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Dtoid Community Discusses pt 19: Digital Distribution

Its been too long since I last did one of these. I want to go into detail with how busy I've been with work and stuff like that, but if I did that, every single of these posts would have the same introduction.

BLAH BLAH I'm busy BLAH BLAH I'll be better about posting more often BLAH

So I'll just stop there.

Welcome back to another edition of Dtoid Community Discusses (DCD)! If you are new to this concept, the idea is that I choose a topic related to gaming and then ask community members to discuss this topic in a roundtable format moderating along the way. After about a week or so of enthralling email discussion, I take the nuggets of gold, edit slightly for grammar (never content :P) and post it up here with pretty pictures!

I'm really stoked that I'm at part 19. Thats a lot of discussion! Soon, DCD will be old enough to buy liquor without the need of a fake ID! <3

I apologize...I just realized how scrappy I am tonight. I'll just cut to the chase. This edition of DCD focuses on digital distribution. There have been loads of stories covering the future of digital distribution ever since the PSPGo was released. I was curious to find out what some of our community members thought of this, so our panel this week consists of Joshhest, Gatsby, and Kauza! Here is the prompt as presented to them:

Digital distribution

""With the launch of the PSPGo, a lot of thought has been given towards the concept of digital distribution of videogames. Basically, from many critics' ideas, PSPGo is doing it completely wrong. The launch of a system which focuses solely on digital distribution as a means of releasing games seems to be having some of problems being accepted by gamers in general.

So my main question: is digital distribution the way of the future? What is holding it back from being more popular for gaming as opposed to, say, the iTunes model of buying songs? When has digital distribution been successful? (Steam?)"

Read on to find out what they had to say!


I think a main problem right now with digital distribution on the PSP Go is a lack of choice on the part of the consumer. Originally, a long time ago, it was thought that Sony would be pushing digital distribution for the PSP2, which would have been a brand new console. It sounded like a decent idea. Then even after the PSP Go was introduced, people figured "Oh, I'll be able to play all of my old games because of license transfers." But neither of these options exist now. It's either "buy the PSP Go and abandon your existing library" or "Don't buy the PSP Go at all." I suppose you could own both, but what's the point?

I don't think Sony's totally failing here, and I don't think a push toward digital distribution on a handheld is a totally terrible idea. But any consumer will feel discouraged when purchasing choices are taken away. The iPhone, for instance, never had physical games, so there are no false expectations. But the PSP Go, since it is not an entirely new product, has to carry all the baggage from the original PSP, and that includes what gamers have come to expect from it. If some gamers have come to expect the ability to play their existing libraries, they're understandably going to be upset when the new version of the console takes it away. That was Sony's main failure on the console side, but aside from a lack of certain games, I'm pretty happy with the actual games side of PSN's PSP offerings...only I'm enjoying them on my good ol' PSP-3000, and I have no plans to change this.


I don't think that the main issue is lack of choice, but lack of demand rather. While I'm not going to pretend to know the perfect statistics behind everything, I can say with confidence that most people will not opt to buy something through digital distribution when hard copies are readily available. For me, the strengths of digital distribution doesn’t entail the ability to get all the latest and greatest titles downloaded. The difference between downloading a game on Steam Day 1 versus driving to Gamestop to buy it is pretty minimal for me.

I feel that the two main services that Digital Distribution is good for right now are, making out-of-production games available for sale again and allowing indie Game Devs the ability to get their games out to the general public. The popularity of games like Braid or even Run Man would be totally impossible in a generation without digital distribution. Knowing what a classic Braid has become, think of all the possible games we may have missed out on last gen or the gen before that due to the inability for indie Game Devs to really get their product out to anyone.

There'll be a time when Digital Distribution can start to rival the popularity of hard copies, but that time isn't now. There's still a pretty large demand for hard copies and there's been a trend of retailers not supporting the PSP-GO because it's existence is counterproductive to their own. And on top of that, I think Digital Distribution is about convenience. There's nothing that's convenient about a system that limits current options, doesn't offer anything knew, and costs two hundred and fifty fucking dollars. Like usual, Sony seems to be catering to a market that doesn't seem to exist.


I realized the other day when Direct2Drive (which I usually hate) was running a massive anniversary sale that I am much more likely to make impulse buys through a digital marketplace than when I hit up the local GameStop.

Not entirely sure why, but I would guess that it has something to do with me not letting my brain have enough time to actually go through the decision-making math that normally runs when I'm trying to weigh costs versus my benefits for a given game...

This may be silly, but the real value of digital distribution to the market as a whole is that it can make games really cheap in certain cases, so the premium you normally place on getting box, DVD, etc. can be brushed aside by the OHMYGODONLYFIVEDOLLARS part of the brain.

But then again I still love looking at CD art, so physical media still has some life left in it. Especially for the hardcore who really love games for their inherent game-ness and just don't want to give it up. Maybe soon Special Edition will mean "with instruction book and DVD".

You can't beat the fresh smell of a new instruction manual :D


I wonder what you guys think about the flipside of the coin. When Street Fighter 4 came out, there was quickly talk about the possibility of new kinds of DLC. Sure there were costume options, but for the longest time, it seemed that people expected the characters of Dee Jay and T Hawk to be DLC characters. However, when Capcom announced that it would be a separate disc with lots of new options, some (not all) people cried foul, saying this should have been digitally distributed.

What do you think about Capcom's decision to NOT distribute the new characters and all digitally, but to bring about a second disc?


I have a little bit of trouble with this example because many of us (myself included) saw it coming. From the very beginning, I had an inkling there would be a "Street Fighter IV Hyper Championship Edition SE" and no new-fangled DLC was going to get in Capcom's way if they wanted to toss a whole new disc into the wild.

In a lot of ways I actually appreciate not being nickeled-and-dimed to death on this: I picture myself hugely pissed about spending $5 in Microsoft Moon Money just to buy T-Hawk or Dee Jay. Instead, I look at it as a reasonable value from a company whose business model is to bring out multiple, incremental versions of what is really the same base game.

Let Capcom be Capcom!


Yeah, I subscribe to the idea that companies, Capcom included, should do what they want to do, even if it seems blatantly stupid to us (I don't feel that's the case here). To me, it'll eventually lead to a sense of balance in what companies can and can't do with digital distribution. If Capcom wants to do a new disc, they can certainly try it, and if it fails miserably, the company and other companies will learn that they can't do that sort of thing and expect players to let them get away with it. If it does turn out to be what people want, then everyone gets to be happy.

It's similar in some ways to Horse Armor or the Bandai/Namco DLC, which quickly become industry jokes about just how bad digital content distribution can be. While the latter doesn't seem to learn from any of its mistakes, I think other companies have. It's a process that the industry needs to go through: experiment with digital distribution vs. traditional distribution to find a model that is most beneficial to the consumer and the company alike, and the great thing is that we players don't assume the risk. If a company does something stupid, we cry foul by passing on a product.

I think all we can do is continue to take a critical look at things like Super Street Fighter 4, Halo 3: ODST, downloadable episodic content, and so on before making our purchases. Personally, I'll remain indifferent to Capcom's decision until I see just what they offer, and at that point, it'll be easier to decide whether it was a decision that other companies should admire or avoid.


Well, that brings up an interesting point. Is it really profitable for companies to employ digital distribution at this point? There are a lot of things to consider. First off, let's say that Street Fighter went along and decided to distribute each of their characters digitally. If you're a person like me, and only play characters based on how they look, then here's what you're going to do. You're going to say "Well, Juri looks awesome, but I pretty much have zero interest in T Hawk and Dee Jay, so I'm only going to buy Juri." So overall, they may have put work into three different characters, only to have people pick and choose as to which parts of their work are paid for. To a developer, I could see why that type of situation doesn't appeal to them. They're creating a lot of new content, and they want you to help fund ALL of it.

And then there's another thing to consider. Does every single person who bought Street Fighter 4 own a credit card? Street Fighter is rated T for teen, which means that there'll likely be people who can legally buy Super Street Fighter IV in stores, but might not be old enough to buy characters online with their own credit or debit card. If they go a digital only route, they're limiting the amount of people who can buy it. On the other hand, anybody can get cash and waltz into their local Gamestop or Walmart and buy it.

It's interesting to note how games that generally have more Mature ratings tend to shift towards digital distribution first off. Look at Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Has any of Mass Effects DLC ever been sold separately in physical form? Is any of Dragon Age's DLC being sold in physical form? Nope, because there's pretty much no reason why anybody old enough to buy these games shouldn't have access to AT LEAST a debit card.

Horse Armor. Lulz.


I don't know if the credit card thing is a main factor in that decision, but it's definitely interesting to think about. I imagine that most parents would probably be hesitant to connect their own credit cards to an Xbox account. But I imagine that for younger kids, DLC isn't even a thought in their minds. And I do think that digital distribution is pretty profitable, if only for the savings in manufacturing costs. Of course, I don't have figures in front of me to support that; it just seems like it would make sense.

I guess it's just up to companies to see what works, but I think a great product is going to sell no matter what. If you've got some great expansion that no one can live without, I really don't care whether it's put out in physical format, digital downloads, or both. The way things are going, it seems to me that employing both is going to be the safest option. I think some people are going to get pissed no matter what some companies do, but that can be minimized by offering as many options as monetarily possible.


And with that, so ends another edition of Dtoid Community discusses. I hope you enjoyed your time with reading this blog! If you'd like to get involved with a future Dtoid Community Discusses, send me a PM here on dtoid, or find me on IRC so we can exchange emails.

Tune in sometime for my 20th DCD posts in the near future! Later!
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About Jesse Cortezone of us since 4:34 AM on 01.13.2007


I am a Ph. D. chemist from the University of California, Berkeley. I have been playing videogames since as long as I can remember! My past favorite games include Secret of Mana, TMNT: Turtles in Time, the Resident Evil series (Jill is SUCH as master of unlocking), FFVII, Smash Bros Melee, and many others.

I've definitely gone through phases in my gaming "career". I used to LOVE fighting games in the time of Tekken Tag and Marvel vs Capcom II (my favorite fighting game), but now I find myself drawn to the more story driven games, and very recently, the music games....:)

But....fighting games are making a comeback! SFIV! MvC3! BlazBlue! Beware everyone, Tactix has put a quarter on the screen and is challenging you for battle!

It was mere chance that brought me to Destructoid back in early 2007, and through it all I've stayed because of the great writing staff, a community that cares, and lots of new internet and IRL friends. Destructoid has changed my life. True story.

If you live in the SF Bay Area, check out the DtoidSanFrancisco C-blog and join the Google Group!


Check out the past installments of my DTOID COMMUNITY DISCUSSES! Series:

Part 1: DLC
Part 2: Achievements
Part 3: Gaming Journalism
Part 4: Next Next-Gen Consoles
Part 5: Retro Renaissance
Part 6: Games That Suck
Part 7: Educational Games
Part 8: Evolution of Gaming Music
Part 9: Gaming Merchandise
Part 10: Iconic Games
Part 12: GDC
Part 13: Videogame Movies
Part 14: Competitive Gaming
Part 15: Level Design
Part 16: Emulation and Game Modding
E3 Edition: Microsoft
E3 Edition: Nintendo
E3 Edition: Sony
Part 17: Triple A Titles
Part 18: Fighting Games
Part 19: Digital Distribution

Card courtesy of TheGHost

Rock Band tag courtesy of CutieHoney

Thanks guys!

Last but not least, Chad Concelmo and I are the same person. Go ahead and ask him. :P

Xbox LIVE:Tactixpimp
Mii code:0680 0947 9731 1775


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