Market Insight

The increasing importance of bundles on digital console stores

February 13, 2018  | Subscribers Only

Steve Bailey Steve Bailey Principal Senior Analyst, Games, IHS Markit

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The shift to digital purchasing has continued apace on consoles in 2017, and the digital stores themselves have evolved, albeit gradually. We’ve seen discounting and promotional activity for digital downloads hit a stride over the past three years, on PS4 and Xbox One, with both Xbox Live and PSN hosting several, major parallel sales shelves at any given time.

An ongoing issue remains that of discovery, which has been the key concern for almost all developers we’ve spoken to in recent years – especially smaller studios and indies – as evolution of digital console stores has been comparatively slow. An emerging tactic for improving visibility is bundling, which we’ll take a look at here, using PSN’s recent store behaviour over the end-2017 holiday period as illustration.

Bundling’s value is that it can give a game refreshed prominence. Bundles are counted as new SKUs, and so appear as part of the new-release conveyor on the PSN store. This lends them several points of visibility, but can also act as an implicit price drop. And this visibility is especially useful over the Christmas period, where few new games are released. As seen below, the first page of new releases on PSN at the end of 2017 is mostly composed of bundles:

 

(Screen-cap credit: Article author, taken from UK PSN web store)

Bundling doesn’t just apply to recent games, and can go beyond grouping games. As you can see below, Take Two launched four GTA 5 bundles in the lead-up to Christmas, pairing the game with differing clumps of virtual currency for GTA Online. The ongoing success of both GTA V and GTA Online could be attributed, in part, to its persistent presence in various category lines on PSN.

Other non-game content often seen in bundles includes themes or soundtracks. So a stealth benefit for releasing such accompaniments is that they can help drive a fresh burst of promotion via bundling, at some point down the line.

 

(Screen-cap credit: Article author, taken from UK PSN web store)

As with any development in retailing on digital console stores, the question is just how much bandwidth is available for smaller developers, once the larger publishers begin to absorb and normalise such strategies. In the short-term, one indie publisher (see below) tried launching numerous bundles composed from various combinations of its games catalogue, with only minor variances between each package. We suspect that this won’t become a regular practice, as PlayStation will likely need to throttle such waves to avoid flooding. 

As has been the theme for digital console stores, there is progress here, but it's limited. With more games being added all the time, and the prospect of inter-generational game catalogues playing a bigger ongoing part in the digital retail landscape, finding new ways to resolve discovery tensions is only going to become a more pressing issue for PlayStation, Xbox, and now Nintendo.

(Screen-cap credit: Article author, taken from UK PSN web store)

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