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Digital Disrtribution for PC Games Discussion

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February 13, 2008 3:13:34 PM

Interesting discussion on Tom's Games today. Will digital distribution help PC game sales? I don't know. I think there are still a lot of people who want the box. But since pirating is such a huge issue, perhaps more developers will move to DD since pirating is more difficult to with this method of distribution. Unless there were a complete move from the box to DD, however, I'm not sure how much this will help sales. After all, there are still people with slow internet connections, and even with a cable connection, the downloads are still on the slow side. I don't think the PC gaming world is ready for boxless gaming yet.

However, I would like to see publishers continue to push in this direction...anything to avoid publishers porting all games form the console to the PC. I would also like to see the prices lowered on boxless/manual-less/CD-less DD games. The cost of manufacturing is lowered, so pass on the savings, huh? $49.99 for a downloaded game when it costs less to make than a boxed game seems a bit like a ripoff.

What are your thoughts?
February 13, 2008 3:43:51 PM

I think the cost difference is less to do with the disc, box and manual (which cost pennies each to manufacture) and more to do with the intermediaries in the selling process. This is also why buying a game in a shop costs more than buying it mail order.

But I agree - DD games should be cheaper than retail, but often are not. In fact, sometimes it's more expensive than mail order!
February 13, 2008 3:55:44 PM

If DD games were cheaper ide buy them, but currently when i buy games i usually check ebay or amazon for a used copy as they are cheap and you get the box.
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February 13, 2008 5:27:28 PM

Steam has a fantastic DD system. Once you buy a game, it's yours forever. No extra fee to download the game more than once, or for a period longer than 6 months. You buy the game and it's yours as long as Steam exists.

On the other hand, systems like the EA buying system SUCKS. Paying full price (or close to it) for a game that you can only download for 6 months from the purchase date is stupid. Also, if you want to extend that to two years, it costs you even more money... and even then, it still expires eventually and you can no longer dl it.
February 13, 2008 7:49:52 PM

I've yet to experience DD. Is it a direct install from the site or do you download an install file? What type of protection do these games have to stop people from download it onto 10 PCs? I've been slow to jump to DD because I like being able to install my games on all 3 PCs. I don't like the idea of site having control over my installs but it seems they'd have to or else pirating would be rampent. So how does it work and what are the drawbacks? I think the advantages are obvious so it might be a good trade off if they aren't too horible as rgeist explained about Steam.
February 13, 2008 7:53:34 PM

Usually a DL -> Decrypt -> Install -> Activate.

I'm exactly sure how installing it on multiple machines would work... but if it makes you feel any better. I've used the same copy of HL:2 / CS:S on three different computers w/o a problem. Steam seems to be ok with me installing it on any computer I have registered with my original account. (I've never had 3 copies active at the same time though)
February 14, 2008 3:41:55 AM

I for one do not like DD because of my slow connection. I can install a DVD or even multiple discs much faster than I can download these HUGE titles. I do have high speed internet but it would still take me hours upon hours to download multiple gigs not to mention the install time. I will stick to retail boxes until fast internet comes down in pricing.
February 14, 2008 4:18:02 AM

My personal experience with digital distribution is with Sam & Max. Simply because that is the only way to get the game when it's out. The download is fast and at the end of the season, the game publisher post the box to me as well - which is nice. Now that more people demand widescreen, the game publisher actually redo their season 1 (they are onto season 2 right now by the way) and let us re-download the game in widescreen format.

Personally, if given a choice, I would buy the box. I was one of the early adopter of eBook when it first came out. The experience was bad. I would hold onto to a physical book any time.
February 14, 2008 7:32:23 AM

purplerat said:
I've yet to experience DD. Is it a direct install from the site or do you download an install file? What type of protection do these games have to stop people from download it onto 10 PCs? I've been slow to jump to DD because I like being able to install my games on all 3 PCs. I don't like the idea of site having control over my installs but it seems they'd have to or else pirating would be rampent. So how does it work and what are the drawbacks? I think the advantages are obvious so it might be a good trade off if they aren't too horible as rgeist explained about Steam.


Actually rgeist explained that Steam did it right and EA is doing it wrong, and I agree with the fact that Steam is doing it exactly (!) right. I have no experiance with EA as that is not available in the EU (as far as I know). Steam manages the download and install process, and keeps your game always uptodate with the latest patches. Some people like to have control over whether to install a patch or not as not all patches out there are an improvement or in the case where there is a trade-off between loosing some performance versus getting a specific bug fixed.

In my experience Steam has never messed up yet in putting out a patch that was not an improvement or in the rare event that it did happen, then another patch quickly follows to resolve it.

Steam allows you to install your games on any PC, however when your PC is connected to the internet you can only play the game on one machine at the time, which is what you've paid for. You can play offline if there is no internet connection available (for whatever reason), but obviously you will need internet access to play the game for the first time (activation) after getting it installed. This may not even be mandatory for all games you can purchase through Steam but it holds for most popular titles.

The only regret I have regarding Steam is that not all games are published on it. Maybe they could throw in some more bargain deals now and then because with older games I usually see it cheaper on shelves than that Steam is offering, but they do also have their good moments, mostly in ValvE owned games (obviously). Third party games, less so.

At this point in time Steam is the benchmark/golden standard to measure (PC) digital distribution systems against (and yes, in the initial stages of getting Steam up and running this was different). All Cudo's to ValvE for this achievement (and no, I'm not ValvE shareholder, just a very satisfied customer).

February 14, 2008 3:50:19 PM

I've downloaded both Day of Defeat: Source and Bioshock from Steam. I have a cable internet connection and it still took a long time. The nice thing was that these were impulse buys. I just wanted the games and didn't want to go out and get them. Plus, it was a curiosity thing for me to try it. No problems so far except that you can't play a STEAM game while another STEAM game is downloading.

The main thing is, I don't want to see PC games go the route of being 100% console ports. There are two main factors leading to this direction. One is piracy and the other, of course, is sales and all the reasons why sales are low. Piracy is going to be a lot more difficult with DD. The jury is out as to whether DD will help sales. Crysis only selling 100,000 copies wouldn't have been helped by DD.
February 14, 2008 6:29:06 PM

Thanks for the info, I'll have to give Steam a try.
February 15, 2008 12:50:00 AM

I love DD on steam, especially because I can download at 7megs/sec here at college! But yeah, EA's DD service SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS!!!!! As rgeist explained, you will literally have to repurchase the game within two years, EVEN IF you pay extra!! That is complete garbage.

Now, I downloaded crysis through ea's downloader and much to my frustration, half of the time i get NO DVD ERRORS!! This is why I will never ever ever download a game from EA again.

To make a worthwhile contribution to this discussion, I will say that I think DD is where PC gaming is headed, especially as more and more people get faster and faster internet connections. I love steam's model of no disk, no hassle installation. Being able to install the game on any computer with your account is a huge plus! Furthermore, as I think Rob said in the video, smaller developers can get a great chance to be found through DD.

I have purchased several games through DD that I never would have bought if I'd had to go through the trouble of going to the store. Indigo Prophecy, Chronicles of Riddick, and World of Warcraft come to mind.
February 18, 2008 7:03:49 AM

If you can afford a system capable of playing the newest games, you can afford DSL or Cable.

I actually love the idea of purchasing games online from Steam and owning a digital copy forever, I'll probably start doing this in the future once I get my new system built. My family is very notorious with discs so I try to keep all of my entertainment digital nowadays.
February 18, 2008 7:53:04 AM

hypersaxon said:
If you can afford a system capable of playing the newest games, you can afford DSL or Cable.

I actually love the idea of purchasing games online from Steam and owning a digital copy forever, I'll probably start doing this in the future once I get my new system built. My family is very notorious with discs so I try to keep all of my entertainment digital nowadays.


The only worry I have with Steam is the (password) security of the system. If someone hacks your account and gets him/herself banned from Steam, you're f*d. It is virtually impossible to prove it wasn't you and by the Steam agreement they have every right to ban a Steam account whenever it suites them. If hackers only hijack your account then you can probably get it back but still it will be quite a hassle.

Not that I have a boxed solution ready for this issue, but it is a risk. It would be so much better if there would be support for simple biometry solutions (cheap fingerprint reader as a USB device for instance). Almost nothing is unhackable but it is all about making it too difficult for most people to even start to tamper with it. It should always be optional of course as I believe you should not force people to buy hardware for their protection but for those that care, it should be available. With a system like Steam you can imagine the personal investments of people to become quite significant (hundreds or even thousands of dollars).
February 19, 2008 6:56:02 PM

So far the past few games I have purchased have been D2D. OBLIVION in 06, COD4, and CIV4. All have been re installed more than once and 2 have been owned for more than 6 months and re installed since (built a new pc)I have had zero problems, and love the fact I dont have to switch discs in and out, and usually when i want a game, Ill buy and dl before I leave for work. So far a dl process has not taken more than 2 hours. You get an activation code (and if required serial number) I save the download and serial information in my back up drive so I dont have to re download. but its available if you need to. you would figure I would buy more boxed games, I live within walking distance of an eb games. I really enjoy not needing a disc, I would prefer not to run the gauntlet of malware searching for no cd patches.
February 19, 2008 10:08:42 PM

rgeist554 said:
Steam has a fantastic DD system. Once you buy a game, it's yours forever. No extra fee to download the game more than once, or for a period longer than 6 months. You buy the game and it's yours as long as Steam exists.

On the other hand, systems like the EA buying system SUCKS. Paying full price (or close to it) for a game that you can only download for 6 months from the purchase date is stupid. Also, if you want to extend that to two years, it costs you even more money... and even then, it still expires eventually and you can no longer dl it.


200% agreed.

I have had Steam since it came out. Bought a ATI Radeon 9800XT and came with HLs for free and got Steam and of course had to wait as it was delayed. But I still got to put in the activation code and get HL, CS and all the HL expansions/mods.

So I have had it for 5 years now and I just built a new PC 5 months ago and installed Steam and started to download all the games I had. Didn't take long. Just did it overnight when I was in bed and I was very happy as I had HL2 & HL2:E2 again to hold me until the Orange Box.

Although I feel it is nice to have the box for other reasons such as it being pretty DD is turning out great from Steam. Infact wasn't Valve's Steam the first DD system? And the fact that they have so many customers and a wider array of games including BioShock, their own games and many more it might really be the way to push PC gaming into the arena it needs to be in.

PC gaming should be above the consoles as it is superior in many ways. Also considering that no matter what CPU/GPU you have it will always work. Well as long as it is Windows XP+. Either way Steam may help PC gaming, the others not so much.
February 20, 2008 6:42:30 PM

It's really nice that there are now legitimate sites where you can download lots of newest PC games as much as you want for only 20$/month. They offer many older games and games that cost 40-60$ just a year or half a year ago. For example, www.eurogamer.net offers World in Conflict, Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes, Jericho, Neverwinter Nights 2, Tomb Raider Legend, Call of Juarez, Battlestations Midway, Prince of Persia 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, F.E.A.R, Silverfall, Silent Hunter 4 and many older classics in their 12.95£/month "download as much as you can" offer. As I understand, you can sign up for a month or two and fill up your hard disk with PC games for many years ahead and then after a year or two upgrade your PC, sign up again and get a new portion of games.
February 20, 2008 7:13:38 PM

nice link, Morton. Do you have any experience with eurogamer DD?
February 21, 2008 11:46:28 AM

Bigmac, I just found the whole site yesterday and it was the first time I found an offer like that. There are probably similar offers on other sites as well. It's quite unbelievable actually if the download speed is great because during a month it's probably possible to download at least a dozen of the best games they offer. It would be 1-2£ for each game, i.e., ten times cheaper than boxed versions.
February 21, 2008 4:48:56 PM

My take is DD is not for the most of us, speeds are horrible, and now that Time Warner is charging extra for the bandwidth and ComCast is throttling the band width means you pay more for the game or the download takes forever,I'm with Haydox wait a few months and get the box cheap from Ebay
February 22, 2008 6:28:59 AM

I havent used steam yet. But one of the advantages I see is that you never need to search for a patch. or if you are reinstalling a game you dont need to worry about what order to install patches. install 1.2 but not 1.1 then go right to 1.5.
I just want to play games, not hunt down gamefixes and patches. Mods are a different story, those I research.
February 22, 2008 6:53:09 AM

Morton said:
As I understand, you can sign up for a month or two and fill up your hard disk with PC games for many years ahead and then after a year or two upgrade your PC, sign up again and get a new portion of games.


Morton, I checked and that's not how it works. If you go for a subscription you can only play the games as long as you're subscribed. How they've implemented it, I don't know but that is what they claim.

You can also buy the DD games but that's more mainstream prices. Still, saw some good bargains there in the purchase department as well.
February 22, 2008 11:43:53 AM

Quote:
I havent used steam yet. But one of the advantages I see is that you never need to search for a patch. or if you are reinstalling a game you dont need to worry about what order to install patches. install 1.2 but not 1.1 then go right to 1.5.
I just want to play games, not hunt down gamefixes and patches. Mods are a different story, those I research.
Had to quote this because it was such a good point.

If you've ever been out of the loop of BF2 / 2142 for a while... have fun patching. The poorly updated website often lacks the information on the latest patch (or it did at one time) if the patch has been out longer than two weeks. Maybe after thirty minutes or so of digging around you find the patch you suspect to be the latest... so you download the 450MB patch only to have the install fail or tell you that your game needs to be patched to a later version before the newer patch can be applied. LAME!

February 22, 2008 1:01:23 PM

rgeist554 said:
Quote:
I havent used steam yet. But one of the advantages I see is that you never need to search for a patch. or if you are reinstalling a game you dont need to worry about what order to install patches. install 1.2 but not 1.1 then go right to 1.5.
I just want to play games, not hunt down gamefixes and patches. Mods are a different story, those I research.
Had to quote this because it was such a good point.

If you've ever been out of the loop of BF2 / 2142 for a while... have fun patching. The poorly updated website often lacks the information on the latest patch (or it did at one time) if the patch has been out longer than two weeks. Maybe after thirty minutes or so of digging around you find the patch you suspect to be the latest... so you download the 450MB patch only to have the install fail or tell you that your game needs to be patched to a later version before the newer patch can be applied. LAME!


Yes, and then there's battlefield 1942 which says it needs to be updated even when you've installed every possible patch you can find! Then once you get that to work you get some dumb punk buster screw up and get kicked off of your favorite server! :fou:  :fou: 
February 23, 2008 7:00:26 AM

digital distribution=good priovided that you can store files on flash/cd/whatever and there are no quirks reinstalling.
lower cost, get rid of the middle man, takes less energy for me to write to a flash drive or a back up hd than it does to make a box and a book and a cd, and ship it all over the coutry, then me to drive to a store and pick it up and back... so dump your "publisher" or whoever it is that makes the cd and just send us the crap via my handy dandy broadband connection, and we'll split the difference of whatever you were paying the "publisher".
February 23, 2008 4:53:32 PM

nachowarrior said:
digital distribution=good priovided that you can store files on flash/cd/whatever and there are no quirks reinstalling.
lower cost, get rid of the middle man, takes less energy for me to write to a flash drive or a back up hd than it does to make a box and a book and a cd, and ship it all over the coutry, then me to drive to a store and pick it up and back... so dump your "publisher" or whoever it is that makes the cd and just send us the crap via my handy dandy broadband connection, and we'll split the difference of whatever you were paying the "publisher".


Steam allows you to backup the local content to a CD/DVD or external HD so you wont need to redownload. Can't say if the others do though.
February 23, 2008 8:51:40 PM

Stardock is also very good. Log in, pick the download. Download it. Play it forever without having to log back in or even be connected to the internet. Log in on a different computer. Install there too. Build a new system 5 years later, install it there too. No problems. I have bought several things from both Steam and Stardock. Generally if the game has fairly tame DRM or no DRM I will get a physical copy over Steam. With stardock it costs all of $5 to do both, so I generally go for that.
February 26, 2008 8:36:07 PM

I think that this is a good idea. As long as redownloads are free. If it has a good interface(read about Wild Tangents browser(?) service). Anything to help work out the copyprotection and driver problems.
Also, cable subscribers should pay $10 more monthly for more bandwidth and receive a $20 reduction in their cable TV service costs :) 
February 26, 2008 8:45:44 PM

Steam works really well I've found. Haven't tried other Digital Distribution services, don't really intend to. Just wish Steam had a larger catalog to choose from as a lot of the games on there are too obscure for my liking. :D 
!