by Adam R
So, the other day, I was browsing through the Xbox Live Marketplace just seeing if there was anything there I might be interested in dropping some bucks for, since I had some extra scratch and was feeling saucy, and while browsing through the Games on Demand section I stumbled across Bully: Scholarship Edition. I had played the original on PS2 and loved it, so in my mind the addition of a few extra features and missions just might be enough to warrant a second purchasing of a very entertaining game, if the price was right. Best of all I wouldn’t even have to leave my house to pick it up. I opened up the page, saw the price tag, thought better of it and picked up some Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC for half the price instead (I’m very gay for anything Spider-Man related).
A few days later I was cruising through my local GameStop to place some money down on my reserve for Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (again, Spider-Man related) and spotted a used copy of Bully: SE for a nice chunk of change cheaper than it was on Live. While I didn’t end up buying it, I got to thinking: our society is drifting to a place where everything and anything must be served to us instantly. TiVo, movies on demand, NetFlix Instant Stream, iTunes, Amazon Digital – all services that serve up the entertainment we want, when we want it. Now with Steam running full tilt and delivering the brand new Triple-A titles up front, how long until the not-to-be-outdone ‘Big Three’ of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo start up a service to give us instant access to the newest titles from the comfort of our own homes?
While the service would certainly be welcome, it wouldn’t come without its drawbacks. Keep in mind that while internal hard drives are approaching sky high amounts of memory for consoles, it’s still limited. For a player like me who buys a ton of games, I would imagine myself running out of space rather quickly; considering my favorite genres are RPGs and grandiose adventure games, my typical download won’t be small. Add to that the sure addition of DLC and software patches, along with standard save files, and that’s a nice healthy bit of memory dedicated to a single game; my estimation would be around seven gigs for a game like Dragon Age: Origins, if not more.
After two years of standard game playing, my 120 gig Xbox hard drive is beginning to reach its limit; if the entirety of my library was in digital form, I would’ve had to have given the axe to several of my stored items many times over. And while, to some people, it may not be that big a deal, personally I would really not go through all the hassle of downloading a game a second time should I get the itch to play it a few months down the line (which happens to me a lot more than you would think). I still play Arkham Asylum on a regular basis despite playing it since release and getting 100% completion several times over, including grabbing all the achievements. But that’s a story for another time.
This is not to say that disc based releases don’t suffer from similar catches. A regular tool I use to decide when it’s time to trade a few games in is looking at how full my library has gotten. Should it be approaching overflow levels, then I wave adieu to some older or more boring titles and invest in new ones. Of course, with a disc you have to worry not only about storage, but maintenance. Scratch that disk too bad and you’re basically fucked unless you’re the lucky owner of a resurfacing machine (in which case you and I need to talk).
While this may sound like it came straight from an after school special I’m going to say it anyway: discs are good for the economy! There is almost no game in my library right now that did not involve some kind of used-to-new trade-in. With a digital-only download, there’s nothing to trade in. Without a trade-in, we lose the used game market, in which I shop heavily, particularly when looking for a new title because there’s always the one guy who trades it back in a week after release. This is someplace where I can’t see the digital market coming close. Unless the product goes on sale or the customer lucks on a coupon of some sort, the price for the game is the price, period. No trade-in credit, no used copy that will be a few bucks less – it’s practically like buying from a monopoly.
Once the game industry realizes they have got us by the nuts (or tits) like this, what’s to stop them from a price hike? Sure the direct downloads will be cheaper when competing against conventional discs, but once they squeeze that market out, we really won’t have much of a choice left. We could end up paying the full price of a disc based release for a pure digital one. Not only that, think of the companies that rent us videogames as well. While franchises like Blockbuster are slowly being devoured by online competitors like NetFlix and GameFly, the loss of disc based releases would be the final nail in the coffin for an almost entirely analog store.
Then we have the political ramifications: here in California there is some senator or another stirring up a fuss about violent video games being sold to underage kids. While I’m from the school of thought that the industry isn’t to blame for this and it’s the parents job to monitor what their kids play, Capitol Hill doesn’t exactly have a track record of being rational. Think how easy digital libraries would make it for Little Todd to pick up the latest “controversial” release, when he needs little more than mommy’s credit card number. Most parents probably don’t even take the time to set up a child’s account for their kids, much less remember to remove their card information after a single use. This could place our beloved pass time in hot water, to say the least. This all leads to the biggest and most dangerous threat that direct-to-console digital downloads presents to us as gamers, nay us as human beings: MothaFuckinSkyNet!!! That’s all I’m going to say about that.
While I realize this went from general musing to conspiracy theory real quick, it doesn’t distract from the point I was originally trying to make: to give gamers something to think about. While it sometimes seems like we have very little influence on the industry (all the workout games come to mind), we as a collective have the strongest voice of all as the consumer. We control where our media comes from and how to move forward in the future. Do you think we would be where we are now if someone didn’t yell out of their little corner: “That Mario model ain’t done yet! I want to see the stitches on them overalls!!” Our purchase decisions dictate what comes to us in the future; we still haven’t been graced with a Psychonauts sequel, but look at all the crappy Madden titles we have to wade through each and every year because one sold and the other didn’t. So stay strong my fellow media crack-addicts, and let’s march on into our future… hopefully Terminator free.
Last five articles by Adam R
- Injustice: Gods Among Us - E3 Preview
- Halo 4 - E3 Preview
- If Music Be The Food Of Love, Game On
- RIP to Shreds
- Lost In Oblivion