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How traditional game stores can survive the digital revolution

Online multiplayer games, massive hard drives and digital delivery are the watchwords of the new generation of consoles, on display at E3 and launching in 2013.

Does this mark the end of your local game store? Not so, according to one of the digital revolution's biggest evangelists, who believes retail stores will still be here right through the entire era of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Chris Early is head of digital publishing at Ubisoft, and previously held a similar role at Microsoft Games. He's tasked with growing the downloadable DLC and digital publishing business. He's pushing games like Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Blood Dragon through Xbox Live and PSN. But he says buying games in boxes, from a store at the mall, still has a big role to play in the years to come.

"I think within a couple of years the market will get to the 50:50 point," said Early. "But the question of digital distribution is not just a consumer choice. There are technical challenges. There are parts of the world where it will be hard to download a 5 GB game for a long time, where it will be more trouble or expense to download a game than to go to a store and buy it."

Short format games allow us to experiment

He said that retail will change to compete with digital. "There will always be an element of the physical where going to a store is an entertainment experience. The gaming stores will make touching the game and seeing the variety of games on the shelf something worth doing."

Even so, Early said that smaller, digital games like Call of Juarez are allowing for experimentation in the digital realm, and are growing in popularity. "Short format games allow us to experiment more than the games where we are spending $40 million dollars on development. So we can afford to experiment with Blood Dragon and go out on a limb. We can take Call of Juarez and say 'let's make it edgier'.

"It doesn't always work but the nice thing about Ubi," he said, "is that they tend to make a lot of those bets and if they are not working out we have a strong editorial team in Paris who says 'try something else'."

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