I’m not really sure how I feel about the digital distribution of video games.

On one hand, I absolutely love the convienence of simply pressing a controller button or clicking my mouse and getting a new game. When I sit back and think about it, the idea of downloading full games that easily is utterly amazing. Imagine trying to explain that concept to someone 10 or 15 years ago – you would absolutely blow their mind.

But then there’s another part of me that hates the concept.

You can’t really have a collection of video games when they’re all stored on your harddrive. You sort of can, but it really isn’t the same. There’s a certain something that comes from owning an actual physical copy of a game.

Maybe it’s the smell of fresh new plastic, or maybe it’s cracking that manual for the first time and learning a little extra about the game. To me, there’s something about holding a brand new video game in your hands. The same concept can be applied to books and music. When you own an actual physical copy of a game it feels more like it actually belongs to you. When I’ve downloaded full games, I’ve never had that same feeling.

I guess I would also consider my self a collector (sort of anyways). I take pride in the games I own and always try to keep them in decent condition. I don’t keep them in dust free air tight containers but I definitely do my best to make sure they are in decent condition.

I also trade in most of my games once I’ve completed them – usually putting the money towards another game. With downloadable games, you can’t really do that. As a student on a tight budget, trading in games is a necessity for me. Without this option, I probably wouldn’t be able to play a lot of new releases.

This brings me to the whole used games argument. If you don’t know what I’m talking about take a look at this Kotaku story and try not to be terrified. This pay-to-play online pass system is quickly becoming standard in the video game industry. It sucks, but according t0 developers, tactics like this are neccesary to combat that lucrative used games industry. I always question if this is true, I highly doubt that they’re losing that much money. It’s especially hard to feel sorry for gaming giants like Ubisoft and EA when they complain about the perils of used games sales. Ubisoft, Sony, Warner Bros and EA are some of the major players in the video game industry that have begun this disturbing trend that I’m sure will continue.

Remember the Nintendo 3DS version of Resident Evil Mercenaries that only allowed one saved file? What the hell is the point in that. Most video game stores are still accepting trade-ins of it so it didn’t accomplish Capcom’s ultimate goal (although they’ve denied that’s why they allowed only one save). All it did was piss a bunch of gamers off and create a furor on the internet.

Personally I see downloadable games as an alternative to the current pay-to-play online pass system a lot of developers are implementing in their games. Lower the price of downloadable games slightly and gamers may opt to purchase the digital version of your game, ensuring they can’t trade it in or won’t be buying it used. Of course, this isn’t ideal, I’m not a big fan of digital distribution, but I think developers should be considering this strategy to combat the sale of used games.

EA’s Origin (I never thought I’d admit EA was doing something good for gaming) and Valve’s ridiculously successful Steam service are steps in the right direction. Even IGN’s PC game store and Direct2Drive could be included in this list. Although I find it rather strange that a trusted video game review site like IGN is now selling games. Doesn’t that seem like a conflict of interest? These services seem like viable alternatives to charging me an extra $10 to game online. Sure, the service takes a cut of the profits but isn’t that sort of what publishers have been arguing they deserve from used game stores for years? At least this way they’ll be receiving the majority of the profit.

I’m primarily an Xbox gamer and Microsoft has a decent line up of recent titles available through their Games On Demand service. The only problem is I have an old school 20 gb Harddrive that’s pretty much completely full of downloadable content. There’s no way I could fit a 6 or 7 gb copy of Dead Rising 2 on it, I’d need to buy a 250 gb and right now they’re way too expensive.

In the end, I’m not a fan of digital distribution; I like to physically hold a new/used video game in my own two hands. But, if I purchase a title used and have to pay an extra $10-20 to game online, I’d rather opt to purchase the game digitally. Developers need to see digital distribution for what it really is, a way for them to avoid the supposed perils of the used game market and get the cash they feel they deserve.

After saying all this I’m still really not a fan of digital distribution, I like my game’s on shiny silver-ish circular discs. How do you think the industry should combat the used game market and are you a fan of downloadable games? Let us know in the comments section.

  1. Woo says:

    One advantage of buying games online is that your girlfriends little sisters can’t use the discs as coasters ;)

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