"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower"
- Steve Jobs
When gamers hear "digital distribution" we as a community have varying responses. Some feel that the ability to digitally collect games that they may have missed out on in the past to be a great gift from the past, while others may feel that the lack of a tangible item makes for a hollow experience. This weeks chalk talk assignment is about Digital Distribution and the impact that it has on the gaming community. I have my own opinions on digital dramas but was having difficulties articulating my idea. So I prompted several of my close gaming friends to gather their feedback.
Randy S. (Long-Time Friend and Gamer)
I agree with pretty much everything that was said here. At this point if you're not gearing your company toward some kind of digital release, then you're behind the times. If there's one thing that I've learned over the years its that you can never stop progress. You can direct it, but if you try to stand against it you risk losing everything. Not only that, but this is pretty much a win win situation for everyone involved. With lower manufacturing and shipping costs, more money can be spent on development and troubleshooting. It is sad to see a lot of retailers closing down, but if they were only making their money by distributing other peoples work then that's the fault of the company, not the direction of the gaming industry, and where those jobs are lost I think you will see an increase in customer service jobs for these larger production games.
Ben J. (Programmer, Character / Level Designer)
I have bought like 1 physical game a year for the last 3 or 4 years. Digital purchases aren't much slower when you compare broadband download vs traveling to a store. As above digital never runs out of stock, you get it the instant it's available, sometimes even preloading it on your machine. I've been playing games 8-10 hours ahead of friends who preordered physical copies, sometimes days if their local brick and mortar ran out and they forgot to preorder.
That and the physical experience is going downhill, especially for PC games. Best Buy/ Fry's has the top 20-40 PC Titles + shovelware and that's about it. Gamestop's selection and employee knowledge of PC titles ranges from small to laughably nonexistent. If you're not looking for the latest AAA shooter or epic time solitaire bundle there's not much there for you. Between Steam, Impulse, Origin and GOG almost anything I want to play is at my fingertips.
Buying a new computer? Forget juggling cases and CD keys. Downoload a few programs, que up a bunch of downloads before bed and you wake up to your entire game library painlessly restored.
David S. (Game Designer)
I've been doing digital distribution of most of my work since 1992. Hey, twenty years now! I have to say, I think it's totally awesome. Though 1992 and BBSes was a little too soon.
I also really like that digital distribution provides more and better opportunities for small indy developers. A hat I've worn as often as I've worn the "working at a big game company" hat.
"Monky" (Professional Cosplayer)
I feel digital distribution is great for the gaming industry. Although stores that sell games will take a big hit, I think overall it is for the better. I've purchased more games from XBL since I purchased my 360 than I have hard copies of games. It's not because the games are better or worse (although some will argue), but because it is convenient and I can try out a demo of the game before I purchase it most of the time. Whereas with hard copies of games, once you buy it, you're pretty much stuck. Sure you can sell it back to Gamestop for half the value, but then you just wasted $30 if the game was brand new, and a lot of games that come out now don't seem to have playable demos, which is really upsetting. Also, if an awesome game is coming out and you forget to pre-order it, it will cost you like $30 in gas and $75 in parking tickets to get it on release day whereas with digital copies, they don't run out. Furthermore, digital games are better for the environment because they don't use plastic cases or have printed instruction booklets. And if you want an older game from a previous generation, a lot of the classics are available to be played on newer consoles.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a BIG fan of having my games on a shelf where I can see and diaplay them with a fat instruction booklet with tidbits and artwork (but most instruction booklets are very disappointing these days...). I also love being able to lend out my games. And if I don't want the game anymore, I like to have the option to sell it. I love being able to talk to the employees at gaming stores to get their input and shoot the **** are things that digital distribution doesn't really lend itself to. But these are really trivial in the long run. I also believe that game stores that allow people to buy and sell games, as awesome as that is for customers, is horrible for gaming companies because they aren't making nearly as much money on that single title as they would have if everyone bought new copies which leads to lower quality games that are rushed out to consumers to try and make up for lost profits.
Darby B. (Expert Game Tester)
It would seem we are entering into a sort of digital renaissance, where in the consumer is now getting a direct voice with developers, publishers, and each other. With a mixture of Digital distribution eliminating potential manufacturing overhead; forums and direct PR contacts allowing for instant opinions to be expressed en mass (effect 3); and systems like kick starter allowing for direct backing of, what can potentially be AAA titles. However there is a great potential for this all to come crashing down upon our heads. From the Big developers wanting to charge as much for a digital download as a boxed game, to always online DRM and day 1 DLC content. The freedom the gaming, and indeed all communities (I recently supported the creation and digital distribution of a book), have gained are being seen as a threat by the various corporate entities. Suddenly the consumer is able to give their money directly to whomever they want, for whatever they want. Decreasing the need for their large stockpiles of Capital that is traditionally relied upon to create the product sought. This combined with the loss of Tax revenue for local and federal governments, creates dangerous sea of political pressure. (though people are of course supposed to be reporting the purchases on their yearly tax reports). Already we have seen several ham-fisted attempts at regulating this new found world wide freedom. So we as consumers need to ensure we let the corporations know what they can do to keep our business. So that they don't run, frightened, away from the progress that we as a worldwide internet community have made, in the freedom of Funding, creating, and distributing art.
Peter B. (Video Games Guide Aficionado)
When I look at a physical copy of a game,be it a cartridge or cd/dvd case, it stirs up similar emotions to looking at a treasured photo. I immediately recall the people and places I experienced alongside said game. This is something that will be lost with titles that exist solely in digital form. Without a tangible object in actual-space, we are left with icons or banners to "represent" a game and our experiences with it. Distribution methods won't effect gameplay (much), and I suppose that is the critical element that defines a game's legitimacy in a market or our memories, but I'd rather have a physical copy of Super Metroid (or any now-classic-game) that I can't logistically play, vs a digital copy that I can. Eventually, that digital version will lose its distribution license, or worse, fade into non-existence. To misquote the all-knowing Yoda: "Source code does not a memory recall".
If you have feelings or thoughts you wish to share on this topic please feel free to write up an editorial blog making sure to include some of the following points:
- Minimum 500 words
- An image to include as your cover shot for your blog
- No altered fonts or colors
I look forward to seeing all of your submissions!