Digital Distribution Defacto – Sooner rather than later?

We all know Digital Distribution is the way of the future. The question is, and remains, just how far in the future will it be before we move away from retail and purchase the majority of our content from the digital realm?

Most of us realise the notion of widespread adoption is, at the very least, a console generation off. It would be a very bold prediction to make that any next, next gen system would discard the optical drive in favour of larger internal storage space and a download only approach to getting content onto the console. Limiting your install base to users with a fast, uncapped internet connection is something you’ll want to think long and hard about before even considering – games require far more space this generation than they did in the last, and this continuing trend of jamming as much content onto the media as possible could certainly hold back the interest in digital distribution. Although personally, I’d argue that in a DD world, the download size of a game would be a competitive factor – the same as graphic quality and game length are today.

A strong argument against the widespread adoption of digital distribution is that gamers enjoy the experience of making a retail purchase. For many, going to the store, looking at the games and being in that environment is an enjoyable experience. But if the booming casual market continues to grow, video game boutiques may become a less appealing place for hardcore gamers.

In a recent interview with Gamasutra, Tony Bartel, executive vice president of merchandise and marketing for GameStop (EB Games to us Aussies) revealed some interesting statistics about their customer base…

But what was most impressive is that nearly 50% of the women who came in and bought Wii Fit hadn’t been to a GameStop before. That’s what we like. We love to see those games that are drawing people in.

Okay, I don’t really want to be surrounded by mums when I go to pick up my next ultraviolent kill simulator – and what happens when GameStop realise they can appeal to more non-gamers by updating their image and stores to accommodate for them? Its certainly a possibility the growing casual market may force gamers out of the retail space.

In the end it all comes down to money, and depending on how the casual market plays out, our gaming future could be dramatically different. GameStop and other retailers need to realise that pushing core gamers away from their stores is inevitably pushing them toward digital download. At the same time, limiting the accessibility of their stores to non-gamers will see the casual market making their purchases from places like JB HI-FI or even Myers – more conventional stores that they obviously feel comfortable visiting.

Of course we aren’t in this position yet – digital download isn’t ready to offer a viable alternative to retail stores like GameStop, but that shouldn’t stop us (and GameStop) from thinking about what the future may hold.


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Playing on Playstation 3

Red Dead Revolver - I paid about $1000 for my launch model PS3, so I guess it's time I get some use out of that emotion chip crammed inside. I remember Red Dead Revolver looking rather good when it was released, and despite the low resolution and odd blurring (that I attribute to playing on a HD set) the game holds up well. It looks good despite these graphical limitations because the art direction is so precise and awesome. And it isn't just the art direction, the music, dialogue and set design (for some reason, set seems a more fitting word than level) all work in tandem to recreate an iconic Wild West atmosphere. Red Dead Revolver doesn’t aim to recreate life in the Wild West, it allows our imagination to take over and populates the locale with legendary men and their legendary stories.

Playing on iPhone

edge - Well I never thought I'd consider playing a game on iPhone as actually gaming, but edge has turned me around. The game is built for the iPhone. Sure, it could be ported, but the elegance of what has been created is astounding, it boggles the mind and makes me wonder what amazing gems we'd receive if current gen consoles weren't clones of eachother.

Playing on PC

Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Generals - Zero Hour - It may be a temporary effect as I slowly reintroduce the PC into my gaming diet, but it seems every title I’m excited to play on the platform is either a strategy game, or a cheap indie game. PC gaming isn’t dead, it’s just restricted to titles that require complex input or a pointing device, and games that couldn't be developed or distributed on other platforms. I guess that’s part of the reason the AppStore is so far a success, there were a lot of indie devs stuck on PC for lack of a better alternative.


September 2008
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