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Author Topic: Digital Game Distribution.  (Read 1473 times)
Eusis
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« on: June 20, 2006, 06:21:39 PM »

It's slowly catching on, what with software like Steam, and concepts like the Live Arcade and the Virtual Console, and could very well be the future of game distribution. But some don't think it's time yet - Activision's CEO believes that Hard Drive limits and bandwidth keep it from being anything but a far off dream.

Personally, I don't really think it's feasible for /modern/ games, as that story illustrates. And even while doable to a degree on PCs, I can't see it taking off fully for consoles yet. The X360 can pretty much store just /one/ DVD sized game, single or dual layered, what with the HD only having 13 free Gigs, and the PS3 is only a little better at I'm guessing 5-10 on the 60 gig version, and it's not even worth /trying/ to take into account blu-ray-sized games.

However, I do consider it currently viable in a way - not for new full sized games, but for bringing back older games for people to play again. The PSP is going to let you buy and download PSX games, and while the memory stick will suck for storing those... Assuming they're /smart/ and let you play them on the PS3 too? You could store a treasure trove of PSX games on that, then hopefully back them up to an external HD too or something. I also see this kind of distribution capable of immortalizing games to a degree, since they can just be thrown on a giant server and not vanish via limited print runs and whatnot. Sure, it's nice to physically own a copy of the game, but I value it being readily availble for years upon years later over having the case, manual, and a fragile game disc. Of course, if they don't have any kind of means to follow whether you own the game or not (like Steam does), then issues like HDs dying and systems being destroyed winds up overriding how fragile discs are.

So. Your opinions?
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Cauton
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2006, 03:46:47 AM »

I think that digital distribution has a lot of promise, and that in the future we'll see more and more games released that way. However, there are some issues that need to be resolved.

Size of games and download speed, as mentioned, is a big one. Modern games take up a lot of space, and even with fast connections they will take a looong time to download. Valve's STEAM solves this in a pretty good way, by having preloads that allow you to download locked assets before the actual release date.  This is only helpful for people who want the game from day one, though. A consumer who decides to buy the game at a later date will still have to download it all in one chunk. In those cases, it might even be faster to just go to your local game store and buy the game over counter. But, the speed of connections is ever improving, so eventually this will become less of problem. Well, unless games continue to expand in size (which, with the advent of HD gaming, they're probably going to do).

Another problem is trading/selling/buying used games. With digital distribution, this will be non-existant. With a downloaded game, you have no way of taking it back to the store or selling it on eBay. For a lot of people (mainly more casual gamers, I would assume, who aren't interested in collecting games) this will probably be a problem. Many won't  want to buy a game at full price, if they can't sell it back or trade it in. One way to get around this would be to make digitally distributed games significantly cheaper than games on disk, but this has yet to happen. A game downloaded from Direct2Drive or STEAM still costs as much as a game bought in a brick-and-mortar store.

And what happens when the company that you downloaded your game from goes out of business? Let's take STEAM as an example again. STEAM requires you to connect to their server to authenticate the game when you want to play it. But what if STEAM is no longer around when you want to play your copy of Half-Life 2 again? You will be stuck with useless files, and no way to unlock them. This also ties in with your argument about "immortality". What happens to all those games that exist only in digital form, when the company that sold them is no longer around? It will be impossible to get a copy of that game.

So yeah, I think digital distribution is good in theory, but the currently implementions of it leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully in the future we'll see better solutions. But till then I think I will stick with my game discs.
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Dade
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2006, 04:26:28 AM »

Ala Carte TV is pretty much here and now....so why not gaming?

I'm all for being able to download a single program and then purchase specific content through said program to use in my home gaming system (whether that is PC or console it matters not).

Gaming on demand is the future of gaming. I just hope it wont take forever to be fully realized.
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Eusis
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2006, 04:32:10 AM »

Point on the bit about if a company stays in business - some look like they'll last forever, but may wind up going bankrupt and vanishing, or at least shrinking in size. This could probably be solved to a degree if several companies agreed to band together - Direct2Drive seems to be supported by many companies, and should probably be fine, and retailers like Amazon and the EB/GameStops could probably jump in too. Authentication is another problem... But as long as it has been authenticated, an internet connection isn't necessary to play HL2 anyway. Might be fucked in regards to multiplayer, but with no company to patch the service to prevent unofficial mods, someone could make virtual Steam servers. And honestly, I think the authentication thing is more likely to fuck over the CDs than digital distribution - if you can download it, then clearly you can get it authenticated.

I think a big part of the problem for what prices aren't lowering isn't greed or anything (necessarily), but in fact bandwidth fees. Small games aren't a big deal, such as what most of the Virtual Console titles will likely be, but those that're several gigabytes... That's probably a few bucks. Still though, it'd be nice if they bit the bullet to create incentive to get that over a boxed copy with a manual, but next to no one either A. cares to read the manual or B. Produce one /worth/ reading. The last great, huge manuals were from Bioware/Black Isle... And those are, at their thinnest, as thick as a DVD case.

Mind, that negates the used game part /anyway/ since EB stopped accepting used PC games after GameStop bought them, and CD Keys make it too much of a damn mess - modern PC games need the ability to be downloaded more than modern console games... Hell, the console games that benefit most are too old to be sold anywhere but eBay (thanks a fucking lot GameStop) so the casual gamer being unable to trade them in won't be a concern, and those that don't like this because it'll devalue their oh-so-rare copies of games like Valkyrie Profile, whether it's for collectibility's sake or resell over eBay can A. keep in mind that a boxed copy with manuals and the like would still have value, and/or B. suck on it. :P

Edit: Actually, Steam generally offers plenty of incentive - games are discounted when preordered (which is immediately negated by retailer deals), or sold in bundles - buying everything that was in the Steam Source bundle costed less than it would for the onshelf equivilant, espicially with the preorder saving of Episode 1 applied to the entire damn thing. I can't say the same about Direct2Drive however, unless someone can point out something we don't know.
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daschrier
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2006, 10:12:02 AM »

DD will never replace hard media.
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Angelo
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2006, 06:04:14 PM »

Yeah, and 640K should be enough for anyone.
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Leo
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2006, 06:22:07 PM »

I would (probably) convert to downloadable games if it caught on. If it were a niche trend, then I wouldn't jump on...as it may be abandoned at some later date. If it became the NEW standard of video game formats, then of course, you'd have no choice...but yeah, like others have pointed out, it has to do with bandwidth and storage. There are still many people without a broadband connection, and it'd be unfair to exclude them.

On the other hand, I applaud the PSP PS1 service...as I do with the Virtual Console. Both progressive features in revitalizing ancient games.
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MonCapitan2002
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2006, 10:53:46 AM »

I will always prefer physical media over direct downloads for gaming.
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Alisha
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2006, 02:07:51 PM »

the only problem id see here is the amount of time it would take to download modern games vs going to the store and picking it up. to give you an idea i recently downloaded disc 2 of valkyrie profile because i lost mine when i moved and iirc it was 21 winrar files taking aproximately 30 mins for each file on cable.
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2006, 02:17:37 PM »

Quote from: "Alisha"
the only problem id see here is the amount of time it would take to download modern games vs going to the store and picking it up. to give you an idea i recently downloaded disc 2 of valkyrie profile because i lost mine when i moved and iirc it was 21 winrar files taking aproximately 30 mins for each file on cable.


Good job on ignoring the whole piracy rule.  Classy.

Distribution through BitTorrent or through a server that's not dedicated is slow.  However, I downloaded the entirety of EverQuest - that's including all 11 expansion packs - in 3 hours.  And with the way GameTap does things, Digital Distribution could totally catch on.

If it takes you 5 minutes to download the base engine and the first level, then by the time you've finished the first level, you've got levels 2 and 3 downloaded.  It's pretty nifty.

-John
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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2006, 02:31:10 PM »

ArenaNet has some similar technology at work with Guild Wars. The actual game install is very small, and thanks to some nifty technology the rest of the content will stream as you play.

Thinking about it some more, Digital Distribution could become very successful if games are designed from the ground up with the DD in mind. Guild Wars is a very pretty game, so graphics quality doesn't have to suffer from it either.
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