Interview: Green Man Gaming

The London bases Steam rivals talks about how the PC games business is flourishing...
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Based in Bloomsbury, London, Steam rival Green Man Gaming has managed to convert the trade-in model to the digital gaming space. Paul Sulyok, managing director, says the firm is also looking to make a push into physical retail. We ask him how…

What’s essentially different about your business model to other services like Steam?

The key differentiator between Steam and Green Man Gaming is that with us when you purchase a game, you can play it for as long as you like, and then when you’ve finished with it you can trade it in. You can offset the game that you owned before against your next purchase. It’s what you can do with corporeal games on the high street and with digital PC games online.

And that’s something that’s unique as far as you’re aware?

We are the only people globally that are offering that service.

So comparing yours and Steam’s business models, it sounds like you wouldn’t ever make as much money on sales, how does it work?

There are two interesting questions with the digital exchange model that we’ve got. First of all the customers benefit because they have the ability to claw back some of the money that they’ve paid for. Secondly, we actually pay a portion of the resale value to the publishers. So, for the first time, the publishers have been able to benefit directly from a secondary market in their IP.

So the publisher’s possibly weren’t happy with physical trade-ins, but with something like this they’re more on board?

Very much so, yes. Sometimes there are technical difficulties, for example MMORPG games we don’t support. Any timecard based sales we cant support, but the majority of our publishers support the trade-in model.

Which publishers?

We’ve got about 63 publishers ranging from Square Enix to Warner, Paradox and 1C. They and everyone else are on board.

Can you be cheaper than retail on triple-A releases?

We are able to offer it at a more attractive price for customers. If you’ve got games in your list you’re prepared to trade, you can get a good deal. Which is exactly the same as would happen on the high street with a new title.

Realistically, PC games have been losing shelf space at the High Street. Are digital downloads the future for PC game sales?

Not only are they the future, I think they are the present. PC games were squeezed out of the high street, and the reason why they are alive is because of digital distributors like ourselves and Steam – particularly Steam. I take my hat off to them. They have kept the PC alive as a gaming platform.

So you looked to replicate that and add your own USP based on trade-ins?

Absolutely. We have a USP on how we operate, and that system works incredibly well for the vast majority of our customers.

And you’re certainly of the opinion that PC gaming is flourishing at the moment?

PC gaming is absolutely flourishing, there is no two ways about it. I frequently get analysts saying that PC gaming is declining to me, and so I actually challenge them back with ‘how fast is digital PC gaming growing as a marketplace, and how big is that marketplace? And many of them don’t come up with an answer.

However, there are 72 million PlayStation 3 codes given away which means the overall PlaytStation network population is 72 million. Whereas there are 280 million game spec PCs out there globally.

And that’s on a rising curve you’d say?

That figure is on a rising curve.

Do you think physical games retailer’s days are numbered, in that case?

I can’t speak on behalf of other products but from a PC games perspective, PC gamers are technically more sophisticated, more savvy and require a level of game interaction complexity which is arguably higher than that of console gamers.

PC gamers have already embraced digital downloads. Historically and currently, I would suggest that they are the vanguard of change.

So it’s a lot of nonsense when these analysts talk bout the death of PC gaming?

It’s not the full picture. Actually it’s quite the opposite, and its worked in our favour.

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