Resurrected Entertainment

Digital Download Dilemma

October 29, 2010

I was reading an article on that the PS4 was not going to support digital download only for games, and the writer was almost chastising the company for not embracing the future. Why, exactly, would we strive for this? I do not want an external server to hold the one and only back-up copy for the software I buy — if their service goes down for any reason (and they will go down permanently at some point), who do you think is going to be left holding the bag? Not to mention the Internet service provider problem. While a lot of us in North America have high speed connections, many of us do not have “unlimited” download (especially Canadians) contracts, and those which do have them, their download rates tend to be somewhat atrocious when you consider that the content you want to download is several gigabytes in size. In some cases, you will start your download today and maybe play your game tomorrow, assuming your connection stays healthy.

If you take the angle that there will be less packaging, therefore production costs will come down and the publishers will offer the game at a lower price, then you may want to think twice about that. Consider iTunes, for example, the music they offer is pretty much on par with the retail price of a physical compact disc, if you multiply the price you pay per song by an average number of songs per album (12-14). Less packaging may not translate into a cheaper price for the consumer, but it certainly does translate into larger margins for the publisher.

With the advent of collector’s editions becoming more popular, I was hoping that a trend towards better and more interesting packaging would be upon us. Think Baldur’s Gate, Space Quest, or the Ultima Games. Beautiful works of art and a real pleasure to own.

2 Responses to “Digital Download Dilemma”

Steve wrote a comment on October 30, 2010

iTunes actually charges less than stores do for most music – yes it’s $0.99 per track but it’s also $9.99 per album, while a new album in a music store is typically something like $14.99.

But I agree with your point that we’re basically putting the future playability of the games we buy into someone else’s hands.

One idea I think might be workable would be to have a copy protection override key that’s kept in escrow for some time period, after which the key is released and can be used to unlock protected games. Valve’s Steam distribution service (at least) lets you keep the downloaded game so you can install it locally if you delete it and want to reinstall, so with that and an unlock key you would be able to play a game after the original company was long gone.

Personally I prefer this, because at least with Steam, my game library is safe – as long as Steam is alive, I can install any of the games I’ve purchased through it on any computer I want to, without having to worry about finding the original media. This is a good tradeoff for me. But it does suck for the collectors – being able to point to a full Steam library isn’t as cool as having boxes on a shelf.

Mr. Robot wrote a comment on October 30, 2010

Yeah, I like the Steam download service too, but it often makes the games you play dependent on the Steam library used for on-line achievement tracking, chat services, etc. Which means you can’t simply back up the games and move them to another computer without a version of Steam installed. It’s even more complicated than that, because the library is often changing and the games may only work with a specific version of that game; I’ve run into this issue a couple of times already.

As for iTunes, I agree that the mark-up added by the various stores does vary the price a bit for most artists, but a lot of the newer artists it comes down to basically the same price, or more if you buy the songs individually! Hot artists can sell their songs for $1.29 – 1.99 per title. I think it’s still a better approach, since I often don’t want the entire album which ends up saving me money in the end.

Care to comment?