I'll be the first to say I used to be 100% against digital distribution, but as it's grown in size and value, it's crept into and became a permanent part of my life. Now how can something I hate with a passion become not only part of my life, but is occasionally recommended instead of retail? Read on to find out.
Obviously the first problem people have with using digital distribution is the fact that they cannot hold their games, and have no way to show off their purchase without booting the game up. This is the biggest concern for collectors. The second problem is when you're done with the game and do not plan on playing it again, you can't sell it. You're essentially stuck with it forever. These are what stopped me from jumping on board for many years, and still prevents other gamers from taking part as well.
I cannot blame them one bit for not wanting to try either, because being a gamer is an expensive hobby, and when you're spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a year on video games, you want something to show for it, something you can hold, bring over to a friends, and rub it in their face, physically.
For collectors like myself, physical copies are a must! Extras like action figures, a comic book, art book, cards, whatever else that comes in a Limited Edition of a game. They act like trophies of our dedication to gaming, and our passion for that game. I may not have any medals from Track & Field in high school, but I have a bust of Duke Nukem to show that I waited 15 years for a game, and never gave up.
Onto another note, the used market. Prices drop and become more affordable as time goes on, while games on a digital service generally remain at their launch price, then drop in price in half a decade. So not only does the used market make games cheaper, it allows you to rid of your finished games for that missing chunk of coin you need to pick something you want to play. This makes it a win-win situation for customers. The used market is single-handedly the most important aspect in video game sales because of this advantage.
Despite those hefty advantages of having the possession of the physical product, there are three reasons why I joined the digital distribution bandwagon, and I'll cover them in importance from least to most.
The third most important reason I dove into the world of downloads was exclusive content. Games like Monday Night Combat
and Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
were only available on Xbox Live, Wipeout HD
and Dead Nation
were only available on the Playstation Network, Shantae: Risky's Revenge
and Mighty Flip Champs
on DSiWare, the list goes on. I would not have been able to enjoy these great games if it weren't for digital distribution.
The second most important reason is easy access to the world of indie development. While this is tied into the third most important reason, I place this higher because smaller studios like Zeboyd and Gaijin Games not only deserve better recognition, but need it more than the big boys. It's the smaller studios that can take us through unforeseen experiences that hardly come by the mainstream developers, and you get to see the power of creativity overriding the thoughts of how many units the game will sell. The big boys pour millions of dollars nowadays into their games, so they can't take that chance of complete creative freedom that smaller studios can. The smaller studios can't afford to mass-produce their game onto discs, so they use digital distribution. Through digital distribution, I get to play their games, and if I like it, support the company and help them grow.
Now onto the single most important reason that dragged me kicking and screaming into the realm of digital distribution....
Steam is the very definition of how to do digital distribution right. They have the exclusives and support all indie developers. All while supporting retail versions of titles on the service by allowing you to input a code from your copy, and redeem a free digital version onto your account. Steam has all the bases covered...Or do they?
The single biggest draw of Steam goes hand-in-hand with the single most important aspect of video games sales, and that's the Steam Deals, where they drop the price on selected game by up to 90% off. Steam just had a 10-day Summer Deals event where bundles by publishers like Activision, THQ, and developers like id Software put almost all of their respected games together, and sold the lot for a fraction of the value, but if that wasn't enough, every day through the event, random games would get even bigger discounts, up to 85% off. This allows you to pay little and get alot. I personally spent $75 through this 10 day event, and received over $300 in value thanks to the savings.
I believe when it comes to digital distribution, it should come at a reduced price since you don't get that feeling of purely owning your purchase, you have to share that purchase with the program. But if that program is going to take out a good chunk of what I would pay at retail for it, I don't mind sharing all much.
Digital Distribution: Save Your Money