The End of Physical Gaming Media?
Over the last few years DLCs and Gaming on Demand has started to take off with the release of on demand Gaming and Digital Distribution of Gaming Media by Publishers and Developers.
In this Article I want to explore what this means for us gamers and the retail market.
firstly I will look at the impact it will have on us gamers with the pros and cons of such new endeavours which the game industry is trying to take and then the impact on the gaming market in terms of specialist retailers like GameStop, Play and o on whom of which will feel the biggest impact.
Will Optical Players share the same fate as the once revered Tape Cassettes which dominated the 90s?
As a Gamer I personally don’t like this as it takes away the ability to get Rid of Games later on once they have played their part and don’t have the replay ability.
I guess that’s where the DLC would come into effect where Developers would try and inject new life into a game by giving new options or new areas to explore.
There are couple of on Demand Game Services
With the Onlive demand service where you pay for the Game, you don’t really own a physical copy of the game and technically are paying just for the privilege of playing the game which is hosted on a server.
One good thing about this which comes to mind is you can almost play the game on any platform ranging from the humble Galaxy Tab to your PC.
downside to this is that it requires a decent internet connection 2MB being the minimum connection speed (since the graphics are processed on the servers at the end on their system, you computer can be simple and not designed for Gaming)
Which is great for people who can’t afford or want to build up a computer to play a couple of games which may interest them.
Onlive are good for a couple of things which I will admit others could learn from, for almost all games users get the chance to play a Game for 30min (not a demo but the whole game from start to finish) this allows the user to get a feel for the game and if they like it they then can rent it out for 3-day, 5-day or buy the right to play the game for Full Access.
there is also an option to go on a subscription plan and pay a flat out fee a month and play from a selection of games as much as you want.
So for Casual Gamers this is a great option as its almost no strings attached and you get to play the games whenever you like and pretty much anywhere in the world.
and for those that worry about piracy, with no physical copy to pirate it means the media is a bit more secure from being duplicated and sold on the black market.
You don’t have to worry about running out of space on your Hard drives or have to go through the process of having to uninstall some of your games from your collection to make way for your next game.
and Since the Onlive system uses its servers to store your game saves rather than a local file on your system, if the worst should happen and your computer should crash then you would be happy to know your hours of hard work are still safe.
Downsides to this in my view is the lack of a physical copy, in most cases you are paying full retail value for the game when it hits the market, so going to the shops or a retailers you could most likely pick up a Box version for much Less than that which is advertised on the market place for Onlive.
You are also at the fate of Onlive and if they think that is worth keeping the game on their servers if the demand for it should drop and not really be worth them to host anymore.
If you lose connection then you will lose the game (as in you can’t carry on playing as there is no local buffer or stored game partition on your system which the game will carry on running)
Onlive Gaming on Demand is good and Bad, as mentioned above it has its Pros and it Has its Cons.
The most used service I can think of by the PC gaming Community, also a company which has caused Bosses of Major Game distributors to get really angry and get their knickers in a twist,
Steam unlike Onlive requires your computer system to be able to handle the raw usages of the games downloaded to get the full experience from them.
unlike Onlive with steam the games are stored on your local hard drive and distribution is done so by P2P which is quite good as it means downloading of files is fast and easy, depending on where you live that is.
Like Onlive on release game titles can be expensive when compared to the prices in stores, but one great thing about Steam is it allows you to purchase games outside of the steam store and from local distributors at their own retail prices and then connect them to your steam account.
So cost wises you got the options open to you and you are free to use those options to benefit yourself.
The only issue with Steam is that all games installed through steam or that require you to have a steam account will be locked to you and can’t be transferred to anyone else, so once purchased you are stuck with that game.
Others like steam or similar have started to popup around the place, EA with Origin and Ubisoft with their digital distribution and so forth.
Now the Main Players
Microsoft, Sony both provide a on demand service with a premium service for those that want to pay the extra fees to have the privilege to use those services.
Microsoft have Gold, this has been around over a decade now and allows users to play online with other users who are also a Gold subscription user.
depending on where you buy the gold package from it can range from £5 (I am rounding the numbers) a month to £30 a year, the price of Gold is different as different places charge different prices.
With Microsoft on Demand you can purchase Games from the Xbox Marketplace and download them straight to your Xbox 360,
This is great in theory if the prices wasn’t daylight robbery and Microsoft priced their on demand games at a reasonable price instead of (yes in most cases) 60%-70% more than that of which the game would sell in retail in the local game retailers or online store.
you are also purchasing a Game which comes with DCM which means only the person who purchases it can play it or anyone using that Xbox 360. so like the Onlive system you are paying for the right to have the game on your Xbox and the right to play it.
This method also effects your storage space meaning you are limited on the amount of games you can have installed at once depending on the size of your hard drive.
Sony have taken a page from the book of Microsoft and have launched a Premium service but unlike their counter parts haven’t locked out none paying players from the online services allowing them still to play their games online without having to upgrade to Playstation+
Sony have added their on demand service and allow users to download games from the library (Playstation+ Users get the liberty of downloading free games which they have access to while they are still a + member)
But like Microsoft the content comes with DCM and is locked to the user and console,
the prices aren’t as Bad as Microsoft but for content which you are only renting, it’s too much of a cost.
I say renting as you are paying for the right to have it on your system and to play it, after that you can’t get rid of it and get any money back.
Granted PC gamers have been use to this for a long time and haven’t been able to trade in PC games since Serial numbers have been locked permanently to each individual user, and for them they see it as something the console users should accept as it’s a fact of life which they have lived with for a long time.
Now finally the retailers who are worried they will lose out on money from revolution of gaming distribution.
One of the largest Casualties being Game which has just survived after being bought out by a consortium after going into administration,
One of their main things that blamed has been the spread of content on demand and that they are losing out on millions of pounds of sales because people are downloading games instead of going to their local retailers.
one of their tactics was blackmailing publishers and threaten to withdraw titles if they didn’t delay release of games on services like steam by a few days to give them a head start in selling the game.
didn’t work out so well after all as the publishers turned their back on game when they needed the support.
One thing that I found funny was that these Game stores that complained about DLC and services like Steam, Amazon and other online services was that they stopped truly catering to PC gamers a long time ago, and PC gamers are worth what 3-4Billion a year in sales to them? yet you go into any specialist Game retailer and their PC selection is tiny.
Now with the prospect of Games going fully Digital and Publishers and Developers moving away from the retail model of having to sell through third parties, does this mean that soon game specialist will just be stores with gift cards on walls representing Games for each console or like other retailers that have come and gone just be part of history?
is that what the future will hold for specialist Game retailers?
Granted Manufacturers like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft won’t get rid of optical drives just yet as it would open up a can of worms.
this being Game content size is very large and has come a far away from the humble couple of MBs to 100GB+ which would make distribution of games a real pain and the loss of a large portion of the market who lack decent internet service or worst case scenario live without internet access (most rural areas do not have internet or only have basic)
So we can be rest assured that Optical Drives will be in the latest and upcoming games consoles until the time when the distribution of the content becomes easier and more viable for gamer developers and publishers to the point where they won’t be sacrificing a large chunk of their audience.
So we as PC Gamers have had to live with DCM, in couple of years time Console gamers will surely share the same fate as Publishers try and insure they make the most out of their product.