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How Much Longer Will Physical Game Distribution Survive?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the shortly-after-blizzard-conquers-the-earth dept.

Games 478

GamesIndustry is running an interview with Theodore Bergquist, CEO of GamersGate, in which he forecasts the death of physical game distribution in favor of digital methods, perhaps in only a few years. He says, "Look at the music industry, look at 2006 when iTunes went from not being in the top six of sellers — in the same year in December it was top three, and the following year number one. I think digital distribution is absolutely the biggest threat [traditional retailers] can ever have." Rock, Paper, Shotgun spoke with Capcom's Christian Svensson, who insists that developing digital distribution is one of their top priorities, saying Capcom will already "probably do as much digital selling as retail in the current climate." How many of the games you acquire come on physical media these days? At what point will the ease of immediate downloads outweigh a manual and a box to stick on your shelf (if it doesn't already)?

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Rarely buy boxed games. (2, Interesting)

Tukz (664339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075327)

I haven't bought a boxed game for a very long time.
Last time I did, was C&C First Decade Special Edition, because I wanted it.

The only reason I buy box boxed games for PC, is because I want it for show.

Else I mostly buy my PC games from Steam.

It's all a question of media (5, Insightful)

gravos (912628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075645)

If BluRay becomes cheap enough, then of course games from all platforms will be distributed that way. Who even on 3Mbit broadband wants to download 20GB games? Not me, that's for sure. It's all a question of media and the size of the game vs the size of people's broadband pipes.

And likewise it will be with the next media format, and the next, and the next. You can't compare MP3s and games because songs have a fixed size. Games do not.

Re:It's all a question of media (2, Interesting)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075855)

But games will make a bigger profit with an iPhone app store type platform, so all the programmers will go with that. One click purchasing will make them a lot of money.

The content you could put on a 20GB disk would be truly awesome, but what is in it for the game companies?

Yeah, Pirate Bay doesn't do boxed media !! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075865)

Boxed media is dead !! Pirate Bay confirms it !!

Eve onlin (4, Informative)

trip11 (160832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075329)

Check out the sales of Eve online on march 10th. They are putting it out in a box set for the first time (well practically the first time). Before now it's been download only. If the number of people playing shoot up, that's a good indicator. Likewise if the box set falls flat.

Online sales (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075559)

Check out the sales of Eve online on march 10th. They are putting it out in a box set for the first time (well practically the first time). Before now it's been download only. If the number of people playing shoot up, that's a good indicator. Likewise if the box set falls flat.

Whether or not online sales are good or not depends on the sales system adopted by the vendor. Personally I am very much in favour of credit card enabled instant gratification when it comes to Music/Movies/Software purchases but some online sellers can be pretty idiotic about selling their products. The model adopted by Apple with iTunes for example is pretty nice, unless you live in a country that doesn't have a national iTunes division. Where I live (a small European country) Apple happily sells iPod touch players but they don't have a national iTunes store so I have to drive to a neighbouring country every once in a while (which I do regularly anyway) and buy iTunes gift certificates. And it's not as if I need those just to buy music on iTunes but even to do simple stuff like the time I decided that I wanted to upgrade my iPod Touch to software version 2.0. The same goes for Adobe they price their products differently depending on where the customer lives. I tried to buy one of their products by download once only to find that it was less expensive to buy if you are in the US, for me it was actually somewhat more expensive than for US residents since I am living in Europe.... Why??? Does it cost 20%-30% more when a EU resident downloads an Adobe product form their store than if a US resident does the same? I don't think so. I bought a $50 license for Omnigraffle and paid the same price the Yanks do since The Omni Group doesn't discriminate. To add insult to injury I also don't live in a country listed in the drop down menu in Adobe's stupid online store so I couldn't buy the product by download anyway. Thankfully Amazon.co.uk doesn't seem to care where in Europe it sends the products it is selling so I could acquire the Adobe product product in question by the good old DVD over snail-mail route. This is cheaper than buying it from one of the local stores who tend to overprice this stuff even more obscenely than it already is by online sellers. I am definitely going to miss the DVD option.

Re:Online sales (2, Informative)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075827)

Because in europe/uk you guys have vat and all kinds of bullshit taxes that get added on. And that my friend jacks the price up ridiculously.

Re:Eve onlin (2, Insightful)

Builder (103701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075593)

It's not a good indicator at all really. I would expect Eve sales to be largely saturated already, and growth across any medium to be low. Slow box sales on this do not really indicate anything particular about success of distribution channels this late in a game's life.

Re:Eve onlin (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075629)

I'd buy it as it's a solid backup of all of the content up until this point. My system gets hosed, no problem; I'll pop this disk in and update a couple of patches instead of a whole new game client.

Plus, I have a CD with the original EVE client from 2004 on my shelf at home. They did ship a paid for client, with the equivalent cost and of a time card, including the time. It saved me downloading 700Mb on my then blindingly fast 512k (50kb/s top) line from BlueYonder. At the time, that was 4 hours, if the connection held for that long.

Re:Eve onlin (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075837)

This, to me, reveals the beauty of Steam. Whenever I nuke my system from an image, I don't even worry about backing up my games, I just redownload them. Steam lets me reinstall games an infinite amount of times and for my most played games, Steam provides a backup utility to save them off to my server.

Collectibles... (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075339)

I'm so annoyed right now I only have the manuals and disks from my original King's Quest I and Space Quest I. It would be awesome to have the whole box intact.

Then again, I was in primary school at the time... Stupid kids. ;)

Think of the Trees/Dolphins etc... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075341)

Think of the environmental impact of retail bit-selling, compared to online distribution.
Consider the cost of retail.

They should've gone online only for stuff like movies, music and games years ago.

I always buy boxed games (4, Insightful)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075343)

In general, if I've paid for something, I want a tangible object.

I've this constant concern that *something* will go wrong in the digital process. I know it probably wont, and generally hasn't, but I'd still much rather be able to say "look - I _do_ own this, I've got the box and everything". That said, I don't have any paper records for, say, my banking. Priorities and all that.

Re:I always buy boxed games (5, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075395)

I also like physical objects, generally for music. Whilst I have downloaded a couple of games on Xbox and PS3 and I don't have the same fear of something going wrong, there is a huge downside.

I can't lend it to a friend.
I can't sell it on or even give it away when I'm done with it.

This sucks.
I don't mind the suckage on low-value items like Flower or Noby Noby Boy, or Xbox Live Arcade bits and pieces, but on full games?

No thanks.

Re:I always buy boxed games (1)

deroby (568773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075533)

I have it the other way around.

I've somehow lost (probably during a move) my Half-life (hl, of, bs...) cd's (and hence keys), . Same for my original C&C cd's and probably some other old games I haven't missed yet.

Luckily the first were registered on Steam so I could still download them onto my new computer. Some of the latter I replaced by buying 'The First Decade' box. Guess which one was least painful money-wise =)

It might be naive, but I somehow hope that when Steam goes down, they'll release a 'patch' that will allow all games to play 'off-line' and be copied from one computer to another using some kind of 'player key' that's associated with your steam-account.

Then again, why would steam go out of business ? I believe that if they do, we'll be facing more grave problems than not being able to install a game anymore.

But I do agree on the 'lending out' and 'reselling' comments left by some below.

Re:I always buy boxed games (2)

stiggle (649614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075749)

But who thought the banking system would collapse, or that Atari would be bought by the French, or that Commodore would have gone under after the Amiga. Just because Steam is going OK now doesn't mean they will stick around.

I like physical media - same as I dislike online activation. If I've bought it I want to play it and not be reliant on an external company to allow me to play something I've paid for.

Re:I always buy boxed games (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075869)

issues with downloads:

- when the DRM server goes down, you lose your stuff. The question is not whether it will, but when. We need some king of DRM escrow.

- because of the drm, we're beholden to not only 1 drm system, but 1 file format, 1 software, and sometimes even 1 hardware vendor, or 1 product line form a specific vendor. We need a DRM standard, shared amongst all vendors.

- we lose the right to resell or even loan our stuff.

Re:I always buy boxed games (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075815)

I find that carrying all those gold pieces around all the time is a bit of a pain, after a while. And it's hard to find an employer who'll actually pay you with these.

Doubt (1)

Psilax (1297141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075345)

I doubt it will go that fast, first of all not everybody has visa (or simular), which is often required for online buying thins online. And some people don't want to buy things online because they don't trust the visa-processors (see recent problems with visa-data). Others only buy things when they can physicly see them when shopping for other stuff. And what about people who don't want to have an internet connection on there gaming computer/console? This would be cutting there own sales-capabilities, even now when a lot of people buy songs via i-tunes (or simular) others want to have it on cd or vinyl just for show or nostalgy.

Re:Doubt (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075357)

Since Wii and PSN stores have game points cards, the shops will sell those instead of games, even have booths in-store for DSi, PSP downloaders!

Re:Doubt (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075459)

These people though are increasingly in the minority, and they are probably also in the minority that will be hardest hit by the economic slowdown - which is only going to hasten the inevitable. An increasing number of people find online delivery of digital media (music, games, software, etc.) so incredibly convenient that they don't even think of going to a high street store any more. For instance, although I have purchased (yes, purchased, not pirated) more music in the last two years than I did in the entire 10 years before that, I have only bought one physical CD (and that was mail order) - everything else has been through iTunes and eMusic. I have little desire to go to a physical store, and neither do many others - it means spending significantly more time getting to the store, having to drive/get the bus etc., and it's more expensive, and you can't sample the album first before buying.

Music stores, game stores - anything suited to online distribution - will almost certainly become extinct before too long - it's inevitable. Also, anything where people feel they don't need to touch and feel the goods first. Things like clothes stores will stay around for many years to come, same with stores selling appliances, because people want to look at the physical item. But anything where people don't particularly care about seeing the physical item first - it's only a matter of time before stores selling them in malls and high streets die out.

Re:Doubt (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075755)

These people [people who don't want an internet connection on their gaming console] though are increasingly in the minority, and they are probably also in the minority that will be hardest hit by the economic slowdown - which is only going to hasten the inevitable.

Oh I quite disagree. Very few of the people I know who have XBoxes or Wiis have them connected to the internet. And it's not because they're poor, nor even because they don't *have* the internet (most of them are in fact techies). It's simply that the games console is something that sits next to the tv for casual single player games and the only time it is played "multiplayer" ... is when they're playing Lego Star Wars with their children. Games-players have got older, and that means many of them have settled down, have families, and don't have time to waste hours playing online against "l33t" strangers. IIRC, only 1 of the 3 consoles comes with built-in WiFi, and it is the least popular. I can't see the 30-something dads I know being bothered to hook up a cord just to download a game they could pick up (on sale) in the supermarket next time they shop, let alone buying a WiFi add-on.

Physical is still the best bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075347)

A fully loaded BD-ROM holds 27GB. You're going to download that, are you? We don't have "MP3 for games" yet. They're already pretty compressed.

The problem is that while network bandwidth does not follow an exponential increase in bitrate over time, disc format capacity does. So this would suggest that the gap between online delivery and physical media is going to get larger, not smaller.

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (4, Informative)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075467)

The problem is that while network bandwidth does not follow an exponential increase in bitrate over time, disc format capacity does. So this would suggest that the gap between online delivery and physical media is going to get larger, not smaller.

Now that's not true. I've only been online about 10 years and i can actually notice the exponential increase, something like this:

1999 56k
2003 256kbit
2004 512kbit
2005 1MBit
2006 2MBit
2007 4Mbit
2008 10MBit

At least, that's been my experience in the UK. Here's another diagram [homepages.cwi.nl] going from 1982(log scale, so it's exponential)

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075773)

>>Now that's not true. I've only been online about 10 years and i can actually notice the exponential increase

Hmm, here is my history of internet speed:
1993-1995: 14400 b/s modem dialup
1995-1996: 10Mbps ethernet
1996-1997: 10Mbps ethernet (local connection only - we wired our apartment for ethernet, but had no internet access)
1997-2003: "10/1 Mbps" cable modem shared with community
2004-2007: 1.5/384 "elite" DSL line
2007-Present: 768/384 "basic" DSL line

So by extrapolating from current trends, I'll be sending emails by the postal service again in 10 years.

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (1)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075859)

Uh dude thats what *you* payed for not what was around. Ben is pointing out the increase in the market not what he's had over the years...

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (4, Informative)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075817)

Now do a list of game sizes. It will probably go something like this (install size):

1995 20MB
1999 400MB
2004 4000MB
2008 10000MB

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075757)

A fully loaded BD-ROM holds 27GB. You're going to download that, are you? We don't have "MP3 for games" yet. They're already pretty compressed.

The problem is that while network bandwidth does not follow an exponential increase in bitrate over time, disc format capacity does. So this would suggest that the gap between online delivery and physical media is going to get larger, not smaller.

Actually, a fully loaded pressed BD-ROM is around 50GB. And no, most of the time it's bloat with uncompressed sound in PCM, textures in BMP format or otherwise poorly compressed crap. As for disc capacity - in 1990 I had a 650MB CD-ROM reader. So there's been roughly a 70x increase in disc capacity (50GB/650MB) over the last 20 years. Now I got my first 2400 baud (=bit/s) modem in 1995 or so, and have 20Mbit now so that's 7000x+ improvement in 15 years. I don't know what you're smoking, 27GB? That's 3-4 hours these days.

Re:Physical is still the best bandwidth (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075761)

I dunno what it's like wherever you're living, but here in Germany, the Blu-Ray adoption rate is atrociously low. I'm studying electrical engineering, which means most of my "colleagues" are very tech savvy and always want the newest gadgets, but I don't think I know _anybody_ who's got a Blu-Ray drive (unless it came with a new PC or laptop), let alone a standalone Blu-Ray player...

Digital distribution is not to save $$$ (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075349)

On the contrary, its to MAKE more money by killing the used game market.

Re:Digital distribution is not to save $$$ (1)

Alarash (746254) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075403)

Yes, this is the real reason. And on top of that Digital Downloading are the same price than retail, but cost a fraction for the vendor. Gaming is no longer about selling cool stuff, nice manuals and cloth maps, it's only about making money. And to maximize that, you need to cut your costs.

Re:Digital distribution is not to save $$$ (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075465)

If you ever thought it wasn't about making money, you were deluding yourself.

Not long (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075355)

Boxed games aren't as cool as they use to be. I remember my original Sid Meyer's Pirates... There was a huge printed map and you actually needed to use it.

Manuals were on nice paper, and the disks needed space too. The glamour is gone now... The box is just for getting the game home. Cool materials are too expensive. I sure prefer to be able to download nowadays, but there will always be that special something that only physical media can give.

Re:Not long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075587)

Boxed games aren't as cool as they use to be. I remember my original Sid Meyer's Pirates... There was a huge printed map and you actually needed to use it.

I miss the good old games where you used real items to interact with the game world. Getting your position in Pirates by measuring the sun and looking up your position on the real map was really cool.

As far as I am concerned, they can go to a digital only distribution once DRM is removed. Until that happens I will continue to download mainstream games illegally and only purchase non mainstream games without DRM.
I have no problem paying for software/games but I do have a problem being told what I can do with my purchase.

We have the technology... (4, Interesting)

appleprophet (233330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075371)

You can see this already with PC gaming. Digital distributors like Steam have pretty much demolished the brick and mortar stores. My local GameStop barely has a PC game section anymore and it's not because the PC market is shrinking. In fact, it's growing.

Brick and mortar stores are dying and they know it -- for PC games anyway. It's like they are not even trying anymore. I am an independent video game developer, and I tried my best to let GameStop et al sell my company's game, but they do not even return calls. We have not even gotten an email back yet.

Meanwhile, our upcoming title is going to be sold in virtually every single online store -- some of them responded within a day of being contacted. Here's our list so far [wolfire.com] .

Brick and mortar stores are still clinging on for consoles releases. Retail stores pretty much are the only place to go when you want to buy the latest AAA titles (except Amazon, which is like digital distribution with very high latency).

Re:We have the technology... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075399)

...and they keep clinging to the consoles until the day MS, Sony and/or Nintendo decides it's time to cut out the middle man and release a network-only console with massive local storage (say, 1TB hard disk - not unfeasible even today, let alone in a few years) and a requirement for broadband. Every game delivered online, every penny going through the console manufacturer's coffers (massive megabucks). Might even leave out the optical drive completely to save costs.

It may not happen with the next generation (the one that we'll see probably around 2011), but it's coming.

On that day, GameStop is dead - and there will be much rejoicing. The only question is, how long GameStop can delay for the arrival of that date for the consoles. If they can lobby the next gen to be still mostly based on physical media, it automatically adds 5-6 years to the life of GameStop - and belive me, they'll be lobbying all the console manufacturers HARD.

For the PC, GameStop has already lost. Online distribution will take over and PC game boxes will go down in history, joining cassettes and floppies. Oh, they keep struggling for a while with preorder box goodies, special deals (game X *won't* be on Steam because of a backroom deal between GameStop and the publisher, that sort of things), but the war is already over in that front.

You've missed the point (4, Insightful)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075473)

"Digital distribution" and "on-line stores" are not synonymous.

I buy most of my games and movies from on-line stores, but I still get physical media for my cash. This is also true for AAA titles - my copy of MutantExploder7 will land on my doormat on the day of release.

It is the prevalence of low-overhead (and sales tax avoiding) on-line retailers that has been killing bricks-and-mortar establishments for the last 10 years.

Re:You've missed the point (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075705)

Not to mention that the physical media you get (DVDs, CDROMs, etc) is *still* digital.

The mass media and jox-sixpack 'consumer' seem to have this confusion that 'digital' means you downloaded it over teh Intrawebs.

Music and videos have been 'digital' ever since shiny discs replaced mylar magnetic film as the most common media. And I've never heard of a "computer game" being distributed in an analog form.

Of course there is also this mass delusion that the US Govt is mandating tv broadcasters to switch to HDTV. They are mandating "DTV" - digital transmission, but that is entirely separate from the resolution of the program - HD can be broadcast over analog, just as standard def can be broadcast over digital.

Re:You've missed the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075839)

You know it, and I know it, but Joe Sixpack lumps technology into two groups. One is "the old, familiar, low quality" and one is "the new, confusing, higher quality". They think "HDTV is new, DTV is new, they're both about better TV quality (sic), therefore DTV=HDTV". Similarly, "the Internet is new, this "digital" thing is new (sic), therefore "digital" refers to anything involving the Internet. Since the pre-internet way of doing things was with tapes and whatnot, it must mean that those things WEREN'T digital!".
 
The media probably aren't aware or aren't concerned with pressing any of these distinctions, either. Oh well, I guess it's up to us geeks/nerds/$DESCRIPTOR_OF_CHOICE to keep track of both what the words mean and what people think they mean - not like this is a new phenomenon.

Re:We have the technology... (1)

AdmiralWeirdbeard (832807) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075543)

we have the technology, but as long as people have money to spend on games that do not require an online connection to be enjoyed, people will still want a physical means of conveyance for said game. I'd also hardly call console releases something to be clung to. carrying a highly profitable product isnt exactly a last-ditch effort, its a reasonable business model.

Re:We have the technology... (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075575)

The other thing about PC games is the non-standard large packaging. XBox games all come in DVD sized green cases and PS3 games come in the transparent cases. PC games come in big bloated boxes and in different shapes and sizes. So, they are very hard to collect and display.

I know a lot of people buy physical games to collect them as well as to play them. I think XBL system will probably replace the game collection shelf but a lot of people I know buy more and more games to have more of the green boxes in their library.

Re:We have the technology... (1)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075631)

Well, as long as what I download is something that I can store, backup, move and install on any of my current or future computers, buying a download of a game is much preferred to buying a cd or dvd with a game.

Same as with music. If what I buy is a portable music-file that I can store and use on any of my computers or media-players, it is better than a CD.
Otherwise, not.

Re:We have the technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075671)

The problem with your argument is that the PC section in GameStops have ALWAYS been just a small shelf or two in the back of the store (at least in all the GameStops I've been to around the country in the past 10 years). So saying that they're now only taking up a shelf or two (when that's always been the case) isn't particularly indicative of anything.

As long as they keep the packaging shiny (5, Insightful)

DrJokepu (918326) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075375)

I mean, seriously, who doesn't like those shiny boxes with the manual, maps and stuff like that? And having the original packaging even many years later? We're talking about some serious bragging rights here.

Re:As long as they keep the packaging shiny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075419)

I'm not sure about you, but I like to actually PLAY the games I buy.
Shiny boxes and DTF manuals do not add to a game's gameplay.

Boxes for the collectors.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075379)

I buy good games as Collectors Editions in nice Boxes. A Game that I just want to play and have no other reason to get it I buy online. I think not the download business that will bring the boxed products down, but the direction of putting most of the games online and so tackle the piracy from that side will have th huge impact.

What about special editions? (1)

Jawdy (864553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075389)

For normal releases, or episodes etc, I prefer digital distribution...
But when there's a "life-changing" title that's just come out, I want the special all-singing-all-dancing metal box, bobble head edition on my shelf!
Would we see the end of these versions too? :-(

Re:What about special editions? (2, Interesting)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075407)

I would imagine not. These are the sort of small-batch, high markup items that it might be worthwhile to continue producing. I'm guessing at the volume that these things are produced, there's not as much overhead, and less guess work about how much to push into the retail channel. What you won't see is manufacturers trying to guess if they need to press 10000 disks or 15000. "Limited-edition, hand numbered, pre-order only" are like free money for the developer, whereas physical media, boxes, freight, and retailers getting their cut is just a drag on profits.

Do you really need to ask? (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075405)

At what point will the ease of immediate downloads outweigh a manual and a box to stick on your shelf (if it doesn't already)?

At the point where I can download a DRM-less installer or ISO and do whatever the hell I want with it.

Anything short of that, and I'll keep buying physical media.

Re:Do you really need to ask? (0, Flamebait)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075449)

You already can. It's called Steam. You can download it and the game and put it on as many computers as you wish.

Re:Do you really need to ask? (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075753)

It's called Steam.

Steam is not DRMless, so no I don't think it is.

Steam seems to do a lot of things well, but peoples willingness to not only ignore for argue the absense of its flaws always dissapoints me. Often physical copies can be bought from online stores for less than the game is available for download, their is a thriving market for 2nd hand physical copies that helps control pricing and you are in no way reliant on the future behaviour of a company to enjoy your product. Nothing is inherently wrong with downloadable game retail, the problem is that companies are using the change to remove a lot of things that are beneficial to buyers which they wouldn't tolerate in a physical copy.

Re:Do you really need to ask? (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075775)

Steam? DRM-less?

So when I've finished playing a game I can give it to a friend or sell it second hand? Right?

Didn't think so.

Re:Do you really need to ask? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075781)

Well, you could sell your Steam ID.

Re:Do you really need to ask? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075797)

You already can. It's called Steam. You can download it and the game and put it on as many computers as you wish.

Steam is great. Or well, was great until I moved and the cable company decided to not fix my line for a month and a half. Online games? Nope. Offline games? Nope. Steam is a system that kicks you when you're down. After that I've decided not to buy anything from Steam again and go back to the old ways of locating a working no-cd/no-activation crack before I buy a game. Fool me twice, shame on me and all that.

Never! (5, Insightful)

YuppieScum (1096) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075409)

Simply stated, if companies stop selling their games on physical media, then I shall stop buying their games.

I've been fucked over by DRM-laden downloads on the 360, thanks very much. Every time mine goes back for repair, none of my paid-for-DLC works on the new box I get back, and I have to get into an hour-long argument with tele-bozos to sort it out. I have no interest in extending that process to every game I own.

Re:Never! (1)

morghanphoenix (1070832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075821)

Exactly. If publishers hadn't proved time and time again that they can't be trusted to sell you a game that will function without having to fight with the DRM or a CSR to make it work I'd be more willing to buy digital downloads. As it is I have enough issues downloading cracked executables because some idiot company thinks that I've installed the game I spent $60 on too many times, or horror of horrors on both my laptop and desktop, if I paid for the bloody thing it's mine and I want something physical on my shelf or it seems like I'm asking for trouble when a company decides it's not going to bother with activations for a game they no longer support. I still play some games I bought twenty years ago, and I intend to still be playing the gamesI have today in twenty years, and if I don't have access to the physical media I don't know that I will be able to do that.

It could be now if they are willing. (2, Informative)

Carrot007 (37198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075411)

> At what point will the ease of immediate downloads outweigh a manual and a box to stick on your shelf (if it doesn't already)?

Well, since you ask.

1. When they are immediate. Some games are (and NEED to be) very large, this is hardly immidiate. If it's over an hour to wait I could easily go out and purchase the game quicker.

2. When they are not restrictive. I have very old games that I still lvoe to play. This means I need to be able in install my game on any machine I like when I like. This generally equated to DRM free. And DRM free includea activation of any kind. I want to play it when I want to, I may be without phone/internet etc. I want to install and go. Machines change, but drm may stop me from playing it in a "emulator" (computers may change so much that I need to emulate my old hardware to play the game, however I still want to be able to do it) or on some classic machnie I have cobbled together out of old bits people have given me (which is way better than the machine I played on back in the day as the expensive stuff then is still junk now!)

These may sound liek a lot of requests but they are not. 1 is outside of the game producers infulence (as it should be) but 2 certainly aint hard to do.

Re:It could be now if they are willing. (1)

DMalic (1118167) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075639)

Unless you live in an urban metropolis, there's a fairly large cost to have stores nearby your house stocking all the games you might want. Once the pressure from retailers to keep digital sale prices high disappears, we'll see much more cheaper games online. DRM is problematic, but Steam is at least *trying*.

Can't by games with plain cash, anymore then? (1)

Diovanti (619386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075421)

If everything goes digital, you'd no longer be able to purchase games with cash. Sucks to those people who don't have credit/debit cards or those who want to use cash transactions to protect their privacy.

Re:Can't by games with plain cash, anymore then? (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075647)

That's not true. You can buy PSN cards with cash that you then use to buy whatever game you want on the PSN. I'm pretty sure Nintendo and Microsoft have something similar.

Re:Can't by games with plain cash, anymore then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075819)

Oh, where do you buy these PSN cards?
Game Stores? They died?
DAMN YOU DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION! DAMN YOU!

Hell no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075425)

That's just what they'd love to happen, so they can screw us even more with DRM since we won't have a physical copy. Are you people all insane or what? How can you possibly think this is a good idea in reality?

Ultima 6!!!! (1)

biscuitlover (1306893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075431)

Bit of a tangent here, but can anyone else remember getting the Ultima 6 box with printed map/dish cloth of Britannia and AUTHENTIC 'Orb of the moons' meaningless novelty souvenir nestled among the eight 5.25" disks? Amazing stuff. You can't get that over digital distribution.

On a related subject, will you all please get off my lawn.

Re:Ultima 6!!!! (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075527)

Oh yeah, certainly. I still have those around! I have the cloth map and pentagram amulet from VIII as well, but unfortunately that game sucked.

Re:Ultima 6!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075703)

Meh, the jumping may have sucked but it was still a pretty good game.

So then... (2, Interesting)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075433)

making copies of games and putting it on torrents should be perfectly legal. Payment on activation anyone?

...and rightly so. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075437)

I mean, I already have this game. I finished it. I spent some 70 hours playing it and decided I love it. I just want to pay the developers for their good work. Why should I pay extra to the retailers, packagers and a whole bunch of others I don't care about the least bit?

I wouldn't even mind if they were just selling the licenses, without any downloads at all.

EA=Fail. Steam=Win (1)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075439)

I'm in two minds. Steam works brilliantly and in the half a decade I've been using it, it's worked faultlessly over many changes in computer. Can't say the same for EA Store though. I stupidly purchased BF 2142 through the Store. Worked OK for a while but after the last change of PC, I can no longer run the game I've downloaded. It comes up with some "this is associated with another account" bollocks when starting up the game.
With an 8Mbit ADSL connection and unlimited off peak usage, downloading a 3 or 4GB game is no longer an issue, especially if there's a local content backup option like Steam provides. Because I live in the middle of nowhere and my nearest PC game shop is a 50 mile round trip, most of the time, I could probably download the game quicker than going to buy it.

But what about the prices? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075617)

I love Steam too, but won't even consider getting most of my games from there because of the price.

In the UK, Dawn of War 2 was available on Steam on release day for £35, before VAT, which bumps it up to something around the £40 mark. In my local GAME and HMV it was selling for £29.99 including VAT. Rewards cards reduce the price on that too - I regularly get money off things at GAME. Ordered from play.com, the game cost £23 including VAT, and came through my door on release day.

I can understand retail stores need to add on something for stock distribution, staff, floor space, whatever - even play.com will be adding on something for warehouse space, shipping and others.

Can Steam really justify being so much more expensive than those? On top of this, the price of games on Steam doesn't fall anywhere near as quickly as it does in shops. Until it's at least the same price as shops, I'll still be buying physical copies.

Never had that strangely placed sentimentality... (1)

cybereal (621599) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075443)

I never had that strangely placed sentimentality for boxes and manuals with games. With complex technical gadgetry sure, or things with beautiful designs, etc. But with games? The manuals are 9/10 times total crap, black and white and minimally useful.

I am much happier when I can hit pause and pull up a manual, well organized by important topics like controls etc. without having to flip through pages of tiny text. Furthermore, that online manual's pages will never tear :)

I've been a big fan of digital distribute for quite a while. Yes, I have minor concerns about DRM. Yes it's nice to be able to sell things you own. However, I am of the opinion that so long as you go into it knowing what you're getting (basically an indefinite rental) then you can properly evaluate the worth. I think this is partly why I feel much lower prices are acceptable for DRM encumbered products.

Maybe it seems like $4.99 for an iPhone game that was just as good if not better than the $29.99 Nintendo DS equivalent is too little to sustain an industry. However, as soon as you think a little deeper you see that nobody can buy those games used, eliminating physical game sales largest competitor: its own afterlife.

So as long as these publishers put up their games at a lower price point to reflect these harsher realities, or, alternatively, remove restrictions (at least re-enable these basic tenants of ownership and use, one way or another) then I'll be happy with digital distribution.

That's ok if you're in the US... (0)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075455)

... and have access to 50Gb to 100Gb dowload speeeds. But there are some parts of the world (and bits of the UK) that are still on the "Slow" end of the Broadband party (and are lucky to get 2Mb download speed)! Imagine trying to download a DVD image of a game (roughly 8Gb) using a 2Mb connection! It would virtually take you a week of constant downloading with no breaks! The average UK user has a download limit of between 2Gb to 30Gb a month! If they are lucky they can get a game a month if not it's a game every 4 or 5 months!!

Re:That's ok if you're in the US... (1)

Calydor (739835) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075791)

You seem to be under the impression that the US has good download speeds. Have you not been reading about all the throttling going on, not to mention the semi-rural areas that can't even get ISDN connections, let alone DSL or cable?

Re:That's ok if you're in the US... (1)

KingJ (992358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075803)

I myself live in the UK, and am stuck on 2.5mbit (That's ADSL2+ speeds as well). However, I regularly download huge games off Steam - take GTAIV for example at 16 GB, it only took about a day or so to download.

If you have a 30GB limit, you need to start looking elsewhere. I have 60GB "peak" usage and truly unlimited Offpeak for £30 a month.

While I could go cable, I refuse to go with the only cable company due to their reliability and policies. While 2.5mbit is painfully slow compared to the rest of Europe, it doesn't prevent you from downloading huge games.

Going back to your original claim of having to max your 2mbit connection for a week to get 8GB, this is incorrect. At ~230kb/s (2mbit/s) it would take around 9 to 10 hours to download 8GB of data.

Re:That's ok if you're in the US... (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075851)

You have that one the wrong way round, the UK has better speeds on average than the US. Still worse than other places though. Hopefully the recent announcement by OFCOM/BT about the new fibre network will help improve this anyway.

Your 8GB game would take just under 9 hours to download at 2Mbit/s. Presumably, not all 8GB is required to start the game -- you could start playing after maybe 1GB has downloaded and the rest is retrieved in the background.

This post brought to you by a nothing-special 24Mbit/s home ADSL connection in the UK.

Give me the physical thing (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075463)

How many of the games you acquire come on physical media these days?

Just about all of them. The only game I've downloaded recently was World of Goo, and that was just the demo and I've not actually got round to installing yet.

At what point will the ease of immediate downloads outweigh a manual and a box to stick on your shelf (if it doesn't already)?

At the point at which I can do the same with the digital version as I can with the physical version - i.e. when I won't accidentally lose it when a hard disk dies or when I do a disk clean up, when I don't have to be online just to play it, when I can install it on other computers depending on which one I'm using at the time, and when it can't be taken away from me just by someone at the distributor losing their records or going bust*.

* Yes, I know DRM can cause some of those situations on physical media, but that's why I avoid the dial-home DRM.

Re:Give me the physical thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075743)

Steam, being the least horrible of the DRM-enabled digital download services, addresses many of your points:

1) You own the product, not the copy on your system, so you never lose it if your physical disk dies (you can just reinstall it from Steam). Indeed, this means, in some circumstances, that Steam is *better* than owning physical media - you just have to remember your steam login, and there's no risk of your losing individual installation media, or having them break.

2) Well, okay, Steam has an Offline mode, but you need to set to Offline while you're Online, if you see what I mean.

3) You can install Steam + products you own in Steam on multiple computers - but Steam won't let you use more than one computer at a time.

4) Yes, central records are a pain. We do have a promise from Valve (if you care to believe them) that they'd release an unlocker for Steam if they ever looked like going bust, but loss of records is an unavoidable risk (one has to assume that the guys managing the system know what they're doing).

The day (1)

Andtalath (1074376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075481)

When I can play them without having crud on my comp while using them.
The day when I can install them myself when my internet is down.

Not until then.

However, I hardly ever buy games.

Might be longer in some places (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075489)

All I know is that in South Africa, where the average internet connection is fast enough to download a whole game but ridiculously small caps (the average is between 1-3gb) restrict it, this kind of thing might take longer to catch on. The cost of bandwidth per MB is so high that it will outweigh the convenience of downloading for some time to come - and games are still relatively well distributed here in the retail space.

Once digital does what physical does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075509)

Give me an offline installer that I can run on any computer of mine to install the game, with no Internet connection required, no activation beyond possibly typing in a serial number I got when I bought the game (again, no Internet connection - no phoning home!), no limits on where or how I can install or use the game, no DRM etc., and we'll talk. I don't strictly need a physical CD-ROM and a printed handbook - I can burn the installer to a CD-ROM of my own, and a PDF handbook is OK as well -, but these are my terms. (Obviously, in the case of MMOs etc., some of the rules can be relaxed a little.)

In other words: I want to BUY games, not RENT them.

'course, the same thing applies to physical distribution as well. In reality, though, it seems that in most cases, neither digital nor physical distribution these days meets these requirements for most games, and consequently, I've bought hardly any games in ages. (And no, I have NOT downloaded them illegaly instead.) Games are nice, but not something I strictly *need*, so I'm fine with that. The games industry may need me (that is, customers in general), but I don't need the games industry.

Only size has kept games from online distribution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075529)

It's possible to use a fairly good analogy: Distribution of NON-game software.

How many people get their software on CD nowadays? If you want to buy a codec, do you order it on CD or just download it? If you want a registered version of WinZip, do you call them to ask for any stores nearby where they sell it? Obviously not, you download it online.

The only reason this works is because most software is relatively small and/or cheap (i.e. below the hundres of dollars range). That makes it perfect for distribution online.

As it happens though, physical storage capacity of a carryable medium has always outpaced what can be conveniently transmitted in a short space of time. Games have been pushing this capacity to the limit, because that's what people have demanded. Most other software has not. It has therefore continually been better to sell games on physical media.

What would change this is if download speeds becomes so fast that even a sizeable chunk of data can be transmitted in a short amount of time (and I'd argue that the tolerance for waiting is more absolute than relative), and/or, that games stop maxing out physical media capacity, and/or that online distribution becomes so ubiquitous that NOT scaling your game to this size will deprive you of an important sales channel.

Although the first one has happened to some extent, there's still some games that max capacity. I'd therefore argue that physical distribution will continue to have some legs to stand on, until a watershed point where games MUST be small enough to conveniently transmit online.

Physical media... (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075557)

How many of the games you acquire come on physical media these days?

All of them, except for "Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People" (which is from Telltale Games who always have an offer to get the retail box when it's released just for shipping costs), and "DROD RPG: Tendry's Tale", which doesn't have a physical box just yet (but it's predecessor "DROD: The City Beneath" also had the option to get the regular box when it came out with the price of the download deducted from the price of the box).

Here's another thing to consider (2, Insightful)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075565)

With a lot of ISP's instating monthly bandwidth caps physical distribution could make a comeback

Re:Here's another thing to consider (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075735)

My thoughts exactly. My connection is with Virgin Media who throttle connections to 75% of their bandwidth after only 2.5 GB during off-peak hours. It's just over 1GB during the evening ( on-peak ).

Digital distribution won't replace physical, it'll probably supplement it as it does now, because caps and throttling will mean it is always faster for me to drive to the next town 10 miles away to pick up a copy of XYZ from Game or whatever, than try to download it at 1MB/s for 20 minutes then get throttled. Unless its .kkrieger :)

As a rule.. (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075569)

For me, it comes down to the pricing.
I like to be able to pass on the games I've enjoyed playing (but don't like so much I want to keep on my library shelves for later replay) to friends that don't have the disposable cash to keep buying games, but would like to.
If I shell out £30+ for a game, I like the flexibility to do what the hell I want with it (in the strictures of legality). That includes passing it on, in the same way I do with books (which is how I keep my book shelves under control!).
When the titles drop to £5-10, then it hits more the psychological "disposable" point. In that bracket, I don't care so much about being able to pass it on quite so much (it's still rather irritating, but the tradeoff for some reason becomes 'acceptable'. That 'moral grey area'). At that point, I'm tempted by the digital, highly tied and encumbered titles (as long as they don't screw with my local PC drivers).
One of the recent things that really got my goat was the "Dawn of War 2" title that I grabbed as physical media, and STILL tied me into Steam (removing the ability to pass it on), and the continual nagging to get me to sign up to "Games for Windows Live", which I don't want to do, and won't to play a single player game (it nags EVERY TIME you load up and try to access your save game section, in single player mode!).
The reason that the digital music segment of the market works so well, is that it is low cost. With difficulty these days obtaining singles (that kind of died out in the 90s), you were forced to obtain albums (at circa £12-15, later falling to about the £8-12 mark). With the advent of digital downloads at about £0.80 per track, you had the option to buy just what you wanted, at a price that marked the product as 'disposable' per item (though it may clock up to a collection that definitely isn't disposable in its entirity).
The recent experiments on steam (cutting game price, and having sales increase by an order of magnitude or two) seem to bear this out.

The balance will stay with physical media... (1)

Salamander_Pete (1377479) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075589)

...as long as, for example I can buy 'Empire: Total War' for £16 less off of Amazon, delivered to my house in a shiny box, than I can get it downloaded off Steam. Same with music, movies etc. If it is cheaper (or roughly equivalent) to buy a physical object, people will do that. If it is significantly cheaper or easier to get an electronic copy, then people will do that. People like to pay less money for things, and they also like to have physical stuff. The relative magnitudes of those factors will determine whether physical or electronic copies are sold. I'm all for digital distribution of games etc, but currently it is too expensive. And I like having a shelf full of pretty boxes :)

Re:The balance will stay with physical media... (1)

arndawg (1468629) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075637)

. And I like having a shelf full of pretty boxes :)

My young padawan

Not very... (1)

wet-socks (635030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075595)

...if the big boys have their way.

The one killer bonus for them is that it nixes the second hand market at a stroke (and puts "rental" into their control). We've got three shelves of Xbox360 games here - most were bought second hand from Blockbuster/amazon/ebay at a fraction of the new price. Of course they will assume all current second-hand sales will instantly become full-price purchases, and be disappointed when they don't.

Also noticed that MS are starting to punt what could be considered "full" games via their online marketplace, at a comparable cost to shop prices for a new game. Testing the water...

Resale. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075603)

One thing that turns me off about digital distribution of full games is the inability to resell a game. If you bought a title you regret (which has happened to me more than once) it's nice to pawn it off on some poor sucker (albeit, at a significantly reduced priced). Digital distribution is fine for small arcade games and the like, but for a major release it doesn't really cut it for me.

Online games are a huge ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075619)

Only stands a chance once the online versions are, you know, CHEAPER than what you can get in the shops.

For example, I got Dawn of War 2 (brand new and shrinkwrapped) delivered to my door for the price of £22.99 from play.com. However, if I was to buy it from steam, it costs £34.99, over £10 more - which is by no means a minor sum.

So somehow I'm paying less but getting more. I'd honestly rather have box + manual anyway, but paying less for that... Well, frankly you'd have to be an idiot to order it online. Even with priority mail it wouldn't come to £34.99.

Keep in mind this is a game that you have to unlock on steam regardless of HOW you buy it. I can give a number of other examples of steam games I've bought 'boxed' versions of which are, inexplicably, cheaper than the online one (including Half-Life 2, delivered to my door on the day of release before you could even unlock it on steam!).

Oh I also don't know if there's still a hidden tax fee on top of steam games. For a long time as a british customer VAT wasn't declared openly on steam titles and by the time I got to the checkout I had to add another 17.5%. I wonder if that's still the case, DoW2 would be close to £40 with that extra tax on...

Online games are just too expensive, none of the cost savings are passed on to the consumer and giving complete market control to these companies is pretty far away from being in the consumer's interest...

The studio I work at. (1)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075621)

I don't see where I work will rush to digital distribution. That equals piracy, which is what makes the PC much less profitable to develop for.

At the moment Wii/PS2 are the most profitable platforms to develop for. Development costs are lower, and the markets are very large. With the PS3 and XB360 with internet connections, it's amazing piracy hasn't already turned next gen console development to the same as PC.

Music has concerts. Movies have cinema. What do games and TV have?

Forget fighting piracy, you can't, and if you try you cause the user to hate you and you fail anyway.

Money has to be made from advertising and/or charging so little and providing such a good service, customers can't be bothered to pirate (think allofmp3).

Our studio works on franchise games (safe money) and those will be some of the last games to stop being sold physically, because our games tend to be bought for other people as gifts on the back of the franchise (I'm under no illusion). Like DVDs in that respect. No body burns a downloaded rip as a gift.

Since Valve changed their prices in Europe... (3, Interesting)

eu_virtual (994133) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075651)

... I get all of them in physical media. (http://steamunpowered.eu/ for the details)

OK, I've bought a few from GOG, but they still do it right.

I think it's freaking ridiculous that I can go to an on-line shop and get a game delivered to my door, for half the price I can get it from Steam.

Digital media. It's much cheaper, but we get to keep the profits, pass none of the savings to the customer, and you pay more for the "convenience".

"Digital" (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075655)

Analog -> 8-tracks, LP's, cassette tapes, VHS tapes,

Digital -> CD's, DVD's, floppy discs, CD-ROMs, game 'cartidges' (aka [[E]P]ROMs).

"Digital" does not describe the distinction between buying music on a physical CD versus (for example), paying to make a copy over a network (for example, the Internet) of that same music via Apple's iTunes. *BOTH* are "DIGITAL".

One *big* difference is that the digital copy on a CD is in an open, standards compliant DRM-free (except for some Windows users) format, whereas the downloaded copy (may) be in a proprietary DRM format.

They need to sort out the pricing. (5, Insightful)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075685)

I bought Dawn of War II from the supermarket ; because it was a lot cheaper than getting it on Steam - even if it is natively a Steam game.

Why, in this day and age, are physical boxed copies retailing for less than the digital variant? In this particular case, there is literally no difference between the end results - both methods have the game, installed in my Steam folder, registered to my Steam account. Neither has any resale value. I even had to wait to download an update.

I would rather have downloaded it all, it would have used less materials, and perhaps given more money to the developer (in theory). But for less money, I got more value - I got a disk with a "preload" on it. So physical distribution isn't going away until the download costs less than a retail boxed copy, or until they stop offering boxed copies altogether, and the latter is probably the route that they will want to take - no competition, no discounting.

I can see it happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075711)

I bought a physical copy of the first Half-Life back when it was released. When Steam entered the picture, I registered Half-Life to it, making the CD-Key useless since at least the online portion of the game was now completely tied to the Steam account. Then I forgot my Steam password and was unable to recover it - for five years. So I couldn't do much with the boxed copy of the game I had, nor could I access the digital distribution system.

However, a couple of days ago I suddenly remembered my Steam password, and installed Steam to see if my account was still alive. Not only did I find Half-Life associated with the account, but also several commercial mods and two expansion packs, that I had never bought. All of these easily installable with just a click of a mouse, and no requirement for the original Half-Life CD - which I don't have with me right now anyway. Turns out that the commercial mods/expansions were awarded at some point for free to those who bought Half-Life before Steam existed. On top of that I noticed the (apparently long-running) NVIDIA [steampowered.com] / ATI [steampowered.com] campaigns on Steam, through which you get a couple of games for free if you have their graphics card. Luckily for me I tend to be most interested in the deathmatch parts of first person shooters anyway :)

So all in all, I must say I'm quite impressed with digital distribution (at least when it comes to Steam), as long as you don't lose your account credentials. Makes me wonder what happens if Steam ever goes permanently down though. I think I'll continue buying physical copies of games as long as they are offered, so I have something to fall back to if the digital distribution part completely fails.

No, it won't, stop repeating this crap! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27075765)

IT WON'T!
This guy lost all credibility.

This change won't happen for a god damn long time.
1) The internet CANNOT support that many people downloading games at once!
It is already buckled as it is right now.
You will give even more ammo to the people attacking net neutrality.

2) Connection, heh, yeah, get back to me on that one when most gamers even HAVE a connection.
No company is stupid enough to cut out a large amount of their consumers.
And then we get to the fact that it will take a while for the download.
I sure don't want to wait hours when i could have bought the game 3 separate times...
Also, i won't even mention the fact that there are bandwidth caps on quite a large amount of ISPs packages

3) Hard drive space, yes, we have that, enjoy being ripped off by MS as usual in that area, and i wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo did so too since they were refusing it now with Wii.

4) Most people like tangible things.

Apparently some idiots still don't realize just how hard it is to set-up and manage things like this.

Outright Digital Distribution will NOT happen in a few years
Anyone who says such nonsense are laughable, just like the idiots who think they can require regular people to keep logs of Wi-Fi for 2 years.

As long as smart people boycott Steam and Valve (1)

NextGaurd (844638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075779)

As long as smart people boycott Steam and Valve.

Steam wins, yay! (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075811)

Steam has been doing this correctly for years now. Your subscription is well handled, the DRM is very reasonable, and when you log in you get access to any of your purchased games for download or temporary deletion if your disk space is cramped, and you can play your games on another computer by simply logging in. They've been adding classic games like some of the Thief and X-com games, and it all works well, even if they're offline at the moment.

I'll buy a boxed game when it's on sale or let people buy me games so I can unwrap them under the Christmas tree, but buying them a Valve compatible game means not worrying about losing their media or secret decoder license numbers.

Price (1)

muffen (321442) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075823)

Pricing is an issue with Digital Downloads though, the supplier won't be left with an excessive stock of games they have to get rid of for a low price. The benefit of physical media is, for the consumer at least, the price dumping that sometimes happen.
Another example, especially in these times, are shops that are closing down and selling their stock for really low prices.

I wanted to buy GTA IV for the PC just a few days ago, and looked at steam, they charged 50 euros for it which is the RRP.
Shops are charging around 25 euros for it, and talking to some of the local shops they are saying they dumped the price because it didn't sell as well as they thought it would.

On the flip-side, after re-installing my PC I installed the steam client and started an installation on all the games I have bought from there, and left it running over-night. Next morning when I woke up and all the games were nicely installed, patched and completely up-to-date.

Just noticed that you cannot type the euro sign on the slashdot forums, but the $$$ works just fine???
Annoying!

Probably until download speeds reach 100Mb (1)

dannystaple (1492087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075871)

Which from what I understand, may be only a few months away. Sure, there will still be some on the shelves, traditional console or handheld games, but the PC games market will be very much download centric, and the consoles will rapidly move that way too. I say give it a year or two, and the shelves may have the stragglers, or boxed stubs with a single URL on a CD but the mainstream will be downloaded.

It's about Christmas and whiny children. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27075887)

50% of all the money the industry earns comes in the three months before Christmas. People like to see BOXES under the Christmas tree. Nobody wants to get a little slip of paper with a note reading, "Here is the URL of your Christmas present."

Many, many games are sold at Wal-Mart. Whiny children who are bored shopping with mom get a new game to keep them quiet. This is a fact.

The benefits of electronic distribution are unquestionable. But for now, there are other benefits to retail distribution. By controlling manufacture, the console-builders guarantee that they get their cut.

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