Gaming Unboxed

The transition away from boxed goods has taken a great leap forward - but are consumers totally on board?

When I first started writing about the games business over ten years ago, one of the persistent narratives - a story that would crop up almost every week, in fact - was the impending triumph of digital distribution. Broadband speeds were getting faster and faster, while the price of storage was plummeting. The confluence of these things was seen, even a decade ago, as ensuring that the boxed games business would eventually play second fiddle to digital.

In itself that's not exactly a dramatic prediction - anyone could see which way the wind was blowing, in a very general sense. Not only was the direction of technological change obviously favouring a move to digital distribution - so too was the direction of consumer behaviour. As odious and unpleasant as piracy may be, pirates do tend to be highly technologically literate and on the vanguard of consumer attitudes and behaviours. As the numbers willing to download multiple-gigabyte games off BitTorrent sites swelled, it became increasingly clear that downloading was something many consumers wanted - including those who'd actually be willing to pay.

Only a decade ago Valve was a developer with one immensely critically acclaimed game to its name, and a few canny moves in terms of taking successful mod developers under its wing

The problem with such predictions, though, is that they rarely sketch anything other than the roughest outlines of a market trend - and that the people most inclined to make predictions are those with a vested interest which biases their viewpoint.

Consider mobile gaming, for example - another area which was confidently predicted to be The Future around ten years ago. As it's transpired, mobile gaming is indeed an immensely important and growing part of the industry - but the shape of that transition is nothing like the shape suggested by pundits five or ten years ago.

All manner of disruptive things happened to mobile gaming on the way to supremacy. Ten years ago, nobody in that burgeoning sector would have taken you seriously if you'd told them that Apple and Google would be the leading platform holders, with Nokia and Motorola left desperately behind. You'd have been laughed out of the room for suggesting that the mobile networks themselves would find themselves relegated to mere data pipes, their dreams of turning themselves into media empires smashed by the rise of universal app stores which provide no revenue split or gatekeeping function to the carriers.

In reality, then, the only thing that everyone got right about mobile gaming was that it would be huge. We all saw the destination, but nobody saw the road that would be taken on the way there. Similarly, the path to our digital future has been full of surprises - and undoubtedly holds many more.

Consider, for example, the absolute dominance of Valve in the PC digital distribution market. It's amazing to think that only a decade ago Valve was a developer with one immensely critically acclaimed game to its name, and a few canny moves in terms of taking successful mod developers under its wing. Now it rules PC game distribution to such an extent that in EA's present efforts to challenge Steam with its own Origin service, most of the smart money seems to be on a triumph for Valve.

Other factors, too, simply weren't foreseen - or perhaps even foreseeable. Consider the immense rise in importance of subscription revenues, whose origins can be seen in the unprecedented success of World of Warcraft - prior to its launch, the global audience for MMOs was thought to be capped somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million players. The rapid appearance of social network gaming and the freemium model it brought with it, too, has disrupted any predictions made in the past.

The combination of these factors has had a cumulative effect on how the digital transition is actually happening. Ten years ago, it was expected that this would be a very gradual transition, with progress slowed down by a number of factors - not least of which would be the gradual rollout of sufficiently fast broadband, and perhaps more importantly, the powerful industrial inertia behind existing boxed product distribution. Indeed, one common theme ten years ago was the frustration felt by nascent digital distribution services (few if any of which remain in business today) at the unwillingness of publishers to risk upsetting retail partners by being seen to make a major commitment to digital.

Perhaps these slowing factors actually created a pent-up demand which is now being released all at once, because what's certain is that the digital transition is now occurring vastly more rapidly than anyone expected. What was expected to be a gradual movement has turned out to be a major upheaval - we're seeing steady, serious declines in boxed game sales in many regions, matched with a sharp uptick in the industry's digital revenues.

What we're seeing now in terms of sales declines isn't down to rough economics. It's down to a very rapid transition in consumer behaviour, one which will not be reversed by a macroeconomic recovery

Right now, there's a strong temptation for executives to try to tie that decline to the world's tough economic climate - and certainly, that's likely to have had an influence in some regards. However, I believe that it's important to note that the people blaming macroeconomics for the industry's present state tend to be those from companies who aren't benefitting significantly from the upside to this process - those who haven't made the investment or commitment necessary to reap the benefits of digital.

The state of the world's economies may have been a significant trigger factor - the final straw that made the industry lurch forward into digital revenue models. What we're seeing now in terms of sales declines, however, isn't down to rough economics. Rather, it's down to a very rapid transition in consumer behaviour, one which will not be reversed by a macroeconomic recovery. The expectation that retail sales will return to growth once the world economy sorts itself out is bound to be disappointed.

That's because, as with the move to mobile gaming, the only truly predictable thing about the digital transition is the overall direction of movement. Individual events and developments will continue to surprise us, but the overall trajectory is clear - and it's away from boxed goods, and as a corollary, away from monolithic single-payment games, which made far more sense in the old retail-driven market than they do in this new marketplace, where the player's game experiences take place in a constantly connected environment.

For many veterans of the games business, there's a bitter note to this transition. We like boxed games; they hold immense nostalgic value, of course, but even beyond that, they also provided a business model which, while flawed and problematic, was well-understood and familiar. Moving away from that model will probably happen slower than makes logical sense simply because of nostalgia and attachment to the old model - and of course, it's not just people in the industry who have that sense of attachment, as it also persists strongly in many consumers, especially older gamers.

For this reason, in spite of the startling acceleration in the uptake of digital distribution and digital revenue models, this remains a transition which needs to be handled carefully and respectfully. It's easy for people in the industry to casually dismiss the concerns and criticisms of things like digital distribution and freemium business models which are commonly raised by consumers - but some of those concerns are both well-grounded and strongly held. Failure to address them risks alienating consumers, and we must never allow ourselves to believe that "once a gamer, always a gamer". Interest in the medium can wane or even lapse - and seeing concerns over a large-scale, disruptive business transition ignored or dismissed could well cause exactly that to happen. The digital future is very exciting, and the transition is now coming about faster than most people expected - but care must be taken not to leave loyal consumers by the roadside as we speed into this new era.

Latest comments (23)

Tom Halls Creative Account Manager, Electronic Arts6 years ago
I can't see it being a complete transition to digital due to a number of things - namely the consumer's desire for a tangible product. The nostalgia you refer to is more than just that - retailers can't justify staffing a whole shop like game if all the content is digital, even if they're the gateway and you can buy codes there - what's the point when you might as well just download it direct?

What would happen should your PC crash or Xbox red ring? You'll have to download that entire 8GB file again - and as much as the ISPs would tell you that nationwide broadband is happening, the speeds just don't justify this distribution model unless your in a fibre-optic area in my opinion.

People would rather buy their product than wait 3 hours (less if fibre obviously) to download a full game, so unless games are delivered in episodic waves as has been mooted, and successfully demonstrated with Back to the Future, I can't see the transition being one that's as quick as you'd suggest.

There's no denying that digital distribution is becoming more and more common, but the goals faced by Microsoft and Sony restrictions on publishers on the PSN/Xbox Live doesn't help encourage that. Steam is a great example of success, but has a monopoly on that market, something EA are obviously trying to buy into with Origin.

I agree with you that the distribution is heading that way, but my disagreement lies within the timespan that this will happen. It's certainly not as fast a process as you're suggesting, and whilst the App stores have obviously shot up quicker than anyone could have predicted, this doesn't mean other areas of the industry will follow suite.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
A lot of people find it ridiculous that a digital copy should cost more when it costs less to distribute, and the sales portal takes a lower cut. So it could be cheaper (ignoring the fact that retailers may refuse to stock it then). This could also negate the trade in rebate Barrie mentioned. The most you get for trade in on a £40 game 3 weeks after release in most cases seems to be £15 from most stores. So knock that £15 off the digital distribution price, and lack of trade in becomes less of an issue. The fact that it is cheaper to sell this way and no second hand sales are cutting into new sales should facilitate this cut. Of course this is difficult as long as more sales are made on boxed copies, which in turn has a chance of happening as long as people feel new releases on digital are overpriced.
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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts6 years ago
I personally would far prefer to buy games digitally than on disc. They're easier to manage and you don't have to physically store them. Not having to rummage around for the disk when you want to play is nice too, although DRM like Securom and our own Access system can remove that requirement.

Having said that, I completely agree with Barrie's point about pricing - the problem at the moment is digital titles are being priced at the same level or even greater than discs, with the publisher/distributor taking a bigger slice due to the lack of manufacturing and distribution costs. The same can be said of e-books - most of them cost the same as the actual printed work and this apparent 'greed' does chafe somewhat.

Until this is addressed, digital distrbution will never realise it's full potential.
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Show all comments (23)
Neil Griffin Studying Computer Arts, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
If you price digital significantly lower then you're stuck with that pecedent when digital becomes the dominant distribution method. And I guess they just keep them at full RRP because people are paying it.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 6 years ago
I agree with most of the above points. Whilst i do buy digital games there are three sticking points for me:

1. Price
2. DRM
3. Services

All three points are tied together rather closely but i'll try and separate them a little:

1. Digital games are intrinsically less valuable to me. Yes, the experience is still the same but because of the whole € to $ ratio and £ to $ ratio you end up paying more for something that is the same everywhere. At least with a physical product you had an excuse for the price disparity. In this case i'm paying for at least half of the transfer costs through paying for access via the ISP which does cost me money - especially with ISPs and governments eyeing tighter restrictions and controls on internet connections.

2. DRM makes games worth less to me. The restrictions on when and where and how i can play a game - specifically single player - is something that i just do not agree with at all. I will buy games with DRM on (notably from Steam and Impulse) but they either have no install restrictions, unnecessary regional locks, always-connected rubbish or they have the ability to play them from the disc without needing to connect to the DRM servers - as in the cases of Gal Civ 2 and Sins. I also never pay "full price" for those titles and just wait for sales to come around. Compared with all the games i used to pre-order on the PC at "full price" i spend a lot less money on the hobby in that respect. I also don't get to lend games from/to friends or family members anymore... and we all know what demos are like and how often they come around for games....

3. Services get in the way of me being able to enjoy the games i'm trying to play. This ranges from having to log into two or three different networks just to get the game to run to being forced to interact with other public people when i don't want to along with marketing and tying of parts of the product behind a DRM wall that i must use to lock down my copy to "me". I don't want to be listed in some ranking system. I don't want to have my skill or times compared with other people. Yes, i realise that it is some good feedback to developers to sometimes get this info but if they want it then they should give me a discount on the game since i'm paying for my internet and they're getting free data out of it after i've also paid for their game.

Quite frankly, the direction of the majority of the industry has been quite anti-consumer in the same way the music, film and, increasingly, networking media have been. I know it's not a valid reason, but if you treat your customers like crap and like pirates then don't expect them to behave that way...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 12th August 2011 1:03pm

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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
@Neil. It doesn't matter if it sets a precident, as with digital you can sell lower and still make more money per copy than with physical copies where retail, transport and distribution, manufacture, warehousing and unsold copies all eat into revenues, before you even take into account second hand sales. Then add to this that reducing prices usually increases sales, which when there is no manufacturing costs per copy is all added revenue. Why shouldn't customers expect to share in the advantages permanently, rather than just until their options are gone?
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David Spender Lead Programmer 6 years ago
@James - I completely agree with all of your points. Most consumers don't care, young consumers definitely do not. The question is, will they ever? What will it take to make them care?

If most people don't care about their rights when it comes to major issues in their government, they will care less about throwing away rights for games. Convenience (or even perceived convenience -- or is it laziness) trumps these issues, sadly, for most people. In fact publishers think that people will pay more for the convenience of digital.... they are probably right.
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
Enough consumers *do* care. I really hope that a transition solely to digital distribution never happens, for a number of reasons.

1) I no longer have this: [link url=
2) Pricing structures will never see the level of discounts seen at retailers and will be left artificial high from launch to death (as we see with the majority of titles on Xbox Live) as publishers completely control the only route to market
3) Ownership goes out the window & retro gaming becomes a thing of the past (see what I did there) with games tied to consoles via online authorised DRM models.

If digital distribution is the sole method of gaming in the future, I want no part in it.
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Neil Griffin Studying Computer Arts, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
@Andrew. Yeah, I agree with you, but I'm just saying that it might be an attempt to keep the perceived value as high as possible. As a consumer I obviously would like downloads as cheap as possible.
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Diarmuid Murphy Developer Marketing, Microsoft6 years ago
@Marty that top shelf looks to be struggling under that weight of games :)
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
Even more so now - that pic is rather out of date ( think this one is more recent: ) - but that's the thing, many of my peers actually enjoy having a collection. That's completely lost when there's no longer a physical product - it's why people still buy LPs.
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Doug Kennedy President, Reverb Communications6 years ago

- The trend continues and box games continue to lag in terms of sales
- Microsoft grips harder with its 1 retail game for every XBLA game and publishers and developers revolt
- Sony continues to loosen its regulations for PSN, allows more publishers and developers and grows its PSN business

The result will Microsoft holding close publishing relationships with only 20-25 publishers who adhere to the “retail rules” and Sony overtaking Xbox in popularity, sales and revenue.

The quality of XBLA and PSN games continues to increase yet Microsoft continues to clamp down on the independent developers making it more difficult to access XBLA. There has been a distribution underworld created by Microsoft where developers (and even some publishers) must sign sub license agreements to access XBLA simply because they don’t have available XBLA slots to ship their games.

I understand Microsoft’s desire to drive developers and publishers to retail, they get $7.00+ for each disc manufactured, and only 30% of XBLA games sold, however, independents and smaller companies do not have the weight with retailers to place products on limited store shelf and with a 50,000 unit minimum from Microsoft these same companies are looking at $350,000 just to manufacture the discs.

The innovation in this industry comes from independent teams, not from dinosaurs, (take a look at Reverb clients like Red Octane and Harmonix – Rock Band, Guitar Hero and such)

I’m not faulting Microsoft, the fact that they are sitting “on top” right now allows them to make these types of decisions, but let us not forget that it was Sony’s unwillingness to work with independents back in the early 2000’s that allowed Microsoft to become “top dog.”

History has a strange way of repeating itself.
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Jeff Spock Writer/Narrative Designer 6 years ago
There is an important point that people are either unaware of or forgetting:
- It is far more interesting for a development studio to sell via a digital channel than a box/retail channel. It's math; they make about twice as much revenue on a game sold digitally than they do on a game sold through stores (roughly 70% of sales price for online sales versus 30% for box sales).

So think about it this way: You have to have pretty cogent reasons to convince a developer (I'm thinking small- to mid-size, not the massive internal EA / Activision / Ubisoft teams) to dedicate part of its meager resources to retail sales. Either that, or convince the grand chain of publisher / manufacturer / distributor to lower their margins to compete with the online ROI of the developer. (Note: File this second option under "Highly unlikely").
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Taylan Kay Designer / Lead Programmer at Black Gate Studios, Nerd Corps Entertainment6 years ago
Just to remind folks that digital distribution does not necessarily mean waiting to download something for 3 hours. I'm saying that as someone who has tried OnLive for the first time last night and had his mind blown, not simply at the technology, but the convenience of it as well. Limited lineup aside, their price structure already beats 360+XBL in value. Cloud will also become an increasingly prevalent trend contributing to digital vs retail, especially when we start to see more competitors entering that market.

As Doug alludes to, another driving force is the developers themselves. Indies are on the rise and they favor nimble business models that provide easy access to sales channels: i.e. digital. When was the last time somebody opened up an indie studio saying "I can't wait to negotiate with Walmart to put my game on the shelf there"?

As for the ownership argument: It used to be so that the books you read, the music CDs you listened to, the games you played, they all told a story about you, a story you could display on a shelf for everyone to see. These days there are many other and more direct ways of telling that story of yourself. That's why I think gamers are becoming less attached to the tangible and more attached to the intangible things like persistent player profiles, rankings, ladders, custom skins, brag clips, etc. Those are the things that define and express their entertainment experience a lot more directly than a scratchy game disc can.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 6 years ago
Disc-based games can still be produced in small quantities and sold online, given as part of a pre-order or sold in vintage gaming stores.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
I like the idea of downloading full games, but for me the price is still the biggest barrier - releasing games like Infamous 2 and Red Faction Armageddon digitally as the same time as retail releases is all well and good, but charging £50-odd for them is a farce when, as noted, production costs for the publishers are vastly reduced. I appreciate there's probably an element of keeping in favour with retailers (currently publishers and retailers need one another equally) and I doubt Game or GameStop would be impressed if their prices were undercut by 25%, but digital delivery will take a long time to take root in the console space for full price releases if publishers don't sort their pricing out.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
+1000 Marty. As someone who owns over 2000 PHYSICAL games (look at all the people gagging and falling over here - wow!) AND can't afford a decent connection (yeah, I'm in the minority, but I still have to speak for those of use who are in that silly boat). I hate most digital distribution with a passion. YES, it's fast, yes, it's convenient and yeah, the damn kids love it (because they still haven't a clue that they sign their lives away with the first game they buy). But at the end of the day, it's not serving EVERY type of gamer.

I happen to like discs, don't mind paying more for them and hell, I have something to play when there's a service outage. I don't give a crap about letting EVERYONE on a list know what I'm playing, I don't play with other people unless they're here or I'm at their place and it's a co-op or party game going on. I have zero use for movies, photos or music on my game consoles (unless I'm listening to some Redbook from an old game CD) and some of these other features on consoles irk me because I have a PC that can do all that stuff (but I don't use it for anything other than gaming, writing and artwork). Yeah, I'm THAT old school. And my phone is an N-Gage QD at that (ouch).

We're also in an age where, despite persistent player profiles, rankings, ladders, custom skins, brag clips, etc., some of these kids can't spell correctly and write worse thanks to the shortcuts "learned" through digital-only expression. I can't wait to see the era where people have never used an actual keyboard try to figure out an "old school" FPS or other game where you need to interact with a device separated from your game system. That should be interesting (but I bet there will still be arcade sticks sold for fighters)...

Oh, Taylan - game discs only get "scratchy" if you're a DJ, REALLY clumsy or let toddlers and pets load up your PC or console for you. By the way, vinyl records... you may want to check around - they're making a bit of a comeback in some markets.

Also, ombining PHYSICAL AND RETAIL sales means MORE money for everyone in the chain, not less if it's done correctly. Cutting the balls out of retail based on enforced evolution of console/device cycles can be a really shitty thing, period. THINK: how many THOUSANDS of people got put out of work when bookstores closed because e-readers made people too damn lazy to carry a book around (or worse, buy one and end up buying LESS books than they actually owned previously?).

All that and what the hell happens when Anonymous or some other Anonymous decides to take down the cloud because it's gotten too commercial or whatever the excuse they'll use next time for messing with your fun times? Once enough people can't get their content (even for a few hours), you'll see too many angry birds venting nowhere because no one will know how to use Morse Code and customer service has been outsourced to somewhere around Neptune.

Anyway, until there's access for ALL gamers of all income levels, there's going to be some sort of retail presence. Get rid of the big-box premium junk and just produce GAMES. Cut production costs! Find a way to stick the manuals on the discs like PC games (but allow players to access the manual in-game if they like), reduce package sizing, use recycled material (which is being done already) and so forth and so on. All of these solutions are far better than this "over and done" mentality that will end up being more trouble the day there's a massive service hit (or series of hits).

That stuff about service disruption is NOT a prediction, by the way - it's something that's bound to happen given the fact that some people just can't let anything lie without poking it with a stick and seeing what happens.

Getting disc games into a Wal-Mart, Target and other chain shops (at a decent price point) is not only a good idea, I'm surprised it's not done already. Remember, in the U.S. of A., there are a lot more gamers in rural areas that have NO high-speed access. Hopefully this will change, but given that bandwidth caps are becoming standard for many carriers here, they'll only get much more restrictive as more people finally make the move. I'm betting even digital cable providers who offer high speed service will find a way to package and overcharge for online gaming at some point down the road (but I guess we'll see what happens)...
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 6 years ago
I've no problem with downloadable games, having purchased around 170 XBLA titles (well over a grands worth of MSPs there) - it's great when these are cheap consumable products that I'm not investing large sums in. I'm simply not prepared to pay £50 for a new release in a digital format though, I'm not prepared to tie-in expensive games to a single console I've no control over, and I'm over a barrel to the publisher's whim.

What happens in ten year's time when these system are long since retired? Will I still be able to play these titles? I can still happily play Invaders and Adventure on my Atari 2600, but I seriously have my doubts I'll be able to play the XBLA once the next Microsoft console is well into its lifecycle and its older sibling is quietly put out to pasture. Digital might be better for publishers, but it's definitely not better for the consumer.

And as for scratched discs, I have MegaCD and Saturn titles that are spotless still, like Greg says, if yours are scratched to pieces you're simply not looking after them.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Marty Greenwell on 12th August 2011 6:50pm

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It's true, Digital Games are as a rule horridly overpriced there is a good reason for it though, sheer greed in a certain sense may seem the obvious one consumer's will often think, but it also is a tangible problem with no clear short-term solution

The problem being boxed copies have a RRP that is set, then there's the actual price the publisher charges the store which varies country to county/ then the individual store set's the price in around or under usually the RRP(in some cases insert warehouse's in between for smaller retailers), in this way undercutting allows for competition the amount of profit each element generates is not normally available to consumer's, digital products are as a result set at RRP, the problem with this is RRP is by default deliberately overpriced noticeably in this way store's can "lower" the price to more reasonable prices, generate a decent profit and be seen to not be particularly greedy in the process by consumer's, now if all retail sales disappeared tomorrow the publisher's would have no issues with setting the RRP at the actual price they charge, as the publisher wont make any more or less money, but until then if they attempt to undercut RRP with a digital edition, they undermine the entire boxed supply process and loose volume and hence money, so basically only games published purely digitally can afford to undercut the RRP at this time, and explaining all that won't make a blind bit of difference to consumer's as far as they're concerned it should be cheaper, which indeed it should and excuses be damned, so it's catch 22 until retail sales slow significantly, of course it's hurting digital sales to by not being lowered but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush so there will be considerable relunctance to address this issue anytime soon, either way someone will loose out.

Personally that's why I like steam it's true many steam games are horribly overpriced but steam have sales, I tend to buy 90% of my games from steam sales, usually the 50% off special's that occasionally pop up for a day if you keep your eye's peeled for a good deal you like, or christmas special's with similar discount's that usually publisher's entire catalog's will be reduced for a few day's at different part's of the month, the remaining 10% is pre-order's which usually get some discount even if it's around the 10% mark from the overpriced rrp.
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Tony Johns6 years ago
Nice Collection you have there Marty Greenwell.

It has always been a dream of mine to have allot of games from multiple consoles on my bedroom shelf.

Sadly with digital distribution, these images of gamers having their bedrooms full of gaming machines and game packages are going to disappear.

the only reason why I download games is to support Retro Gaming so I could get to play games from the past that I could never find in my local store.

But to go completely digital in the future, will be a sad day for the hard core gamer consumer.

Most of the casual gamers would not care and perhaps they would never understand us core gamers and what it means to have something in your bedroom that you really cared about.

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Mark Raymond Gamer; Consumer; Blogger 6 years ago
Hypothetically, should I wake up tomorrow to a completely digitally-distributed games industry, I would buy fewer AAA games full-stop or transition across to fremium or budget PC games. Gaming on a console, where the manufacturer and publishers set prices, would be too expensive and there is no guarantee of access once a system enters obsolescence. That may change, but I can't see there being anything other than a sharp learning curve for these companies, and I don't want to be there while it's happening.
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Justin Rounds Product Manager, Systemax6 years ago
I just purchased a Logitech Revue that I'll control with my first generation ipod over my WiFi network. The Logitech Revue will replace my Vudu app enabled Blu-Ray player. My PS3 is my other Blu-Ray player. I only own one physical Blu-Ray movie.

Most of my movies are streamed from Netflix, but I plan to add Amazon to the mix as well.

I pay for a standard cable internet connection and very commonly hit 1MB/s+. My upload speed is approximately 768kb/s. My router is capable of maintaining a address for me, I've never had a major network failure in five years at my current residence. I've had more major power outages than minor network failures. My PS3 hard-drive has never died and I use it very often.

My point? I'm already streaming nearly everything. As a consumer, I absolutely love not having to deal with clutter or physical objects. It's just more stuff.

That being said:

PC Games: If it's not on steam or can stand on it's own legs (like Blizzard), I don't buy it. The last time I bought a retail PC game.. Half-Life Orange Box on sale for $19.99. That was in 2006?

PS3 Games: I would never spend $20+ for a digitally distributed game available on disc. I simply don't feel the same level of ownership with PS3 games that I do with PC games.

With a PC game, Steam has no reason to kill my access to it. Even if an architecture change kills my ability to launch a game, I can virtualize an environment, or play it on another PC. I don't feel like I'm "licensing" a game with Steam. I feel like I own it. It's also more common that I'll play an older PC game than PS3 game.

With a PS3 game, Sony is more likely to kill my access to my games. They charge a premium for "premium" type access, they've had major network security issues, and my fear is that although I know I'll have little to no interest in playing a digitally distributed PS3 game in five years, I don't feel good about the purchase. And of course, something not available in the PC world, is that with a disc based game, when I'm done with it, I can trade a couple in and save $40 on the next game I want.

So to me, it's all feeling. I want to be able to purchase PS3 games digitally. I don't care if I have to wait a couple of hours to download it. I just can't bring myself to do it.

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Kenneth Mcmorran 3D/Environment Artist 6 years ago
The only real problem I have encountered with digital downloads is that as the size of games increase so does the download time, of course broadband speed is increasing but that depends on your location and living conditions. After a year of patches, updates and expansions re installing a digital MMO can be a nightmare.
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