Downloadable Games: A Debate Thereof

Nevyrmoore

AKA Ass-Bandit
#1
I found this little article in an issue of 360 I recently bought. The writer pitches in his thoughts towards downloadable games, and who benefits in the long run.

Downloadable games. I often feel like one of those 'End Is Nigh' sandwich board gentlemen you see in the street, or at least see depicted on the street in films, when I weigh in on this subject. But the situation is developing at quite a rate, so deploy your brimstone umbrella and step into my paranoid maelstrom.

What began as mere optional trinkets - new maps, modes, weapons, vehicles - has now graduated to complete last-generation Xbox games, thanks to Xbox Originals. The same games that are available (albeit with a little used-market character) in physical form on sales racks are being sold down the wire to Marketplace customers, paradoxically more expensive but devalued at the same time. It's easy to see that this model is escalating towards complete current-gen games: it's the last place to go.

Is it terribly outdated to think fondly of a game as a tangible product you can hold in your hand? Games we receive digitally can't have their back covers pored over, nor stay with you beyond the life of their temporary mechanical host. You can't find them in a box when you move house in five years and go: "My God! Remember this? Lets put it on!"

That sort of thing I could just about live with for Live Arcade titles that amount to little more than shareware, but now that it is encompassing full retail games, and will surely march on to include new releases, I feel like putting my hands up and shouting: "Just a minute! Is this good for us?" The answer to that, I feel, is no. But it's good for someone: the publishers.

Oh, this whole thing looks rosy for those guys. Manufacturing is the first money saver, because there isn't any. Paper doesn't have to be bought, cut, and printed with manuals and covers. Cases don't have to be made, nor disks or duplicators. No distributor has to be paid. That's just for starters. The next wave of savings comes from the way downloaded games restrict and hamper us, the customers.

You can't trade in a non-physical game at a store to help against the cost of a new one, and you can't sell it privately either. That's the second-hand market completely erased then; a market that publishers loathe because, of course, they make nothing each subsequent time a game is sold. You can't finish a downloaded game then lend it to a friend who might have returned the favour. Everyone who wants a game has to get it directly from the delivery service, at one fixed rate with no pricing competition, the latter being something that would originally be integral to an environment called a 'marketplace'.

It's a publishers dream, this kind of control over the product, but it's no dream for us. What do we gain? We don't have to get into a car and go down to the shops. Super. Another little indulgence in laziness is all we need. Thumbs up. When this becomes the preferred method of distributing new games, I think we'll have given away much more than we'll have gained, not least a tactile, visible legacy.

All that is laid upon this page is the kind of caveat that flits across my lobes when poking around in Marketplace, in the brief pause before selecting 'Confirm Download'. It's a conflicted business being me, you know.
When you think about it, if downloadable games do overtake store bought games, it will mean bad things for us consumers. In effect, it will take all the power away from us, and place it in the hands of the publishers, who will decide what we can, and can't do with our games. I can understand it for small developers and games, such as N+ or the upcoming Penny Arcade game. But the thought of full current gen games? Doesn't feel right. I hope more people see this to be true, and steer clear of them when they eventually come around.


But what do you guys think? Would it be worth giving up our current freedoms for this? Or should we fight tooth and nail to make sure these games continue to be sold on shelves?
 
#2
That whole article screams CRYBABY. Seriously. If publishers can find a way to make it easier and more efficient for consumers to get their product, then rock on. Think of the possibilities of having the ability to download any game you want, read previews, customer reviews and possibility even playing a demo before purchasing it online. The future looks so bright and so good! Amazing! =D

Then... you have wet blankets like this guy in the article that is afraid to advance and wants to keep us in the same blane world.
 

Nevyrmoore

AKA Ass-Bandit
#3
I really don't see how he's whining, he has a good point. The publishers end up deciding what we're allowed to do with our software, which smells a lot like DRM to me.

Meanwhile, we have no way of browsing the market for the cheapest deals, lending games to mates, importing games, etc. I could also imagine the following scenario happening.

Something goes tits up with your console, and you're forced to buy a new one, hard drive and all. It's fine if you have game disks, but what if the publishers decide that a download limit should be in place for downloadable games? Say, after a month, you have to start paying again, and you're only allowed 5 downloads before that month runs out? If that console bricks after a month's time, you'll have to re-buy that game again if you really want to, and you have no say in the matter, other than "I won't buy it after all."

Bright and good? I wonder...
 
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#4
Meanwhile, we have no way of browsing the market for the cheapest deals
I was thinking of that to when I thought of having the ability to have online company take advantage of this and allow you to search through different e-stores to purchase your game. If there is just ONE store then I think the government should step in so they don't monopolize the business and rip-off consumers. A win-win for consumer and store owners. A lose-lose for manufactuers and business owners who make money on video games.

Something goes tits up with your console, and you're forced to buy a new one, hard drive and all. It's fine if you have game disks, but what if the publishers decide that a download limit should be in place for downloadable games? Say, after a month, you have to start paying again, and you're only allowed 5 downloads before that month runs out? If that console bricks after a month's time, you'll have to re-buy that game again if you really want to, and you have no say in the matter, other than "I won't buy it after all."
I have two arguments for this.

1) What if a fire burnt down your house and you lost all your video games? Oh-on! What if... what if...

2) Company's should realize that their hardware isn't all it's cracked up to be and create a card - such as a memory card - to "save" games to that card, or even to save games to an account that you create on XBOX live, or any other console game that ever offers this. If they're worried about "loading your account to a friend..." scenario then they can try personal I.D.s that won't allow that.
 

Nevyrmoore

AKA Ass-Bandit
#5
I was thinking of that to when I thought of having the ability to have online company take advantage of this and allow you to search through different e-stores to purchase your game. If there is just ONE store then I think the government should step in so they don't monopolize the business and rip-off consumers. A win-win for consumer and store owners. A lose-lose for manufactuers and business owners who make money on video games.
The multi-store thing would be the best implementation. Something similar to brick-and-mortar stores, with added extras, such as free downloadable content if you buy from such and such a retailer, or bundles if you buy from this other retailer. That being said, I'm still against the idea without the option to buy them from brick-and-mortar stores.

I have two arguments for this.

1) What if a fire burnt down your house and you lost all your video games? Oh-on! What if... what if...
For the following, imagine you've had the console more than 3 years.

I can imagine it would be more likely that the system would brick before your house burns down. That being said, I'd be able to understand your scenario - things like that can happen. Accidents occur all the time. You lose both your console and your games, nothing much you can do.

If your console dies, on the other hand, then usually, it's fine because you still have the game disks handy. They aren't destroyed, they aren't damaged. Just find a new console, put the disk in, and away you go. But lets say the games are contained on a hard disk, after being downloaded. That hard disk is also damaged, somehow. You now have to buy a new console, and re-download your entire games library of 3+ years. But not just re-download, oh no. You have to buy them all over again. And lets add something else into the mix, lets say several of the games are no longer available to download.

With a second-hand market, you're able to find good quality disks cheap. Sometimes, the games can be rare, but you can find them with some perseverance and luck. Downloadable games, on the other hand, I don't see being as cheap as the second-hand market, and it could be possible that online marketplaces could remove older games to make space for newer ones. Good, because they have room for the latest releases. Bad, because that game could be lost unless showcased in an online VG museum.

2) Company's should realize that their hardware isn't all it's cracked up to be and create a card - such as a memory card - to "save" games to that card, or even to save games to an account that you create on XBOX live, or any other console game that ever offers this. If they're worried about "loading your account to a friend..." scenario then they can try personal I.D.s that won't allow that.
A card wouldn't cut it, you'd need a hard drive.

In any case, while it's a good idea, you once again have the scenario of download limits. I can't imagine some publishers allowing the customer to pay for the game only once, than get as many downloads as long as that game is available to download. I can more likely see them finding a way of limiting how long you get free download for, or how many free downloads you can have, or both before you have to pay for the game again.
 
#6
I can't imagine some publishers allowing the customer to pay for the game only once, than get as many downloads as long as that game is available to download. I can more likely see them finding a way of limiting how long you get free download for, or how many free downloads you can have, or both before you have to pay for the game again.
That is a pickle. I can't really think of any solutions for it. I guess it'll be chocked up to disadvantage of buyable games online. Or, unless, they come up with a solution. >.<;

I agree with everything else you said.
 
#7
The increasing lean towards online capabilities for consoles has always rubbed me the wrong way, and this is another reason why. I like having the packaging, the booklet, and the disc in my hands when I buy something. Hell, I still have the boxes that all my old SNES games came in back in a closet at home.

There is also the feeling that if the game stops playing, I can take the disc out and see what the problem is and try to fix it, be it wiping the disc off or using a Disc Doctor type thing. If it's a digital copy and it stops working, I'm dicked.

As for the effect on consumers, I see it as a two way street. Look at the Steam system that Valve set up. Lots of people love it because of the convenience it offers. There are also a decent amount of people that don't like it for a variety of reasons that I can't remember off the top of my head. Granted, that is a bit of a different sitation because it is for PCs, but with the heavy emphasis on online functionality with recent consoles, I don't think that they are too far seperated as they once were.