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Second Take: PC Gaming Going Boxless?

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February 13, 2008 5:34:28 AM

Is digital distribution the antidote to slumping PC game sales? Ben and Rob discuss.

Watch The Video: http://www.tomsgames.com/us/site/flash_videos/second_take_pc_gaming_going_boxless_.html

Have you ever purchased a pc game via download? Do the pros of services like Steam outweigh the cons? Will physical copies go the way of the buggy whip?

Share your thoughts.

-Ben

More about : gaming boxless

February 13, 2008 10:13:48 AM

I put Steam in the same category as like Netflix and such online distributions. Getting more and more popular and growth per year but wont account for such a loss in the pc gaming market.

That my friends, I believe is due to MMOs. Everybody i know that plays an MMO semi-regularly doesnt play any other game, or doesnt buy any new games.
February 13, 2008 10:38:50 AM

I'm kind of obsessive about my game boxes, so I have long been very reluctant getting stuff online. What if the developer goes bankrupt and I can no longer redownload or validate my game? What if my harddrive crashes? And for a very long time I had limited download bandwidth (10GB per month) which meant that downloading 4GB or more was a huge deal.

However, during these last few months I broke down and gave some of the online services a try. The first thing I bought was Half Life Episode One from Steam, mostly because it was on sale and because the retail version was too expensive for what allegedly was only 4 or 5 hours of gameplay and the price just wouldn't go down :p  It still felt reassuring when The Orange Box provided me with an actual physical copy of the game, though.

The second thing I bought online was the second season of Sam and Max (waiting for the third episode right now :D ) I first bought the boxed version of the first season, which is what convinced me to get the second season online. I'm totally in love with their sales plan. I spent less than 30€ for a full season and I'll be able to get the boxed version for only the cost of shipping. Best of both worlds.

Other games have not been able to convince me so far. IME games on Steam are still more expensive than their boxed versions on Play.com for instance, so why would I go and pay for a ephemeral and slightly more expensive digital copy off Steam?

Still, I can perfectly imagine myself 6 months from now, buying only Collector's Editions (Like Bioshock's CE with the Big Daddy. I told you I'm obsessive) in physical form and getting the rest off a reliable and reasonably priced download service. (keywords: reliable, reasonably priced)

For me, the same thing won't work for audio or video, though, and these domains are not comparable AT ALL.

When you download a game, you don't lose any of the quality, you don't get a compressed and dumbed down version of the game. It's the same files, nothing is different from the retail version.
With audio, though, you're very likely to get crappy MP3 files that don't sound nearly as good as CDs. Same with video. No way you can send HD content to your subscribers over the Internet without degrading the quality significatly.

So in the end, I'm all for digital distribution of games if retail versions remain an option, or even better, if a physical copy is provided at no additional cost. I'm against digital distribution of audio and video in almost every way, though, but that's just me.
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February 13, 2008 2:44:56 PM

I like what steam has done(tons of games all in one place)
As said above, They still tend to cost more then a retail store for many titles. And if there is no box manual and dvd, why the hell does it cost more. There are still some games that are cheaper on steam, i would not have a problem buys games on steam when they are cheaper then the retail stores.

I do also agree about the MMO thing. With MMO's people buy one game and play it for a year(or more then get the next expansion). The money is still made on subscription based games. So the report is a little flawed in that sense....
February 13, 2008 3:03:07 PM

nukemaster said:
I like what steam has done(tons of games all in one place)
As said above, They still tend to cost more then a retail store for many titles. And if there is no box manual and dvd, why the hell does it cost more. There are still some games that are cheaper on steam, i would not have a problem buys games on steam when they are cheaper then the retail stores.

I do also agree about the MMO thing. With MMO's people buy one game and play it for a year(or more then get the next expansion). The money is still made on subscription based games. So the report is a little flawed in that sense....


The MMO thing is strange to me. I've never, ever once considered paying for a game and then subjecting myself to monthly subscription fees for the same game (however, that could change real quick if a StarCraft MMO ever saw the light of day or if Valve started charged monthly fees for TF2). That said, the NPD Group just announced it was going to start tracking subscriptions for MMOs and online games, which frankly is long overdue. I for one am eager to see what NPD can come up with in this regard.
February 13, 2008 4:24:53 PM

I'm all for Online distibution, but I WILL NOT pay $50 for a download. Face it, the game publishers are saving a FORTUNE by eliminating boxes, cds, printing etc. I have no problem with the companies making money - even making MORE money by going to digital distribution - but there should be a discount on downloaded games.
Let's face it, game prices for both PC and consoles are simply too high. You can buy a copy of teh hottest movie out on DVD and you will pay no more than $25. CDs are $15 or so, yet games are $50..... just too damned high comparatively speaking. While games are certtainly expensive to produce, movies are FAR more so yet cost less........

February 13, 2008 4:25:21 PM

Yeah, I never thought I'd play an MMO either, and then a friend insisted that I give Lineage II a try. Total addiction. I can't speak for other MMOs, but for me L2 really recaptured the role-playing vibe that has been getting thin these last few years in other "CRPGs". Still, had to give it up, as it was eating up too much time.
February 13, 2008 7:35:19 PM

[#ff0000]Good ST episode.

You guys took alot of the feedback we gave on the downfall of PC game thread...and hit almost every point that the posters on these forums made.

I think one of the strong point people sometimes miss about prices on STEAM though is they do offer deals, and if you buy games early you get great deal. Also the X mas sale they did some of the price cuts on titles were huge.

I think what will have a better long term impact on PC gaming is some of the current hardware trends that will be released. Mainly Hybrid SLI/Crossfire. So a year from now when alot of those new IGP (Integrated Graphics Processors) are out and for a small investment (sub 80 dollars) turn there 400-500 dollar Dell/HP/Gateway etc system and add some graphical power.

Sure to the major PC gamers we will be using the best cards NV & ATI have to offer but it be good to know that for a small amount of cash people will be able to play alot more games. More PC gamers = good thing.

Its also hard to tell how many games each STEAM account has bought for numbers. Me for example I have roughly 44 games in STEAM, so even if say each steam account only buys say 1-3 games x 15 million accounts that still alot of revenue. Even say 3 twenty dollar games a year = 60 bux x 10 mil users (let say 5 million are not even real accounts for a joke)..thats 600 million right there.

Although me personally don't miss the boxes or manuals ...I will miss those cloth maps that come with most RPGs if steam ever offers a wider rpg section.
February 13, 2008 9:56:54 PM

if there annoyed by pc game sales going down then make better games

compare the newer pc games with console games, consoles have much more games coming out

it is never good to make a game dependent on a online service
It is annoying to have a game thats expensive and the company shuts their servers down and your game is mainly useless

what they need to do is remove all copy protection from the cds, I like having a physical copy of my games as they last longer and i wont be tempted to delete them if i need the hard drive space

the only problem is that there annoying to copy
companies need to make it so that the games can at least be copied easier. i rather mistakenly drop a $1 blank disk and have it scratch and need to burn another, than to drop the $60 copy

especially with newer games, the physical side of the cds don't change but they hold more and more data. which means more data in the same physical space

back in the day, old PS1 games could take a ton of scratches (they were able to handle a 5 year old playing with them) and still work fine

but with newer xbox 360 and ps3 games, 1 or 2 small scratches and you ruin the game because those 1 or 2 scratches could easily bite out like a 20MB chunk of data out of the disk

but a digital copy of a game sucks especially with the path there taking, the games become larger each year no one wants to have to download them.

and no one wants to loose a expensive game due to a tiny scratch

pc sales would increase if they either made it so we could copy the game, or put 10 copies of the same game in each box so if 1 scratched, there would be extras (cds cost almost nothing)

February 13, 2008 10:28:53 PM

With the quality of XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 then PC is no longer superior. The consoles can also go online so there is no need for a PC. PCs need high end hardware to play games as well as PC knowledge. Consoles don't...just put the game in and press play. Consoles plug into your big widescreen TV...PCs are stuck with your tiny monitor. Consoles are affordable by kids with allowance or side jobs...PCs need mommy and daddy to buy, meaning an el cheapo HP that isn't worthy of playing games.

Now on to the games. Consoles have the controller. Consoles have sports titles. Consoles have fighters like Mortal Combat. Consoles have baseball. Consoles have wrestling.

Need I go on?

Microsoft pushed the consoles with the XBOX and forced Playstation to make a better system. Microsoft left PC gaming in the dust. I am a PC gamer but I see it slowly dying. It's a shame.

We need to combine the console with the PC into an all in one system. Get rid of the video card. Kind of a gamming plugin for the the PC.


February 14, 2008 12:54:18 AM

gunnyjoe said:
I'm all for Online distibution, but I WILL NOT pay $50 for a download. Face it, the game publishers are saving a FORTUNE by eliminating boxes, cds, printing etc. I have no problem with the companies making money - even making MORE money by going to digital distribution - but there should be a discount on downloaded games.
Let's face it, game prices for both PC and consoles are simply too high. You can buy a copy of teh hottest movie out on DVD and you will pay no more than $25. CDs are $15 or so, yet games are $50..... just too damned high comparatively speaking. While games are certtainly expensive to produce, movies are FAR more so yet cost less........


Uhm, no they really aren't saving all that much by not selling it retail. You're paying for the development of the software. The DVDs cost literally pennies, the box/printing of the manual, etc is less than $1 per. So, that argument is out the window.

Moving on, i am a firm FIRM believe in digital distribution. There are so many advantages i cant even begin to say. For example, during a recent move, my copy of starcraft was lost. Now, i can never go play the game again without having to buy another copy. Granted at this point its not that expensive, but its still annoying. Another reason, not having to carry your discs with you if you LAN. Not having to open your DVD tray every time you want to play a different game. The list continues.

I used to and still am one of those people that is anal about keeping all my game boxes and manuals in pristine condition. On the same token i am not one of those people that is resistant to change, especially change that is for the good. There are literally no real disadvantages to a digital distribution system for games, with the sole exception of the people that just have to have something tangible to make them feel better about their purchase. Most casual gamer's dont read the manual usually because the learning curve on a game is much smaller for someone who is already used to playing that style of a game. I.e. going from say starcraft to age of empires etc isnt going to present any huge challenges to a casual gamer. You're not paying for a lesser version of the game, i.e. like with music or movies where you get a quality loss due to compression.

Personally i think people are just pissed because they're pulling the Big Brother, i'm a pissed off libertarian card with their games. They dont like the "idea" that they have to register their game with the big evil corporate bastards.

Having something like steam is also great because it can and usually does reduce cheating, substantially. People have to have their installs verified, config files etc before they can play the game online. As someone who hates cheaters and cheating with a fiery passion, i think its a great idea. I think what people are generally failing to realize is that they are not paying for a copy of the code, with which they can do whatever they want. They are essentially paying for a license to use the code.

Edit: You compare movies and cd's to games? Granted on the console front, i will agree that its probably too pricey, as i would guess the average gameplay time for the average singleplayer game is 6-10 hours. PC games tend to have a longer singleplayer, well, they used to at least, now with all the "developed for console, ported to pc" games, thats no longer a valid argument. Anyways, $25 for a DVD is pretty ridiculous IMO, you at best get 2.5 to 3 hours of "entertainment" out of it, with HEAVY diminishing returns. Most games have a much larger value in terms of cost per hour of entertainment.

This is something nobody seems to realize is why MMO's are so popular. Yeah, people like to bitch that paying a monthly fee for a game is absurd, but even if i only play say 20 hours in a month, which isnt much, im already far, FAR exceeding the value of buying a $50 game that had a total of say 30 hours of play time.
February 14, 2008 1:14:43 AM

Oh, i also wanted to bring up that i think people are really downplaying the amount of money in digital distribution. I think when you look at that 60 million dollar decrease, that translates to 1.2 million copies of any games made in the entire year of the 2007 that would need to have been purchased digitally. I believe that it would be safe to assume that between burning crusade and orange box, that a good healthy chunk of that 60 million would be taken up. Combine in all the other games and i bet PC gaming didnt even have a slump, or if they had a slump it was extremely minor.

The other point i forgot to mention, which is something i loved about steam. When i recently rebuilt my system, i didnt have to spend an eternity with all the steam games to get them installed. I just let it DL over night, then walla, next day i get to play. I dont have to sit and monitor the installs like i do with every other game. Stopping in every other 20 minutes to check on the progress, change cd's, put in a new game, etc etc.
February 14, 2008 2:12:55 AM

With the quality of XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 then PC is no longer superior. The consoles can also go online so there is no need for a PC. PCs need high end hardware to play games as well as PC knowledge. Consoles don't...just put the game in and press play. Consoles plug into your big widescreen TV...PCs are stuck with your tiny monitor. Consoles are affordable by kids with allowance or side jobs...PCs need mommy and daddy to buy, meaning an el cheapo HP that isn't worthy of playing games.[/quotemsg]

Consoles also need mommy and daddy to buy the big ass HD tv, which can easily cost as much or more than a good solid gaming system that will last a minimum of 2 years. So that argument is out. Nobody seems to realize that "modern" consoles are just PC's with stripped OS's, thats it. XBOX360 uses the basic equivalent of an Ati X1800 card, PS3 is the equivalent of a 7900GS. Also, consoles are getting terrible about crashing. You say "just plug in the game and play". My roommate bought an Xbox 360 live about a week ago, we get everything plugged in, and 10 minutes after booting it up, it crashes during the setup/registration process. To the point we had to hard power it off and turn it back on and start over.

Also, you mention "tiny" monitor. When you actually use logic, you realize that you dont sit 18-24" away from your TV, you sit usually 6-10'+. Screen size is relative to seating position.

Consoles are also absolutely *not* affordable to a kid with an allowance, unless he has one hell of an allowance. Even at $50 a month it would take 8-12 months to save up for just the console, much less any games for it.

gondo said:
Now on to the games. Consoles have the controller. Consoles have sports titles. Consoles have fighters like Mortal Combat. Consoles have baseball. Consoles have wrestling.


Controller is just a useless tool for people who are too lazy to actually learn to use a mouse and keyboard. I wil agree that due to the nature of fighting games, they are better suited to consoles, and to some extent sports games, though that depends on whether you're the psycho stat driven, entire season, player pickin sports gamer, or the i wanna play NBA with my homies on the couch while we scream obscenities at each other, sports gamer. Only cretins play wrestling games, so thats right out.

gondo said:
Microsoft pushed the consoles with the XBOX and forced Playstation to make a better system. Microsoft left PC gaming in the dust. I am a PC gamer but I see it slowly dying. It's a shame.

Unfortunately this is about the only true statement you've made this post. Unfortunately MS, being am extremely profit driven company, is pushing the XBOX360 over pc gaming because consoles have a large player base and make a lot of money.

gondo said:
We need to combine the console with the PC into an all in one system. Get rid of the video card. Kind of a gamming plugin for the the PC.


Yea...no. This is another example of laziness. Computers are not even remotely that difficult to build, and especially not to operate and maintain.
February 14, 2008 3:50:53 AM

the video card is the "gaming plugin" for a pc. it's pretty simple. you have a pc, you keep it up to date... all of the sudden you decide "wow, i want to play a game" so you buy a video card, plug it in, and there's your "console" or "gaming plugin" it is the video card... kind of see what you're syaing by 'simplifying it' but it's not going to be that simple, because there is a wide range of video requirements and ati/nvidia/agiea are going to advertise their crap as "gaming" cards, because they want to sell stuff... it's just like buying a ford mustang and expecting it to pump out record numbers at the track.... you need to be a smart buyer as with EVERYTHING, and just buy the fastest car(d). :-p

but back on subject, going boxless is going to require a drop in prices on games due to lack of boxes and manuals and a HARD COPY that says "hey, you now own me forever" where as almost any gamer that's BOUGHT a game with any kind of drm (cd key mostly) and had a headache trying to get it back... i mean the game developer never helps... so if you write down your cd key, and your house burns down, how do you claim that on insurance? better yet... say it's just a piece of paper, with ink and it fades over time. i dunno, i know my d2 cd key rubbed off and i wrote it down two times on separate papers BEFORE it rubbed off (cuz it did)... i lost one, i'm glad i had a backup hidden. so what's to say that we can keep our game well into the next 20 years? (i know people love their 'nostalgia' games that's all i have to say. :-p
February 14, 2008 4:52:21 AM

gondo said:
With the quality of XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 then PC is no longer superior. The consoles can also go online so there is no need for a PC. PCs need high end hardware to play games as well as PC knowledge. Consoles don't...just put the game in and press play. Consoles plug into your big widescreen TV...PCs are stuck with your tiny monitor. Consoles are affordable by kids with allowance or side jobs...PCs need mommy and daddy to buy, meaning an el cheapo HP that isn't worthy of playing games.

Now on to the games. Consoles have the controller. Consoles have sports titles. Consoles have fighters like Mortal Combat. Consoles have baseball. Consoles have wrestling.

Need I go on?

Microsoft pushed the consoles with the XBOX and forced Playstation to make a better system. Microsoft left PC gaming in the dust. I am a PC gamer but I see it slowly dying. It's a shame.

We need to combine the console with the PC into an all in one system. Get rid of the video card. Kind of a gaming plug in for the the PC.
<--corrected spelling errors.


alright, i lied... i have to reply to this... FIRSTLY, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN THE LAST 8 YEARS? really? any quality television comes with a port specifically for your pc, first it was 15 pin d-sub vga, then dvi. I picked out a Hitachi that was reasonable in price for it's features, and it comes with not one, but 2 dvi ports, and this was more than 6 years ago...
secondly, all of the "console" games you just described are a load of crap. They really have no intrinsic value and have dropped in quality severely since the days of Genesis, SNES, and even n64 and ps1. It's sad really that people still get pumped by these types of games because it's the same recycled crap over and over again... MOST of the time anyway. I used to be hardcore fighting game fan, then after killer instinct gold on n64, every fighting game and football game and crap like that is almost exactly the same, unless your a stat freak for football, and love EA, there's no reason to EVER buy (more than one) football game after dreamcast came out. it's the same game over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again... go play a pickup game at the ymca. :-p
next! how much did you pay for your tv? how big is it? hmm... i paid 260 bucks for my projector, that is likely higher res than your tv at the time and costs less. and wow... my screen can go from just under 3 feet corner to corner to about ten feet corner to corner.... not to mention it's not a pain to move around.. oh, and guess what, looks better with a PC INPUT than with a console input because console inputs are inferior unless you *BUY* an upgraded cable...and even then, it's not as high res as a decent video card and not as adjustable.
lastly, like i said before, you have a pc, you have all the interface hardware, A VIDEO CARD FOR YOUR EXISTING PC COSTS LESS THAN A CONSOLE AND WILL LOOK BETTER. arg... you can say "omg i have to buy a whole pc WITH a video card because I think that a computer should last longer than my car!" or you can realize that you buy a pc it has a limit to how long it's gonna last you depending on what you wanna do with it... you gonna take a 50's chevy out and race it when it's had NO MAINTENANCE WHATSOEVER for the past 50+ years? no cuz it doesn't run because you don't take care of it or trade it up for a new model. that's your fault... it's just like whining about your old xbox not playing xbox360 games. you getting the point yet? you might as well have just posted a forum saying " where do i put madden 08 into my nes?" sorry to be blunt, but that's just me.

ps: play a flash game or go to the filmzzz website on your console and tell me how that works out for you...
February 14, 2008 5:04:04 AM

gondo said:
With the quality of XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 then PC is no longer superior. The consoles can also go online so there is no need for a PC. PCs need high end hardware to play games as well as PC knowledge. Consoles don't...just put the game in and press play. Consoles plug into your big widescreen TV...PCs are stuck with your tiny monitor. Consoles are affordable by kids with allowance or side jobs...PCs need mommy and daddy to buy, meaning an el cheapo HP that isn't worthy of playing games.

Now on to the games. Consoles have the controller. Consoles have sports titles. Consoles have fighters like Mortal Combat. Consoles have baseball. Consoles have wrestling.

Need I go on?

Microsoft pushed the consoles with the XBOX and forced Playstation to make a better system. Microsoft left PC gaming in the dust. I am a PC gamer but I see it slowly dying. It's a shame.

We need to combine the console with the PC into an all in one system. Get rid of the video card. Kind of a gamming plugin for the the PC.


Are you drunk?

Forget the controller, the only thing they are good for are sports/racing games, and you can easily use a controller on PC. Mouse and Keyboard all the way. I was playing Frontlines Multiplayer Demo on XBL earlier, it sucks compared to the PC beta. If you enjoy clumsy thumbsticks, more power to ya, no thanks. There are millions of other gamers that prefer M/K as well, that's never going to go away.

Frankly I don't give a rat's arse what MS does with their Xbox initiative. The farther they stay away from PC Gaming, the better. STEAM/Xfire is proof that a third party app is all you need to bring a massive community together, no need for MS's control over the platform.

I'm never going to play an RTS/4x/ or hybrid like Sins of the Solar Empire on a console, just ain't gonna happen. That game is amazing, and is an experience that is completely absent from console gaming, among many other things. I'm also never going to play an MMO or cRPG like Neverwinter or upcoming Dragon Age on console, I don't want to read text on my TV, I would rather play it on gaming PC. This is why PC Gaming will always have a place in the market, however it's always been niche when you compare all the console companies vs. one open platform, which makes no sense at all in the first place.
February 14, 2008 9:44:27 AM

Quote:
Its also hard to tell how many games each STEAM account has bought for numbers. Me for example I have roughly 44 games in STEAM, so even if say each steam account only buys say 1-3 games x 15 million accounts that still alot of revenue. Even say 3 twenty dollar games a year = 60 bux x 10 mil users (let say 5 million are not even real accounts for a joke)..thats 60 million right there.

might want to do those sums again - $60 x 10million = $600million. By my calculations the average purchase of each of those 15mil steam accounts would only need to be $4 to make up the $60mil deficit. Alternatively you could argue that 90% of all steam accounts are inactive and only 10% or 1.5milion people bought a game. At $50 a game you have 60mil right there....which makes me wonder why the second take guys find it so hard to see this making up for the sales deficit.

Quote:
The other point i forgot to mention, which is something i loved about steam. When i recently rebuilt my system, i didnt have to spend an eternity with all the steam games to get them installed. I just let it DL over night, then walla, next day i get to play. I dont have to sit and monitor the installs like i do with every other game. Stopping in every other 20 minutes to check on the progress, change cd's, put in a new game, etc etc.
QFT - I changed comps a few weeks back and I just copied the 20 gig of files over, took 4mins flat and I didn't have to touch an install disk.

Quote:
Uhm, no they really aren't saving all that much by not selling it retail. You're paying for the development of the software. The DVDs cost literally pennies, the box/printing of the manual, etc is less than $1 per. So, that argument is out the window.
You also pay for shipping, the wages of the guys that work in the store and the stores profit margin. Digital distribution really should be cheaper than retail, and in Australia for non-Activision games it is - over here we pay around $90USD a game in the shops (which is bs imo, but that's another issue).

Other (mostly positive) thoughts of digital distribution:
-You can get pwnted and rage quit CSS and join a TF2 server in less 27 seconds flat, and without changing disks.
-You can never loose a disk/CD/key.
-never have to worry about patching your games.
-don't have to visit dubious locations on the web to get those no-cd cracks.
-you can pre-load the game before it is released and start playing the second it goes live, all the people who go retail need to go to their local store and then install the game.
-Convenience - everything is there, ever had trouble tracking down a game? - it's a non-issue with digital.
-The Valve guys are millionaires - Steam is here to stay.
-Mods -there are hundreds out there and they're a cinch to get working compared to the good old days.

Just a though for the cost factor of PC's:

cost of work/study computer + ps3 > cost of work/study computer + graphics card

after you factor in the cost of high def TV's (which plenty of people don't have, or don't have access to after other family members get priority) the PC doesn't do too bad.

Granted consoles are a hell of a lot easier to set up, cheaper if you dont need a web/work/study computer, have a good TV and tend to play fighters/adventure/platformers/sports titles/halo easier, but it's really horses for courses. PC's are still the preferred platform for your average rts/mmo/(keyboard and mouse)fps/(western)rpg fan. More still love the technical aspect of the PC and wouldn't give up their ability to customize it to within an inch of its life for the world.

Many have said the PC is dying, but I firmly believe that the selling model is just shifting and theres millions of PC aficionados (such as myself) out there.
February 14, 2008 5:17:35 PM

I don't want to get into the whole PC vs Console debate (again), I'd just like to say that Steam (and the online distribution concept in general) is brilliant. At first I was not sure that buying a game via Steam would be the best idea, but I was lazy, so I picked up COD2 a couple years ago online. Since then, I've gone through 2 machines (stupid dying motherboards) and it has been so easy to just download steam, then go through my list of games and download the ones I feel like putting on my machine.

There are only 2 reasons I can see for people to hold off buying via Steam. The first is that they have a very slow internet connection / limited monthly usage. This is less of an issue every year (almost non-issue now). The second is, as mentioned by somebody above, people feel the need to get something physical for their money. I can totally understand this, I hate having to shell out money for software online. All those cheapo tools that I've had to buy, even though they only cost $5-10, and they are very useful to me, I still feel like I shouldn't have to pay for them since I don't physically get anything. This is just a general mindset that people will slowly overcome. Look at Second Life, people make their entire living running stores selling virtual items in a virtual world.

So it is only a matter of time before online distribution is the king (even on consoles). If I was a video game store chain right now, I'd take all of my profits and come out with a competitor to steam, cause their physical stores' days are numbered (and why wouldn't they want to, their costs would drop drastically, while their revenues would stay the same and profit margins go up).

**Edit spelling**
February 14, 2008 5:17:49 PM

all of the new consoles; their controllers work fine with pcs just install a free driver and you have a working controller for your pc.

i use my box 360 controller for my pc, one of the best controllers i have for my pc

pc gaming offers more control than with console gaming and most pc gaming doesnt require a monthly fee for multiplayer like in xbox live

February 14, 2008 8:00:22 PM

sry about the bad math was 9 beers in the hole at the time of postin
February 14, 2008 10:12:28 PM

lol, no worries at all - the way the second take guys were talking about it you'd think it'd be near impossible to squeeze $60mil out of 15million people. I thought it somewhat odd how they went from arguing that 15million steam users isnt that significant to saying that 6million on the wii was huge - this is further compounded by the fact that steam is just one of many services on a supposedly "dying" platform, while the wii always cast as a huge success and has just a single download service selling (often) very cheap games (which are cheaper than 95% of the the stuff on steam).

Just another analogy - say we simplify $60mil and 15mil to just $60 and 15 people. Of those 15 people, only one has to buy a full priced game (say orange box at $50),then just one more has to buy say garry's mod or the original deus ex and you're there. 13 of those 15 people don't have to buy a thing and you still make up the deficit.
February 15, 2008 12:30:54 AM

Ok, you are correct that if games were $90USD it would be absurdly overpriced. Then i definitely would be playing MMO's exclusively. My posts were done from the perspective of a US gamer.

I really, truly believe that the only thing that will save pc gaming from a fiery death is digital distribution. The unfortunate side effect of PC gaming is that it is not as "social" a gaming platform as a console, with the sole exception of MMO's, or more specifically WoW. You don't get the huge crowds of Halo junkies crowding outside of babbages every time they release a new version, etc.

This in an of itself is what makes retail companies devote so much space and time to console games.
February 15, 2008 1:24:37 AM

bennyblanx said:


Have you ever purchased a pc game via download? Do the pros of services like Steam outweigh the cons? Will physical copies go the way of the buggy whip?

Share your thoughts.

-Ben


I absolutely LOVE Steam. I can download any of the games I purchased on any of the 3 main computers I use on a daily bases, and play them at any time. The games are automatically updated, and I never have to worry about re-installation if I rebuild one of these systems. I never have to search for discs again! Steam always works, and never fails in any way shape or form for me.

I did try the IGN download service once. That was a disaster! Their method was super restricting, and I ran into so many problems it was not even funny. Then when I wanted to install an update to a game, it turned out I had to download a "special" update instead of the normal update.

I can't wait for more games to be released through Steam. Any good title of any genre I will buy there without reservation.

I also prefer how many MMO's now sell their games. You can buy and download WoW or LoTRO, though you couldn't at first which sucked. Especially since both games sold out for weeks after first release. But with download, you never worry about sellouts.

As far as the "$50 per game" argument, consoles sell for $60 per game, so I don't have any sorrow for you guys there. And many of Steam's recent releases had special pricing and special packages on early orders too, making purchases there more worth your money. It does cost a lot of money for them to run their servers 7x24x365 and all the bandwidth to support so many downloads. I think it's an extremely good deal.
February 15, 2008 4:09:34 AM

What about a Complete Solution

I'll jump in here, haven't posted to toms for years. As side a note, I don't have time to download resource hugging, time consuming videos. Come on, why not have a text summary of all the details with the video, so I can skim/read and skip the videos, or decide if I want to download it.

This is an important issue, I have had many thoughts on it, and recently Intel MS, and Nvidia have joined, and hopefully will do similar to what I have been thinking. I have been thinking of an initiative to solve these problems, based on some of the techniques I was designing for my gaming OS.

The PC is a great advantage because you can get legal software cheaper, particularly the older software, and have all the games on there (installing them is the disadvantage). On the down side. Manufacturers that require you to download a game, or sell you a boxed game and require you to register, download the latest updates to their register/update program, then to the game itself before you can use the box you bought (ten hours before) or require you to fish out and insert the original disk each time for the game you installed after you boot the OS (you might as well get a console, boot a lot faster, insert disk and play) are some of the things killing this industry.

With what I wrote below, I would like to put forward the idea that we could have an optional software protection mechanism built into PCs. Which allows commercial companies to protect their property and for private individuals and small companies to develop and publish for the PC. The software would allow disks to be inserted, verified and booted, or verified, installed and registered (so disk does not have to be installed each time). Ensure programs can be used on any PC, one PC at a time, when users upgrade, or go to a friends house. This would solve a lot of problems. If not and we have to annoyingly insert our disks each time, can we bring back those 50-100 disk towers and keep all our disks in them, like they did with CD ten to 20 years ago.


Problems:

A PC is a lot more inconvenient and harder than a console.

Solutions to problems:


PC's bootable straight up into flashable Linux/Windows game kernel with latest Open GL, sound, control you name it. Have simple auto hardware configuration/interface standards to use these on at least a basic level. Even a simple common runtime + API's environment that could run under Linux and Windows.

Consoles can be made to boot straight up into a game. In contrast, with a PC you must boot, when you have lots of games you generally go through awkward menu systems (unless you spend time rearranging them) then boot the game and hope it doesn't crash or the system becomes unstable in performance.


Have it so you can boot with a game disk inserted (but drives tend to only power-up to open after boot), or insert after boot and play. Disks are also installable into discrete single directory tree under programs/games master folder, and no where else (no installing bits and pieces across the system, particularly system directories) which needs a long needed rewrite of a certain OS.

On a console you insert and use a game. On the PC you have to install the game and possibly stuff around with lots of things.

Have it so that the program installed in a discrete directory can be simply deleted by grabbing it's icon taking to trash or selecting delete (security locked of course to stop kids from deleting your prized games).

On a console, to remove a game you can take it out. On the PC you have to uninstall, but then there maybe all sorts of rubbish left around different places on your system, and it may have changed some things (not to mention being given options as to remove shared components etc).


Have specific standard controls and customisations mechanism for new ones. Have simple setup files for each game that specify connections from the standard controls to the new controls, which can be user made, downloaded from the Internet, and shared. Have keyboards with gaming control options built in, and reconfigurable graphic keytops and displays so users can quickly see which controls are used (available for years) and making all other keys pale in comparison.

On the console standardised controls and operation are available. On the PC the keyboard definitely is better for some games, but adding additional controls can offer problems and the games might not be setup to use them.


Have the PC self maintain it's image properly, so reinstalls don't have to be done, or repairs, and data integrity is maintained (I have already submitted some recommendations for this to Microsoft).

Have the OS install quickly and easily, repair quickly and easily, and have mechanism to transfer bootable image of old programs (a little more tricky when trying to keep copy protection).

You turn a console on to use it. The PC itself is difficult to setup and use. Cleaning up, maintaining data integrity, reinstalling etc.


Simpler cross compatibility coding target:

Have simple gaming target through single abstraction layer that aims for 50-90% of system performance (many types of games will get enough performance from this target). Would also be simpler to code for. The most important thing is that there is always a version of the code for the simple coding target uncustomised included. Have advanced target for rest of the power. Have customisations that can be added to the targets when ability is in the system. In this way we can maintain compatibility across the board, and plug and play.


Hardware configurations for manufacturers:

As the PC world has two hardware camps. one or two configurations would be used and replaced on 1-2 year basis, one Intel and Nvidia, One AMDATI. This would reduce the amount of customisations. User friendly, true plug and play, auto configurable user replaceable hardware. Each new configuration iteration is a continue on from the last (unless something radical comes along). This all helps keep down the complexity of customisations on top of the based target platform. A program written to the simple gaming target working on all hardware.

The 3D/chipset/Processor hardware would be the debugged low power consumption versions of the present generation hardware. Which means it might be less than 50% the performance of the latest gear, but it takes a lot of developers don't come close to maxing out the potential of gear for a while.


Make a console/home-theatre case for it.

I have come up with an idea for a radical easy case platform for a gaming console also incorporating home theatre, that can be used for standard PC. The gaming PC should also be able to incorporate home theatre hardware. It is cheap enough these days to incorporate a multiple digital tuner, but if desired to keep costs down, the case could have room to have usb tuners inserted instead, and ship with a standard DVD burner. Remote, wireless controllers, wireless keyboard, included or as standardised option. Wii like controls also desirable.


Make easy development system, and then cross development system.

I was thinking about an Open Source initiative for something like this that allows from deep programming up to author/content/ware level, that allows for easy incorporation of different types systems past PC and recompilation of programs.


Fund development of Open source game engines, like FPS shooter engines.

They are already out there, and having them professional cutting edge grade, can save developers a lot of money. Developers would then extend them as they wish, but basically develop and sell content that uses them. This would eliminate a lot of licencing costs to use cutting edge game engines. There maybe a small fee required though, as some software patent technologies may have to be licensed.


Charge Console system price

Using the cheap hardware and Linux, we are talking about Wii territory here, even up to PS3 for an advanced configured system. A MS based PC console only (only the console/home-theatre part of an OS) system might not be much more than a Linux based one.


Eventually a portable MID/UMPC version eventually


This could also be combined with on-line download like stream, with local executable backup disks.


Thanks


Wayne Morellini.
Aus
February 15, 2008 4:47:01 AM

im a fan of having real things lol. I like discs and i dont think i will ever pay full price for a game when i could spend a little more by driving and buying it so i have a disc.
February 15, 2008 11:07:01 AM

whats that figure? 60 million less sales? That could be explained by many things and is not a large figure for a * 6 Billion dollar industry.
February 16, 2008 6:35:57 AM

I initially had my reservations about Steam (so much so I didn't buy Half-Life 2 when it first came out), but then I got the Orange Box....and I'm slowly warming to it.

You also pay for shipping, the wages of the guys that work in the store and the stores profit margin. Digital distribution really should be cheaper than retail, and in Australia for non-Activision games it is - over here we pay around $90USD a game in the shops (which is bs imo, but that's another issue). said:
You also pay for shipping, the wages of the guys that work in the store and the stores profit margin. Digital distribution really should be cheaper than retail, and in Australia for non-Activision games it is - over here we pay around $90USD a game in the shops (which is bs imo, but that's another issue).


An important point. Us Australians have been paying a premium for games for as long as I can remember (primarily due to shipping and economies of scale). Activision is really doing themselves no favours by shafting Australian consumers. I am, of course, referring to the debacle over the pricing of Call of Duty 4 over Steam. Quite frankly, I find it insulting that they'd charge USD 88.50 for a download of CoD4 when it can be acquired for about $10-20 less at retail, and even more cheaply through importers.
February 16, 2008 7:00:32 AM

Quote:
whats that figure? 60 million less sales? That could be explained by many things and is not a large figure for a * 6 Billion dollar industry.
Just to clarify it's $60million in sales - or 1.2million $50 games.

@Waynemm - thats terrible, I like to control, modify and tweak every part of my gaming experience - what you outlined effectively turns the pc into yet another console.
February 17, 2008 7:54:20 AM

funkeystu said:
Quote:

@Waynemm - thats terrible, I like to control, modify and tweak every part of my gaming experience - what you outlined effectively turns the pc into yet another console.
Quote:


You can still customise as much as you want, and developers can customise as much as they want. This just provides an standardised base version of games to run across machines and generations. It particularly allows console like machines for those people that prefer an easier straight forward experience, or can't handle and maintain an normal PC (most of them). This provides an open, copy protected, easy to use, complete alternative to consoles with all the best elements of Consoles and PC's. I prefer it as an possible solution to PC gaming than going solely boxless.

Another aspect is that consoles cannot easily keep up with the rapid high cost development cycle of PC's in an open development environment in an platform like this.
February 19, 2008 4:22:29 PM

I love the availability of online distributed games. When HL2 came out and I still hadn't played the first one, instead of trying to hunt down the original half-life on some second hand store, I could just easily buy one of the packs that Steam has and be done with it. It's just so much more convenient.

It's interesting, I like to have physical CDs as far as music goes, but don't really have that need for games and movies.
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