It’s something that’s inevitable. Soon all media like movies, music, games and books alike will be completely digital to download and use. The Advancement of technology has its concerns and its benefits. Assessing the pros and cons of this is essential to prepare the transition or to decide if we need to voice our opinion now to say no to the all-digital front. It’s something that will be invading into our daily lives as gamers and the essential question? Why and how is this going to affect the gaming industry?
It’s the elephant in the room that most people don’t like to talk about. Both gamers and developers have mixed opinions on this and for good reason. But it’s rapidly approaching. Already major companies have moved into the digital space leaving their footprint and it’s starting to grow. Some of those like Amazon have reported that it’s eBooks are breaking sales records compared to that of the physical book. Apple with the app store and it’s reports of over a billion apps downloaded and profits soaring.
Both cloud gaming and an all digital front are progressively moving into the world of videogames. Cloud gaming just like Gaikai and OnLive are becoming attractive to major companies. Rumors have been swirling over the year that the next generation of consoles could implement a cloud only, game streaming service or will adopt the all-digital marketplace. Sony has already thrown its fair share of cash at it recently by making a huge purchase of Gaikai.
Something that has been a part of gaming culture since the start could be completely done away with in the few coming years and its physical games. We’ve already seen a glimpse of what it is with Valve’s Steam platform. Grossing millions and completely cutting the physical pc game out of existence. Its marketplace is attractive and its prices are affordable with many sales but we’ve seen so many failed attempts at all digital. PSN coupled with Sony’s attempt at the PSP GO was miserable. The console was plagued by download issues, slow download speeds and a few games with almost a third of all the games physically available.
But the main downfall was the outrageous prices and that leads to the first flaw of all digital. PSP games both then and now are way overpriced, some games over 7 years old today are still full price. It starts to move into a game of politics here.
When it’s all digital, the central MSRP is controlled by a single party. They control the marketplace with no input giving the consumer, you, the disadvantage. No more is the retail store in control giving sales and discounts of physical items giving you a wide range of places of choice from that helps you save money. If a game for example, on the next generation is digital only and costs a premium of $120, which is already rumored to be the cost of a game, you are stuck with that price tag. You will have no options, either play or don’t play.
This comes with a power that companies will abuse. Not only are you stuck with a price you might not like but you have no ownership of the physical product. That’s what companies want full total control over what you own. By you not having a disc, you will not have the ability to trade in your game or sell it to a friend. You’re stuck with a game FOREVER. As we know there’s the fine print on all games digital. Go look. NO RETURNS. Buy a game on Xbox Live Arcade or on Demand and don’t like it? Too bad. It’s so unfair and a bad business practice but it doesn’t matter, they make way more money.
And with this so many issues can arise over ownership. I’ve had tons of issues where a game disappeared from my download history where I had to fight to show I had bought it, luckily it was bought by a credit card. I’ve had corrupt files and so much more go wrong. It leaves so much for it to just, go wrong. It’s a skynet type of situation. Companies have already implemented into that user agreement that you don’t read and just rapidly click A or X through that, you can’t sue them over anything. How is that something you would want?
Its a small example of the power it gives them going digital. Even if they do have power another issue is, it’s limited. They will ultimately fall. Let me regress, when I say you are stuck with a digital or cloud game forever it’s a short forever. If the company behind it files bankruptcy and goes out of business you lose all of your purchases, all gone and you’re “out of luck”. Users of OnLive got a scare this weekend when they did just that. They filed and was rumored to be shut down, unlike a physical game that you can always use or backup, you wouldn’t be able to play those laggy bandwidth behemoth of streaming games from the service. Luckily a third party swooped in and saved them
Look I’m all for new tech but it becomes an issue when I pay for a good and I don’t even have the ability to have it my entire life. Games are NOT memberships, it’s something you should have access to anytime no matter what. It’s like when Microsoft shut down the original Xbox live, imagine if that was all digital. All that would havebeen money wasted. What happens if they decide the same thing for the Xbox 720 and it’s digital or cloud based? They would force everyone to buy the xbox 4, when the Xbox 4 arrives. Scary right? My wallet hurts, and rebuying an item or losing it would not help.
Now something even if the physical game disc or card is thrown out that will stay is memory storage. Again it loops around to control. And we’ve seen this already and seeing it get worse would destroy the industry. The economy sucks without a doubt and the example we can look at is the PlayStation Vita. Sony cheated you by making it use only their specific memory card instead of the standard SD, and guess what? It’s up priced and you get barely any room.
Another bad example is the Xbox360 slim model with only 4GB when you pay almost $200 and up. The cheapest hard drive is 250gb for $99 extra! How ridiculous! A terabyte can be found for way cheaper but you can only use certified Xbox ones! And hey guess what? That premium price HDD that was 60gb from the Original Xbox360 is no longer compatible! Sorry! Games can run from minis that are megabytes to retail games that are GBs. So how would you feel about being robbed? That’s what Sony and Microsoft are doing. It really does look gloomy for the digital age.
That brings this to another point about speaking of robbery. Going the digital route leaves you susceptible, wide open and vulnerable. Remember Sony and the attack that left them down and with thousands even if not millions of user’s data and personal info at risk? Imagine going digital, all those credit cards and accounts filled with games. It would be a gold mine for the “bad” hackers in the scene. You’d be in the hands of a mega corporation.
You might already be, and the best advice is? Let’s not go digital and if you are there in the likes of Steam use the pre-paid cards if they’re available and don’t use true information. Save yourself. Change your password ever week if you have to and always, always keep a receipt of all of your purchases and proof that you own the account. Many people have fallen victim, losing all their purchases with even some of them saying “Good luck, but we can’t do anything.”
Now it’s not all doom and gloom for it. Some features of all digital could change the industry if executed right. The availability and accessibility is a plus for everyone alike. Indie developers would be given a fair share of launching their games into the huge gaming community, no longer the issues of getting it published. But then again we could see a Microsoft stunt where the incredible indie games are tucked away from the front page into the back corner and ads plague you on the dashboard instead. It’s something that needs to be kept in mind. It would open doors for so many aspiring game designers if done right. Indie developers would need an efficient SDK and a non stifling contract, something we didn’t see with the PlayStation Mobile SDK.
Cloud gaming would allow any person with a phone, tablet or device of any kind to play graphic intensive games like a Skyrim without the high end specs. Something the hyped OUYA console would of demonstrated with OnLive but is it really worth it with all the problems? Sure being able to download Call of Duty: Black Ops 85 at midnight without putting my chips down is great. But the 5 Kbps download speed and the great feel of unraveling that plastic, looking at the booklet and putting the disc in is something that can’t be matched. Going digital most likely means all pre order bonuses will be digital too. So that means I wouldn’t get the real life zombie and the tank that transforms into a robot when I finally give in to the cars salesman behind the counter at GameStop to preorder Black ops 85.
It’s fast on the horizon and progressively being moved forward. Both cloud gaming and all digital games are progressively moving into the world of videogames but it’s not without concern. There’s both good and bad here and some real issues that could affect you.
How do you feel about the digital Age? Should we say no? How can we protect our wallets and rights? Would you enjoy never unraveling a shiny game box and never having to leave your couch? Sound off in the comments.