Last week we looked at why we should not hate the inevitable future where all video games are distributed digitally. We talked about the convenience factor, putting more money in the pockets of the talented individuals who make the games we love, space saving and the ability to play new games the moment they launch without having to wait in line at a store. Those are some compelling reasons to put your ball in digital distribution’s court, but there are some reasons you should consider hating digital distribution in video games as well.
There are two sides of every issue, and while a part of me is excited for the prospect of not getting off my couch to play the latest copy of Call of Duty 57 and Mass Effect 9, there are reasons why I am standoffish towards the whole thing. I hope Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo prove this side of the argument wrong, because I want nothing more than for digital distribution to be amazing.
No Resale Value
This works directly against one of my major reasons why digital distribution is good, which is putting more money in the pockets of publishers with no used game market. However, for gamers on a budget, used games might be the only way they can afford to play some of their favorite games. Should they be denied the joy of getting a new a game just because they cannot spend the money for a new copy?
Are we told we can only purchase new cars or homes? Well if games are distributed one hundred percent digitally, that is exactly what will happen.
It sucks for publishers that their game is being sold used, and a retailer is profiting from their game with nothing coming back to them, but in the end, that is the right of the previous owner. They are allowed to sell a good they own. If you do not own a physical copy of the game, you have nothing to sell.
Maybe the developers will implement some sort of sell back program, where you can get a partial refund for a game within a certain amount of time, but I think that is very doubtful. In the end, we may just have to deal with being stuck with a bunch of old games.
For people with fast Internet, downloading your games is great. However, what if you live in a part of the world where broadband is not available? You may have to sit for hours, or even days, and wait for your new games to download.
How terrible would it be to know you purchased a copy of a game you waited months for, only to have to sit and watch a download bar crawl for days on end? This could be the reality for a large portion of gamers.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, only seven percent of the world has broadband Internet. The United States has around 26%, the UK has 31% and France has 33%. These are some scary numbers if the world of downloading video games that can easily exceed 10GB is to become a reality. Is almost 75% of the United States going to be shut out from playing the latest video games? That seems like a serious issue to overcome.
Price Control In The Hands Of One
If console games are sold digitally, right from the console, that leaves all the pricing decisions in the hands of the platform holder. In theory, they could raise the prices of games, and it would be out of our control. If a particular retailer decides to charge too much for a game, we just buy it somewhere else. If there is no retailer, either we pay the price or we do not buy the game.
What would digital distribution in video games mean for discounts? Would Microsoft and Sony have awesome deals like we see on Black Friday or would games be full price all the time? Steam does a great job of having sales frequently, so that at least gives me hope that we will not be ripped off.
Valve has always been a company that is all about the people; it remains to be seen if the console makers will be as generous as Valve when it comes to pricing their games.
Loss of Retailers = Loss of Jobs
If games are all digitally distributed, will we need specialty video game stores anymore? The profit margin on the sale of consoles is very low, so how can they stay in business without physical copies to sell? Big box retailers like Best Buy will be fine; they sell plenty of other products. GameStop has well over 6,000 locations. That is an awful lot of people left jobless.
I hope I have not completely scared you off from the prospect of digital distribution. As I said last week, there are some reasons it could be awesome. Still, as gamers, we need to be aware that the future might not be bright. We need to be aware of what could go wrong, and how it could hurt the industry we adore so much.
What is your opinion of digital distribution overall? Do you think it will be amazing or lead to the demise of video games? Let us know in the comments!