BIGsheep - In their recent past, Sony have dabbled with selling full retail releases for download in parallel to the more traditional brick and mortar stores. In an imminent dashboard update Microsoft will bring similar opportunities to the Xbox 360 through Games on Demand where on day one over twenty full titles will be available for download from the comfort of your living room. Obviously this is not unique as the Steam, Direct2Drive, Metaboli, et al have been supplying PC gamers for many years now. Even Xbox Live Arcade’s quality and size of downloads have been creeping slowly skywards since its inception, but this does show the first significant step towards full digital downloads for console owners.
The question I pose to you is are you excited by this and will it change the way you buy console games?
Manuel - In a word, yes. Although there is something to be said about owning those green boxes – and I still expect to buy boxed products for the next few years, at least – downloadable titles like these are an excellent opportunity to catch up on titles that I may have otherwise missed. Case in point: Mass Effect. I wasn’t that fussed about it when it came out, but I have been yearning to delve back into it after completing Fallout 3. 10pm last night, if there had been an option for me to purchase it for a reasonable amount of money in digital form, I absolutely would have done so there and then. I can see many more games fitting into that sort of impulse purchase category. Burnout Paradise would be my next suggestion, the only thing that’s stopped me clicking on the purchase button on PSN before now has been my sparse friends list compared to 360.
BIGsheep - I can relate, as there have been numerous times where I have just browsed XBLA or PSN just hoping for something to pique my interest late at night. Given the choice, however, there is a certain magic about buying games from high street shops that downloading a blob data could never replace, no matter how sizeable. I still think fondly back to the memories I have of yesteryears when I would scrabble together my pocket money, jump on a bus and head into town to buy the latest and greatest game. Part of the magic was the transaction itself; you’re never flushed with cash at that age and so you had to be damn sure about each game you’d buy. The best part was always the bus ride home where I’d crack open the game and pour over every inch of the manual, trying to squeeze every gram of information from it so that as soon as I got home I could whisk the cartridge into its dock and be on my way.
Manuel - I can still remember Boxing Day ’98 for that very reason. Picking up Broken Sword for the PS1 and just slathering over the contents until I’d reached fever pitch on the bus ride home. The anticipation was better than the game itself. More recently, the Persona 3 US special edition was another that I spent a long trip home examining and reading over and over, although in that case the game was even better than the anticipation.
Pogo - I agree that there is nothing like having a physical copy of a game in your hands. Unfortunately for me, I’m a sucker for the pre-owned market. I do end up trading in a lot of titles against newer releases to help take the edge off some of the pricing. The retail gaming sector relies so so heavily on the pre-owned market also, so they’ll be doing everything in their power to discourage the shift towards digital content.
Manuel - I think things have skewed a little in the opposite direction recently, however. I’m all for special editions and extra content, but some of the boxed sets have been an absolute joke; if anything they almost cheapen the experience of the game itself. Things like the Bioshock figurine and the Fallout 3 lunchbox were real bonuses for me, what do you guys make of all that stuff?
Pogo - I think the special editions have become both a blessing and a curse. Like you’ve said, on some titles, it truly is a special little extra to the game. Be it a Master Chief helmet, the Fallout lunchbox, or the Bioshock bobblehead. But some titles are starting to take it a little far. The latest example being Modern Warfare 2’s night vision goggles pack which costs about three times that of the game. I know Activision are ones never to miss out on making some extra money, but I feel its just taking the michael a little now. Oh, and DJ Hero Pricing? Thanks Activision!
BIGsheep - Done smartly they can genuinely give the product the added value required to class as a special edition. Fallout 3 is a great case in point as both the lunchbox and the bobblehead were not only well designed items that gamers wanted but I felt they also kept in the spirit of the Fallout world. Sadly, more often than not, it seems that publishers come up with the price point and then shove any amount of tat in to justify the cost. A tin case for countless games, a table with DJ Hero and those night vision are just ridiculous examples that makes me open the digital download era with open arms.
One of the major limitations that I can currently envisage is the limited storage on most of the current generation of consoles. No matter how easy it may be to swap or upgrade a harddrive, a large majority of users only have a comparatively small storage capacity that could be taken up in only a handful of downloads. Sensible and just licensing may allow a user to re-download any games they need to remove to make way for new ones, but it’s hardly a long term solution attempting to juggle downloads of several gig should you wish to revisit an older game.
Manuel -I think if they are serious about pushing these – and we’ll see if they are or not – they have to offer some incentive for getting people upgraded to larger drives. The current 120GB is just too expensive as a stand-alone unit, people aren’t going to bother. With the rumours of all the current PS3 flavours being phased out completely for a 160GB unit shortly, it seems like Sony is certainly on the right track. The competition should be excellent.