Monday, December 15, 2008

Gaming download revolution!

I used to always purchase my games over the counter. Whenever I would go shopping at the mall with my girlfriend, I used to disappear and she would always find me at the Electronics Boutique. It was my favorite shop in the world. That was until the day they screwed me over with Warhammer Online. Not only did EB charge $25 more for the retail version of the game than the digital download, they also messed up my pre-order causing me to miss out on the beta. Their customer service went something along the lines of:

"Sorry buddy, must of made a computer error. Would you like to pre-order WotLK now?"

I couldn't believe the guy would try and sell me another pre-order after he botched the last one (me not liking WoW didn't help). I was so furious that I vowed never to walk into their store again. On a side note, I also considered inventing the poisonous flaming shuriken and throwing it between the eyes of the try-hard nerd wannabee EB sales assistant. Luckily it didn't come to that... Unfortunately for me though EB has a monopoly in Australia, and if you don't buy your games through them, you don't buy games at all (another reason to hate them).

So naturally I turned to purchasing and obtaining games online. My first digital game purchase was the Orange Box for $30 US through Steam. I was so pleased with the service that I later bought Overlord for $10 and Left 4 Dead for $50 US. I'm telling you, the guys at Steam have got it all worked out. Their games are cheaper than the retail counterparts and they cleverly wrap the DRM software into the Steam service so that the player is never bothered by it. It's definitely the future of game sales.

Unfortunately Steam doesn't cover all the games I like to play, so I also checked out Impulse and Gog. Impulse had a nice little sale over the weekend where I picked up Space Rangers 2 for $4 US. Awesome game for the sale price btw. Reminded me of my old school days of Frontier Elite II.

Anyway, for the price of WAR and a one month's subscription, I have been able to buy these awesome games:
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Half Life 2 (including Episode 1 and 2)
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Portal
  • Overlord
  • Space Rangers 2
I've had more fun playing these than I did WAR and I didn't have to deal with hopeless sales staff or even leave my house. Naturally there is the overhead of the download itself, but if you have a decent net connection, it's not really a problem.

I don't think I'll ever buy another game over the counter, unless it's for a console which doesn't support online purchase (like the DS). If you haven't already, I recommend joining the digital download revolution!


Rob said...

Steam rocks....but be careful with other download providers. What happens if you get another computer or your hard drive crashes? Can you re-download the games, or do you have to buy them again? Because it rocks, Steam gives you unlimited redownloading. But EA (for example) gives you only 6 months of re-download service, or 2 years if you pay $6 per game at the time of purchase. I got burned by this and I'll never download from EA again.

Scott said...

About time you joined us enlightened folk! Hahaha!

Be careful with Steam though, they don't "force" other publishers to use Valve's DRM system instead of SecuROM for example. Buying the game over Steam will set SecuROM to different settings, allowing infinite downloads, etc. but the point is: you now have an unremovable rootkit on your system. So, Steam or no Steam, if I really, really want a game where I have a choice of a normal 360 version or a PC version with SecuROM -- I'm getting the 360 one.

Hudson said...

I get a ton of games off Steam. I actually hate going to the store now to get games.

Thallian said...

there's always online retailers.. I recommend estarland and amazon for quality and decent prices. But In Australia I dunno if estarland will work.

Pvt Teer said...

One thing that I don't like about downloading games is that I don't get the box. There is nothing more satisfying than looking at all those boxes and saying, "I am a gamer, and these are my games." (HW Guy FTW.) To me, the Orange Box isn't the Oranga box without the actual orange box. I prefer to have the box and the CD because what if I move? What if my computer crashes? What if I'm hacked? What if I get a virus? If I have the box, I an install it again without going through the downloading hoops.

And on top of that, what if you don't have an internet connection? there are gamers out there without them. If all games are digital, then they get the shaft. Downloading games is good and all, but we can't take off too far from our roots on this.

Chris F said...

Amen brother, amen.

Last bunch of purchases have been downloadable. Yay Steam. Bioshock, Fallout 3, Orange Box, L4D. I will never buy over the counter again.

The "DRM" scheme is sweet goodness. I can allow the company to rest assured I paid for it, and I actually save money by buying it online. It is a win win.

@Scott: Pretty sure that SecuROM isn't Rootkit anymore (or ever was) that was one of those perpetuated thoughts through the interwebs. Just read an article in PCGamer explaining it wasnt rootkit. (doesn't mean it isn't a pain, but no rootkit).

@PVT Teer: I used to be that way too - but am loving my new freedom. Kinda like going commando.

Any gamer, not gaming with an internet connection isn't really a "gamer" (to be fair) in this day and age.

Every publisher should go digital, stop all developments on any other type of DRM scheme, and rejoice.

Lars said...

@Pvp Teer - I actually hate having the box around. All I ever do is install the game, and if its like most games out there, it requires that you put the disc in the drive, which means I have to have it accessible to do that. With Direct2Drive or Steam, the DRM is already taken care of, no having to search for the disc, and no clutter from having boxes or discs laying around (or hogging up space in the closet.)

Tesh said...

I buy many games online, but I'm still buying physical copies. I'm one of those old school gamers who wants the disc for when my internet connection dies or I have to reinstall. Maybe even if *gasp* I don't want to be connected to the internet for a while.

Few things piss me off more than requiring an internet connection to play a game that I've paid for. (The obvious exception being games that are only playable online, like an MMO.)

Even online verification that I'm a legal customer pisses me off because I'm one of those honest sorts who wouldn't pirate in the first place, and it's annoying that companies assume guilt until proven innocent. That's less a comment on the game industry as it is a comment on the people that they are reacting to, though.

I'm also an old school book lover. I like having manuals for games. PDFs just aren't the same.

Crimson Starfire said...

EA haven't got a clue when it comes to online sales. In fact, in my option EA are still trying to figure out their head from their ass. You can quote me on that ;)

Yeah I think I just added 1 point to my wisdom. I've known about digital download clients like Steam for years, but I never fully made the transition. Glad i did.

I haven't had any problem with re-downloading or DRM stuff with Steam as yet. I've got mates at work that swear by it. Time will tell though...

Real game stores are over rated. I don't think I'll ever walk back into one again... unless I have to burn time waiting for me gf to finished shoe shopping ;)

There is still the option of online stores like Amazon, but I've got a 50 gig download account with 1 MB/sec transfer. It's much easier and faster to just download the game. Don't think we have an 'estarland' in Australia. We're are a bit backward down here ;)

@Pvt Teer
I've got so many game boxes that they have now become a nuisance. I used to love collecting them and displaying them on the shelves above my computer, but now I couldn't really care less. They just look like fast food wrappers scattered throughout my gaming area. There are downloading hoops if you have a computer crash and need to reformat, but I always backup my hard drive once a month, so I'm not too concerned.

Obviously digital downloading won't work if you don't have a net connection, but it's such a small population of gamers that don't have one these days. I'd be more worried about have a slow internet connection.

@Chris F
Every publisher should go digital, stop all developments on any other type of DRM scheme, and rejoice.

Totally, totally agree. Its the future of gaming without a doubt. Amen.

I feel exactly the same way.

You don't seem sold on the whole digital download idea? It took me a while to make the transition, but I'm so glad I did. Stick to what works for you, but I'm telling you it's the bees knees.

I'm also old school with my books. PDF's are great for searching for keyword stuff, but you can't beat a good old book in the hand for recreational reading.

Tesh said...

Heh, I'm not convinced that digital downloads are a bad thing, they just aren't what I want out of my gaming dollars. I guess I'm just too much of a pack rat; I've got the hoarder gene from my progenitors who lived through the Depression. I don't want to be dependent on a service provider to have access to stuff I've paid money for.

For convenience, yes, I can definitely see the allure of digital downloads. They are also great in the DRM mess as Chris rightfully notes. I'm just old school enough to want a hard copy, and the right to use it when I feel like it. To me, the tradeoff isn't worth it... but it's not something that I really have an argument with, if that makes any sense.

Danshir said...

Already been doing it. Got Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Half life 2 DM, and Half life 1* for 99 cents!* all from Steam!

One neat bit about using Steam. If you purchased the game at a store, and later set it up with Steam, if you ever uninstall the game, lose the cds, and want to play the game again some time later..just gotta download it from steam =)

Tesh said...

One more thing that I remembered this morning... I'm one of those dirty used game buyers, and I've even sold a few games once I'm done with them. Does Steam allow for such a transfer of rights?

Tesh said...

OK, I've seen some good prices on Steam, and (Good Old Games) is interesting, too. I like the idea of game purchases being tied to an account, not a computer.

So tell me, how does this thing work? Do I have to log in to play my game? Do I have to have be to logged in the whole time I'm playing? Is it even possible to play "offline"? Can I transfer rights or resell (or return) games that I purchase but find to be utterly stupid?

I'm willing to be converted... but I need to know that it's worth it.

Crimson Starfire said...


The Steam client sits in your task tray and is always running unless you deliberately close it. The client must be running in order to play the games you have purchased through Steam. It acts as a DRM, chat client, web browser and download client all in one. You can play your games offline, but you need to have played them at least once in online mode. You can move from computer to computer and log in and still play the games you own. The client does not restrict you to one computer. In online mode, you can only be logged onto one computer at a time though.

No idea about the transfer of rights stuff. I couldn't find anywhere in the client that allowed me to give that games I own to another person. You might have to ask the Steam guys on that one. I'm guessing that it wouldn't be allowed though.