Written by Phil Bruton Saturday, 06 August 2011 05:00
In recent years, Direct Download gaming has become a staple for PC Gamers everywhere. Has this sudden shift in distribution hurt the industry? Is this good for everybody? Let's look at the details.
Digital distribution retailers such as Steam and Direct2Drive aren't anything new in the industry. They've been around for years, but recently there is an upswing in gamers using their services. This is partially due to ease of use. Being able to pre-load a game that you have pre-ordered from one of these services ensures that you're able to fire it up day one and get in on the action. The convienence factor of not leaving your chair cannot be overlooked.
Brick and mortar retailers have to be feeling this squeeze from digital retailers. In the last few years, Best Buy (as an example), went from having three complete shelf units of PC Games to only having one side filled. Is digital distribution to blame? I think so.
Selling games digitally allows the online retailers flexibility to discount much more than you could in a "big box" retail store. The cost of distribution is next to nothing when it's done digitally and this allows online stores to give deep discounts from time to time. I can't tell you how many games in my Steam library are there because I impulsively bought them during a sale (Ok, it's almost all of them). This is a fantastic way for developers to sell their games, even after they peak. Would I have paid $80 for Oblivion with all the expansions? No way. $7.50 during a Steam sale? SOLD!
I personally enjoy both mediums, having the boxes and manuals for my games gives me the "old school" feeling of tearing into the box so I can install the new hotness. But, downloading something is very simple and satisfying for the "get it now" generation that we are in. Another of my personal tastes is to purchase collector editions of games, having the extra physical "goodies" is always fun to get and it's nice to feel like I received something tangible with my purchase.
Overall, I feel that digital distribution is good for the industry, as it creates a never ending stream of revenue for the game companies. The ease of use for consumers also cannot be ignored. I do worry about the potential downfall of lost revenue for brick and mortar retailers, but they always have console games. For now.