Ron’s Game Shop

Rons Game Shop

Welcome back to the Game Shop. Last time around, we talked about indie games, and I really had a lot of fun writing that. I think I am going to have a lot of fun talking about my topic this installment. Today, I am going to talk to you about the digital distribution of video games.

Digital distribution is the idea of distributing games not by physical copies, but by downloading the files of the game and storing it on your computer or game console. This means you can download an entire video game, after paying for it of course, and play it from your hard drive. This saves money from having to make all the CDs, DVDs, etc. necessary to distribute the game to the public.

Since video games were invented, up until fairly recently, games were sold in physical copies. CDs, DVDs, cartridges and even cassette tapes have been used for storing the content of video games. Retail copies are what we think of when we think of video games, and it is a big part of the gaming industry.

The idea of digital distribution had its first origins in the early 1980s. The very first example of digital distribution was the GameLine service for the Atari 2600. Users had to buy a special cartridge that would connect to the service via a phone line, and users could rent games for five to ten days. But since the Internet was not common back then, the service was just not that popular. It was shutdown in the video game crash of 1983.

There are several ups and downs for both methods of acquiring and playing your video games, and it really depends on the speed of your Internet connection or if there is a store that sells video games near you.

Most video games these days are around 4-5 Gigabytes (1 Gigabyte = 1000 Megabytes), which would be a somewhat small game. Games like Battlefield 3 are around 10GB; meanwhile Max Payne 3 is 30GB. It obviously depends on the speed of your Internet connection, and if you download games to your computer, you need to know if your computer can handle the game.

Not only does digital distribution benefit the big companies, but also it has made selling indie games much easier! Before digital distribution, an indie game developer would have to negotiate a deal with a big-time publisher to sell their game in a physical format, which could possibly lead to the developer having to change some aspects of their game. Now, with services such as Steam and Xbox Live, indie game developers can sell their game, with little-to-no cost to distribute it. It truly is an independent developer’s dream come true.

However, one thing that really upsets me with digital distribution is that you do not technically own your games. With a physical copy of your game, you own it. It’s yours, and it will almost always work as long as you keep the CD, DVD, whatever it is, clean and functional. When it comes to digital distribution, you don’t have any hard copy to keep. It is just virtual files on a hard drive.

If that does not concern you, let us think about something for a second. Just imagine that the services that offer digital distribution shut down. You would NOT be able to access the games that you spent money on. That would be roughly $60 per game purchased that would go down the drain. I say you cannot get it back because most services, like Steam, state in their terms of service that they do not provide any refunds, with almost no exceptions. That is what worries me the most.

I do like the idea of digital distribution. It’s a simple way of getting your games delivered to you. You do not have to worry about keeping a DVD in good shape or losing the case, etc. When you download the files to your computer, they are always there. It’s really simple, and it makes life simpler.

I think it has made things too easy though. There are people who purely buy games online via digital distribution. I think it’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. I would suggest you to limit your digital distribution purchases. It’s nice to buy a few games and download them to your game console or computer, but don’t rely on it as your only source of obtaining video games. It will backfire on you sooner or later.

Thank you for reading the Game Shop this time around. I hope you come back around for the next installment. Until then, stay classy.

Blog by Ron Compton