Last month JB Hi-Fi stated that video games, specifically with the release of new consoles, had helped the group move back towards growth. Boxed software was a large part of that growth story, but now JB Hi-Fi has announced it will be selling digital versions of video games at their retail stores.
A new deal with Microsoft means that JB Hi-Fi will sell digital codes for games like Minecraft. Forza Horizon 2’s ‘Car Pass’, NBA 2K15’s ‘Virtual Currency’, and Grand Theft Auto Online’s ‘Shark Cards’ are also going to be available in store. More titles from Microsoft and third party publishers are apparently on the way.
"Xbox Live has always been at the forefront of digital experiences in Australia and around the world," said Jeremy Hinton, a Business Group Lead at Microsoft in Australia. "By giving consumers access to our finest digital content at retail, it’s just another way in which we can offer amazing choice, and allow them to access our services in the way that best suits them. It also gives our retail partners like JB Hi-Fi the exciting opportunity to provide our ever expanding digital product range to their customers in-store."
It's an interesting decision. For both Microsoft and JB Hi-Fi. The company line here appears to be the concept of "choice", allowing consumers to buy certain products in different ways, but it also serves to placate local retailers who are perhaps worried about the slow move towards digital content.
That being said, I don't see digital stores being that much of a threat to stores like JB Hi-Fi and EB Games in the next few years at least. The majority of console games are still bought in stores, and that's unlikely to change until prices drop accordingly. A quick search around Australian retailers, for example, will net you a copy of Grand Theft Auto V for under $70 while the digital version on the PlayStation Store is $99.95. We're talking about a $30 disparity for a game you then have to download, and at 50 GB, that's a hefty hit on your internet cap.
Which makes the decision to sell digital codes at retail all the stranger. Consumers will still have to go back home and download the game they just bought. I guess this works for titles like Minecraft or services like Forza Horizon 2's 'Car Pass', but it might not be so appealing for other titles.