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A Boxless Industry - Digital Downloads

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the steam-for-everyone dept.

Businesses 37

Next Generation is running an article entitled Gaming's Digital Future, discussing the reality that digital downloads are likely to be commonplace in the industry in the near future. Today they've polled publishers for their opinions, with developer and distributor opinions later in the week. From the article: "While the digital distribution of music took that industry by surprise, and Hollywood is still figuring out the best way to utilize digital distribution for movies; the videogame industry has embraced digital distribution as a new revenue stream for videogames new and old, at least on the PC side of the games business."

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The end of the stores and the end of publishers (5, Insightful)

MBraynard (653724) | about 9 years ago | (#13659264)

Good riddance with both, I suppose, as games will be either less expensive or better produced without the middlemen of publishers and retailers both taking a cut.

What purposes will a retailer serve? From the article:

We believe that retail stores will continue to be a key distribution channel for games for the foreseeable future as consumers are still interested in the social experience of shopping to purchase their games.

I go to EB for the 'social experience'? Please. I don't think the other shoppers I run into there, much less the staff, are well known for their 'social skills.' It's not like you're ever going to meet a girl in there.

I'd much rather set steam to download in the morning and it's ready when I get home from work.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 9 years ago | (#13659320)

Good riddance with both, I suppose, as games will be either less expensive or better produced without the middlemen of publishers and retailers both taking a cut.

If you think programs would get significantly cheaper if they stopped selling them in boxes and made you download them instead, you're dreaming.

In corporate America, the savings made by cutting costs trickles down in this order: CEO's yacht -> upper management bonuses -> middle management bonuses -> wage increase for real workers -> reduced cost for consumers.

Yes, I'm cynical. I've seen enough of this crap in my life.

Your sig (1)

Fen14 (917322) | about 9 years ago | (#13661087)

Indicates you are not only cynical, but stupid as well. Steal can have different meanings. Try to lighten up, m'kay?

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

billcopc (196330) | about 9 years ago | (#13661809)

Mod this up. The money is always going in the same direction: into some rich folks pockets, because they're rich and they control the system.

Never does this profit trickle down to those who earned it. I'd keep on paying full price if they'd feed the coders and stuff their fridges with Coca-Cola and/or Jolt, and quit making everyone work 90-hour weeks to meet arbitrary deadlines.

Find me one industry that's not hopelessly corrupt, and I will work there for the rest of my life!

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (0, Troll)

garcia (6573) | about 9 years ago | (#13659326)

Good riddance with both, I suppose, as games will be either less expensive or better produced without the middlemen of publishers and retailers both taking a cut.

Less expensive than what? Than they are currently? LOL. If anything they will keep the prices the same and claim it's "ease" that you are gaining by this method. To them, it's ease of DRM and piracy containment that they are getting.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

Leiterfluid (876193) | about 9 years ago | (#13659369)

You're not guaranteed a GOOD social experience.

The mere fact that you're interacting with a live person even if it's ...

"Will that be all for you?"


"You want to pre-order anything?"


"Alright, your total is $56.27" ... is considered a social act.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | about 9 years ago | (#13659810)

We're nerds. Besides snorting while we snicker at Star Trek jokes and posting on news websites for nerds, that's pretty much the only social interaction we do.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

soniCron88 (870042) | about 9 years ago | (#13660530)

Unfortunately, the retailers will simply move from their physical locations to on-line presences. In fact, the world of digital downloads that currently exists already has several major "retailers." RealArcade, Yahoo! Games, Big Fish Games, and many others are all vying to be the top dog. They each distribute similar content to their respective customer-base, taking a cut every step of the way.

Good riddance with both, I suppose, as games will be either less expensive or better produced without the middlemen of publishers and retailers both taking a cut.
Not necessarily true. Remember when cartridge-based titles cost around $50 a pop? Then came games on CD. The price was sure to drop -- games cost almost nothing to reproduce. We're still looking at $50 price tags. And to think they're considering upping the price to $60 for next-gen titles!

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

Fen14 (917322) | about 9 years ago | (#13661141)

>Remember when cartridge-based titles cost around $50 a pop?

No, but I remember when they cost $70 to $80 with a much lower development cost than modern day.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

djkidroo (775051) | about 9 years ago | (#13661224)

Steam is all well and good for those of you with traditional Cable or DSL connections who can "set it and forget it" when it comes to downloading large applications. Those of us doomed to wallow around the mire with Satellite connections realize that downloading larger files can be a nightmare. Steam patches take days for me to download if Steam can connect at all, and I pretty much have had to give up online gaming until I can relocate to civilized territory again. I don't see games vanishing from brick and mortar stores any more than CD's have "vanished". Though...I was very dissapointed with HL2's packaging...not even a case for the 5 discs...and I still couldn't play it for 3 days.

Re:The end of the stores and the end of publishers (1)

MBraynard (653724) | about 9 years ago | (#13661498)

I'm afraid you are going to have to reconcile the fact that you are of such a small interest to the market, you are going to have to adapt or MOVE lest stop complaining as though someone has not deigned you personally unworthy of spending a few million dollars to the last mile wire to your house so you can pay $30 a month for a faster connection.

a day late... (2, Insightful)

vettemph (540399) | about 9 years ago | (#13659292)

Sure, act like we haven't been downloading games since the 80's. Sharing games via Pirate BBS pre-dates music sharing on the internet by a long shot.

Phantom (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | about 9 years ago | (#13659319)

See, the Phantom was right all along. They've just been biding their time. Sony and MS are going to be sad in the end. Nintendo kinda got it with the ability to download all their old games. But alas, the phantom will pwn the competition in this next round. /sarcasm

Ah, sarcasm, I can't get enough of it. ;) (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | about 9 years ago | (#13662412)

I understand this is sarcasm, but I just have to point out that Microsoft already has a download system for the current XBox and both MS and Sony have included plans for downloading software (with full DRM) directly into their upcoming consoles.

Rest of the article quote (2, Funny)

yotto (590067) | about 9 years ago | (#13659327)

"I mean, really," said a publisher who refused to give his name, through teeth barred in a smile around a cigar, "We cut out packaging, artwork, manuals, distribution, and tack on $5 as a convenience charge. Heh. Heh heh. Convenience charge. I thought that one up myself. Oh, I love this business."

Re:Rest of the article quote (1)

GaryPatterson (852699) | about 9 years ago | (#13662309)

If I had mod points, I'd mod that post as Insightful. I think it's pretty close to reality.

Digital downloads? (2, Funny)

ecumenical_40oz (914889) | about 9 years ago | (#13659341)

Digital as opposed to what? Those wax cylinders that they squeeze into telephone lines?

Smarter than RIAA? (1)

AndreiK (908718) | about 9 years ago | (#13659360)

Not hard.

I believe that if the price is reasonable, the downloads easy to make (Stored CC number or something), and available to children as well as adults (Quotas), it will succeed far better than the DRM attempts we have today.

I prefer boxes (3, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 9 years ago | (#13659412)

I prefer having something tangible when I buy software; a nice box, manual, and disk. I don't care what any shrinkwrap license says: I own this software when I buy it, and the physical nature of it is what makes it my property.

Re:I prefer boxes (1)

Kazzahdrane (882423) | about 9 years ago | (#13659717)

While I understand your opinion (it's nice to at least have something to read while the game installs), I assume you're not someone who buys a lot of games. I mean ~20 a year. My flatmate got close to that last year and the number of game boxes in his room, even those "space-saving" DVD cases, is crazy. I am personally running out of space on my shelves for game boxes and once I buy the game I shelve the box and never think about it again. I bought HL2 through Steam and haven't had a single problem with it, though I know many have unfortunately. Once the industry adopts some sort of standard practice with online distribution I think people will have a lot less problem with the idea. And I can use my shelves for things like books again :D

Re:I prefer boxes (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 9 years ago | (#13659953)

While I understand your opinion (it's nice to at least have something to read while the game installs), I assume you're not someone who buys a lot of games. I mean ~20 a year.

You can always fold your game boxes flat if you really need to save space. Most game boxes can be folded & unfolded without damaging them.

Re:I prefer boxes (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13661156)

Buy the games when they hit the bargain bin and come in a jewel case. Much smaller than a DVD case.

Re:I prefer boxes (1)

faloi (738831) | about 9 years ago | (#13660050)

Manuals... I remember those. They were great, back before PDF manuals on the CD/DVD became the norm. I agree with you though, I like having the actual CD at least. I normally throw the box away, and stuff the manual back into the front of the CD case (at least until I put 'em all in a binder).

me, too (1)

RaggieRags (897395) | about 9 years ago | (#13660346)

As a game collector, I always prefer having my games in boxes. And yes, having something tangible makes you feel more like you paid for something, not just blew money. And besides, Id take a backup of the game and print the manual anyway, and they just wouldnt look as neat as the"official" ones.

I don't need more boxes (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | about 9 years ago | (#13662510)

I use to feel the same way but, after years of paying for power, phone, internet, and cable every month, I'm use to buying non-tangible items.

They would have to cost a lot less than the boxed versions however. I might buy one or two songs on iTunes but, if I want an entire album I'll buy the CD unless I can save a lot of money. With new CDs selling at $14, you'd have to be able to buy all the music for $5 online to make it worth it.

If it is anything like Valve's Steam, I'll pass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13659416)

Last week they put out a patch that rendered CS:Source completely unusable. Their solution? Uninstall Steam and redownload everything.

What a load of crap.

Old Games (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13659451)

What will really be nice is if they give us access to older games for cheap. Sure, Home of the Underdogs has lots of games, but it would be good if the companies gave us an inexpensive and legal way to get the games of yore.

Re:Old Games (1)

KillShill (877105) | about 9 years ago | (#13663978)

yeah, like relinquishing them back into the public domain some time this millennium.

then we could sell and trade games/software/etc for just the price of duplication/media/effort/time.

public domain, hehe, what a quaint notion.

C'mon (2, Funny)

Rethcir (680121) | about 9 years ago | (#13659679)

I can't believe there's already about 15 comments and nobody's made the remarkably easy joke yet about how the tech/games industry is definitely "box"-less.

Re:C'mon (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | about 9 years ago | (#13659964)

I can't believe there's already about 15 comments and nobody's made the remarkably easy joke yet about how the tech/games industry is definitely "box"-less.

I think you mispelled Lame.

Another boxless industry... (1)

absolut_kurant (152888) | about 9 years ago | (#13660068)

gay pr0n

Beyond HL2 (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | about 9 years ago | (#13660313)

I got HL2 via the online purchase and unlike many people, I was able to play it the day it was 'released'. It also stands as the only game that I've purchased in that format. The simple reason being, there is no incentive for me to purchase a download.

I'll bite as soon as they can offer me a significantly cheaper product. Until then, I see no benefit to losing the physical media.

That has allways been my point (but no click..) (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | about 9 years ago | (#13686085)

I have allways been frustrated by the fact that if I choose not to get the box, manual, pretty poster, or whatever other crap they throw in there. I should get a discount.

That's how it works for all other software titles

XP has an oem version, no stuff, just liscense.
for a fair
chunk of change cheaper (say that 3 times fast...)

Thats what I really want! Save money , save time, save the planet by not killing trees... etc!


Excellent (1)

Castar (67188) | about 9 years ago | (#13660345)

As someone who works in the game industry, I think this is great. If digital distribution can become legitimized, it will allow independents and other small developers to make unique and fun games.

Currently the games market works like the pre-online book market - you need to be famous or spend a lot on shelf space in retail in order to make money. You also have to appeal to the widest possible audience of people who walk in from the mall. This leads to creative stagnation in the industry, and games that might be niche hits not getting made or not selling well.

Digital distribution allows games to benefit from the Long Tail market. There's probably enough fans of hardcore hex-based wargames or 4X games out there to make a profit on those types of games, but there aren't enough of them visiting EB. If you put that type of game on the internet, though, you can succeed (especially since you don't have to pay for shelf space, CD/DVD duplication, or distribution).

My only worry is that the middlemen will sneak in and publishing online will be just like publishing offline, except your publisher saves money. (Sort of what the music industry is like...) But the game industry is still very flexible at this point, so I have some hope.

The biggest coup for digital distrubution would be if one of the console makers opened their licensing for cheap digital distribution. It would be really difficult with the current business models, but the Xbox Live marketplace and the Revolution download service seem like they might be possible steps in that direction.

Re:Excellent (1)

KillShill (877105) | about 9 years ago | (#13664009)

the whole point of online distribution is to cut out the middlemen. and unless they do something stupid like control all online activities in the name of national security, you and everyone else will be able to publish anything at any time with very little money.

but the real reason is always going to be DRM and Insidious Computing. they don't want you to have more control over a piece of copyrighted item than is absolutely neccessary. and that's why with things like STEAM, the smart people already are on to them about what kind of a future we'll have when everything needs to connect to the net (E.T. was a BSA agent) in order to "authenticate"... never mind that you paid for it already, they want to do a lot more than just control. as we've already seen with STEAM, they track everything you do, when you do it, how many times you do it and they have a record of your ID, address, etc.

no thanks.

i'll take my discs instead of DRM-HELL. (not that discs aren't DRM-crippled already).

stupid kids and their love of shiny things. they're paving our way to Digital Hell.

for every post i make, 2000 people post why DRM is good and some of the slightly smarter people even claim it's a necessary evil (never mind that it only bothers the paying customers).

whatever. i guess i'll just find myself a nice dystopian future and bask in the glow of artificial light.

Buying software online (2, Interesting)

Phantasmo (586700) | about 9 years ago | (#13660695)

First of all, I don't think that music downloads took the music industry by surprise. I think they did a good job of acting surprised. It's very important to them that we think of ourselves and each other as thieves who will only feed the starving artists when we're forced to.

Okay, rant over.

As for downloading software, I've seen both ends of the spectrum. Steam, IMO, sucks hard. Downloads and patches take forever, and the decryption takes even longer.

Guild Wars, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. Buy your access key online, download the 90k client (which can be downloaded anywhere in case you want to show the game off to a friend or play during a long break at school) and you're playing within 10 minutes. Yes, it downloads the bare minimum to get you logged in and playing, then pulls down the rest of the content while you play.

I doubt very highly that I'll ever buy another Valve game, but I will be ordering Chapter 2 of Guild Wars as soon as it becomes available. The Guild Wars model (no annoying DRM, up and running in 10 minutes) should be blatantly ripped-off by everyone in the industry. It's elegant, simple, convenient and shows respect for the customer.

Okay, a little more ranting:
the last game that I bought in store was Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. I brought it home to discover that the copy protection software isn't compatible with my drive, so I can't play it. Unfortunately I had to open the box to discover this, so I can't take it back, either. Ubisoft has ignored my e-mails so far (I even went so far as to send them postal mail, also ignored). I could have just downloaded a pre-cracked torrent for free but instead I got burned because I felt I should contribute to their company. So I'd much rather buy my software online if only to get around incredibly stupid copy protection schemes.

Re:Buying software online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13661153)

I would be for buying software online and downloading it, but only if there is no DRM crap and also it needs to be cheaper (meaning instead of $49.99 for new games, $39.99 or less).

Also, what you could do with your game is return it to the store for an even exchange... get the new game ... don't open it, and return that somewhere else for store credit.
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