Download future?

October 2012

Computer Gaming at Internet CafeWith many of the GAME shops now standing empty, does this mean that the future of games will be downloads? Henry Tucker MBCS hopes not.

It was a sign of how far gaming had come that in the town where I live there were three GAME shops and one Gamestation as well as an HMV that also sells games.

With the collapse of GAME, only the one store and HMV survives. With more games now available as a download, does the demise of a huge high street gaming presence indicate the route games delivery will go?

As a delivery mechanism, I love the internet. It is great for getting music when you want it and not just when the shops are open. With video on demand you can also get films when you want and with the introduction of OnLive you can now, to a similar extent, get games when you want them.

Boxed copy

However, if you have one of the mainstream consoles (Wii, PS3, Xbox 360) the main delivery route for games is still the boxed copy.

Yes you can buy these online, but you have wait for the jolly postperson to bring it to your door. With the demise of the majority of specialist gaming shops, where are you going to buy games that are anything other than Call of Modern Duty Sports XLIV?

I think that this current generation of consoles will be the last to use a disc as the main game delivery mechanism. We are already seeing that many games are now on the Playstation Network (PSN) and the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA).

With a fast broadband connection a must have for gamers, not just for online gaming but also for all the other services that are available on the devices, the delivery backbone is already there. This isn’t the main reason why I think that the hardware manufacturers and the game publishers will want to go digital though.

The game publishers biggest gripe with shops such as GAME was the massive resale market they had created. If you ever went into any of its stores as much as two thirds of the shop floor was given up to second hand games.

Where this was great news for GAME, and in some regards for the gamer, the publishers hated it. They would see none of this money, which is why so many games now come with a one-off code if you want to play the game online.

Unlock

It is something along these lines that will be the norm with future releases on future consoles.

One theory is that the majority of games will still be sold on discs in shops but that once you play them they are linked to your console. You could still sell them on, but for the next person to play the full game they would need to pay a smallish amount to unlock it.

This would enable the resale market to continue and also for publishers to get some money back.

But why should they? As long as items have been sold they have been resold. Just look at the second hand car, book, music and even house market. Do any of the original manufacturers, publishers, artists or builders get any money from future sales? No.

It seems to be that advances in digital technology can on one hand look like benefits to the consumer (ease of access and speed of delivery), but they are also means by which the licence holder can retain control after the sale.

With future developments this is only going to increase and gamers will, I think, only really rent games from the publisher, which isn’t something I agree with.

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