSN or XBox Live.

    It’s curious though how the gaming industry has been one of the few industries to largely go against the GFC trends, but Aussie retailers are seeing declining sales. I guess more people than I expected are buying digitally and also importing from outside of the UK

    • The aussie retailers will turn around and push for gst on imported goods, even tho the price difference is 40%-50% cheaper from overseas.
      i was in EB games on Saturday and COD4 for pc was $47, i bought it 5 or 6 years ago online for $37 bundled with DmC4.

  • JB hi fi could win consumers if they became a Steam reseller with the big different of being able to buy in store and download the game files to a usb to save on download time. The thing I wanted EB games to do for years now.

    • usb idea

      bloody genius..except..drm. publishers will never allow it

      also they would be screwed over during steam sales

        • Exactly the same way that DVD versions work. The only obstacle I can see is cost, a 4GB Flash Drive-with-code model would add easily $4.00 to the tag over the existing DVD-with-code model.

          A similar thing was tried with movies. I don’t think it went anywhere and maybe for a similar reason, though it may have been more DRM.

      • They already do. They would just have to put a steam backup on a disk. Then when you get home you put the key in and then restore from the backup.
        Publishers have no problem with it because the backup is useless without the key.

        • yes but it makes it easier for crackers to pirate it

          that being said, it only removes one barrier, that being ripping the dvd. which isnt exactly a show stopper against piracy.

          but im sure the 70 yr old executives with their stone age thinking would be all like “omg piracy etc etc”

  • Please don’t be thinking about a separate distribution platform that attempts to mimic Steam, a la Origin.

    I hate seeing people commit financial suicide.

      • It’s more that you should only compete with valve if you have a compelling alternative.

        Which would cost shedloads.

        • I dun get the big deal with Steam, to me its no different to Origin

          the only good thing about steam is its sales, but thats got nothing to do with its platform

          if i wanted a library of my games, theres a thing called windows shortcuts and folders…

          • It’s also the social aspect- I can jump immediately into a game with my friends- and the continuous game patching and updating, which saves you having to patch them all individually.

      • If the best anyone can do is Origin or u-Play, or the GameStop downloader, then no… no-one should. They’re only hurting themselves. And, occasionally, the two or three innocent gamer bystanders who use their ‘product’.

        • If they gave up on trying to build closed environments like Steam that relies on capturing a large portion of the market, then perhaps they could compete.

          If such a service needs it’s own friend list and chat system, game library browser, etc, then they probably don’t have a chance of “beating Steam”. If they were simply content with selling games to a common user base, then perhaps we could end up with something better.

          It probably wouldn’t be as profitable for any individual distributor compared to the the scenario where they become the dominant distribution platform, but it is a lot more likely to succeed.

  • I’m interested in whats up their sleeves. As we move more towards the Cloud, physical media will become less of a reliance.

  • JB HiFi, you’ve got the wrong idea/Don’t bother making a fool of yourself.
    We may buy your stuff but we don’t want to move in with you.

  • It’s got to be steam keys, i think anyone that wants to set up an independent digital game platform is a bit mad, i sure as hell am not going to buy from it after i have invested easily more than $1000 on steam over the past 8 years.

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