Written by Queen Mai (Mai Tachibana)
PSN ID: Nakatsu_Hime
The age of digital media distribution is in full-swing, and this includes our games. A whole Blu-Ray’s worth of data can now be squirted to our consoles for hassle-free play. We will no longer have to leave our sofas again!
Both XBL and PSN have online stores where one can easily purchase full games, even AAA releases, along with a huge range of smaller games – those lovely indies! Even Nintendo pretends to have a similar service, but that seems to be mere myth.
Surely, it is a wonderful new age of gaming pleasure – or is it?
I can see the attraction of purchasing a game in digital format. You need not concern yourself with where to store the box and other packaging as there isn’t any. You do not need to fight through crowds to your favourite games retailer, only to discover they are out of stock. It’s on your HDD ready to play – all the time!
It all seems wonderful. Let’s check it out...
Ease of purchase:
Usually a one-click affair (aren’t all affairs like that?) or as near as. You choose what you want, pay, and away you go. All good, but wait, what’s this? A download of 20Gb-plus? Ahh, that’s OK, my console says it will be done in… 8 hours??! Opps, no. There’s an update file as well. That’ll be loads of hours all-in. God-dammit. I’m off to bed!
So yes. The actual purchasing part IS easy, but from that point on you are completely dependent on the download completing before you are able to enjoy. Those of us with less than Singapore-quality internet will nod sagely as they visualize the time required for a download of the size needed for games nowadays.
I can easily go to any number of shopping centres and actually bring home the game in less time that it would take to download that game’s opening animation. Yes, I still need the patch, but I can still play any offline content whilst the patch is busy downloading.
So unless you are an agoraphobic, a sloth, or miles from anywhere useful, digital purchasing is a waiting-game best avoided.
“But, the gamer will benefit from…”:
OK. Let us all think back to when this digital distribution malarkey started to take off. The cost savings would be substantial - they told us. They’d be no need to pay for shipping, no need for added costs due to retail rental or staff wages, no costs for packaging or manuals, and negligible overheads for duplication of media and content - they told us. All these savings could then be passed onto the consumer. It would be gaming Nirvana - they told us.
So, what actually happened?
Well, all of the above happened as predicted, and the savings happened as expected, but where did those savings go? Not to benefit the end-user, that’s for sure. In fact, many digital offerings are initially priced ABOVE what you can purchase them for on the high-street. So this is how it works. We are asked to pay MORE for a product format that costs LESS. Yep, that makes sense.
It’s even more galling when you consider the following small but significant difference…