To put it simply: the retail release is just another distribution channel, just like Steam, GMG, Humble Store, etc. Our mission is to bring Space Engineers to as many people as possible, which is beneficial to everyone: bigger community equals more modders, content, ideas and friends. We took this decision so that we could enable new players to buy the game. There is still a large number of people, especially in Europe, who are not purchasing products online for various reasons (don’t want to use credit cards, etc). We knew from the beginning that this decision contains a big risk, since the actual profit that we will get from selling in retails is much lower than the one from online distribution, but we wanted to give the chance to these players to play our game. Also, if we speak about money, more sales mean larger budgets, more developers and more features. This is a total win-win situation.
We treat this retail release as “experimental” – our game is probably one of the first early access games launched in retail stores. Customers are not used to this and the entire thing can backfire. But someone has to try this approach. On the other side, I believe that the distributors made sure that the information about early access is communicated to customers properly (through a label on the box or an educated retail clerk). We all know that hiding this fact or lying about it wouldn’t be an option – even if someone tries that in the future, the consequences would be brutal.
Regarding the extra content that we added, as you know video game retailers don’t have the same advantages and flexibility as digital stores, so we wanted to support them as much as we could by differentiating the product compared to the online version. The digital extra content (soundtrack, digital art) will also be available for everyone later in the future (there are some technical reasons why we don’t want to include them in the digital version right now). Retail customers don’t get any in-game content that’s not available in the Steam version as well. It’s still exactly the same game. They get some extra physical items and our older games, but the higher package price justifies this.
The talks with retail publishers started almost a year ago (when they noticed Space Engineers in the top seller lists). It took some time to finish the deal and prepare the packages. Retail release has nothing to do with the current “temporary feature freeze” stage.
This is an “experimental” early access retail release, that’s why we treat it as a limited edition –we don’t want to end up with a crazy number of boxes in stores in case this thing doesn’t work.
More info about the retail release: http://www.spaceengineersgame.com/space-engineers-retail-release-announcement.html
Thanks for reading this and don’t forget: we are here to make the best game possible – for YOU!