December 9, 2009

Steam and Digital Distribution

SteamSince the ear­ly days of gam­ing when we want­ed a new game or title we would hop in the car and head down to the local store to pur­chase it.  When com­pa­nies pub­lished a new title they would release a phys­i­cal copy of the prod­uct for con­sumers to buy at their local retail­ers.   In com­bi­na­tion with increas­ing amounts of pira­cy and main­stream broad­band ser­vice the way we get games may soon be chang­ing.  Pub­lish­ing giants like Valve and EA have begun to shy away from phys­i­cal releas­es and start push­ing their con­tent through online deliv­ery ser­vices known respec­tive­ly as Valves Steam Client and EA dig­i­tal Down­load ser­vice.
Steam is the largest and most well known of the dig­i­tal dis­tri­b­u­tion clients.  It has a cat­a­logue of over 780 games it also has friends, chat­ting, groups ‚etc.  Steam pro­vides many ben­e­fits to both devel­op­ers and clients.  For the devel­op­ers it helps deter pira­cy as the con­sumer has to pur­chase a dig­i­tal copy of a game and does not have the phys­i­cal media.  It also helps pro­vide much larg­er prof­its.  The aver­age $50 dol­lar game sold at a retail store brings in a gross prof­it of about $8 where as a game sold on steam for the same price brings in about $35 dol­lars.  There are many fac­tors that go into this.  Print­ing the game, ship­ping the game, pay­ing the retail­er to hold it on their shelves, etc.  If games were to move entire­ly to dig­i­tal dis­tri­b­u­tion it is entire­ly pos­si­ble that we would see a small price drop in the aver­age price of a game.  Per­son­al­ly I think $35 dol­lars is a fair price for any new title or per­haps $45 depend­ing on the devel­op­ment costs.  To the con­sumer there are many ben­e­fits, first and fore­most being able to access their game instant­ly and there is no need to wor­ry about phys­i­cal theft, key steal­ing or bro­ken disks.  Once you buy the game you can down­load it any time on any com­put­er with no lim­i­ta­tions.  Fur­ther­more for games that have SDK’s you can still down­load cus­tom con­tent and edi­tors and mod­i­fy the game.  With dig­i­tal net­work every­one has to have an account and their games are tied to that account.  This allows Valve to mon­i­tor their con­tent so for those of you who have been plagued by cheaters/hackers valve can eas­i­ly ban their account and their game with­in a mat­ter of sec­onds.  Peo­ple are a lot less like­ly to cheat if they are in risk of loos­ing their entire game library.
While there are many advan­tages to dig­i­tal­ly dis­trib­uted soft­ware there are some dis­ad­van­tages.  First and fore­most in our book is the fact that the devel­op­er has com­plete con­trol of your soft­ware.  You do not own a phys­i­cal copy of that soft­ware so if you loose your account/password and can­not recov­er it you are out your entire game library.  In addi­tion to that, like the Xbox 360, is they can pre­vent users mods and force you to pay for con­tent oth­er­wise known as DLC.  While steam does offer some paid DLC they also have a lot of free DLC.  At the moment this is not an issue but we can forsee in the future if games go entire­ly dig­i­tal that com­pa­nies may try to pre­vent free user con­tent and only allow theirs.   Anoth­er issue, although not as sig­nif­i­cant, there is no col­lectible con­tent.  Per­son­al­ly I like col­lect­ing the phys­i­cal box and art work.  One big issue, with EA dig­i­tal store, is they only allow you down­load your title 3 times and you are only allowed to down­load it for a year.  If you wish to be able to down­load it after that you have to pay a fee of 6 dol­lars for anoth­er 5 years.  You are not allowed to make a phys­i­cal back­up of your soft­ware either.  EA has had a his­to­ry of mak­ing bad busi­ness deci­sions this is defi­nat­ly one of them.  The good news is that you can down­load a lot of EA titles from Steam with­out incur­ring this prob­lem or hav­ing to suf­fer DRM/Securerom issues.   Anoth­er killer is that some con­tent is region spe­cif­ic.  If you move out of the coun­try some games that you have pur­chased will no longer be playable because those titles are not allowed to be sold in those coun­tries.   Final­ly we have band­width and down­load speed.  Games like Stran­gle­hold and Cry­sis are in excess of 13gb of raw data.  Down­load­ing 13gb over a DSL 5d/1u con­nec­tion could and does take hours and for those who have slow­er con­nec­tions it could lit­ter­aly take all day.
In con­clu­sion we do think dig­i­tal dis­tri­b­u­tion is a great idea.  It pro­vides both the con­sumer and the devel­op­er many eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits.  There are a few things how­ev­er we would like to see in the future.  First, once you pur­chase a game you should be able to down­load it any­where.  If you bought it, it should be yours to install and play where you desire.  If you have the mis­for­tune of hav­ing to pick­up and move out of the coun­try or if your mil­i­tary and want to play a game while your deployed you should be able to access your library. There should be the option to pur­chase art­work and phys­i­cal media.  I think it’s real­is­tic to charge $35 dol­lars for a dig­i­tal copy of a game but per­haps offer a phys­i­cal copy for $5 extra plus ship­ping for those who wish to col­lect those items.   Anoth­er big one is unlim­it­ed down­loads there is no eth­i­cal rea­son why I should only be able to down­load 3 times. Per­son­al­ly I build at least one com­put­er a year so I could real­is­ti­cal­ly burn through those 3 down­loads in one year or less and I play my games more then once.  Final­ly allow­ing users to cre­ate their own con­tent and encour­ag­ing it.  One of the things that real­ly keep games like Half-Life, Dia­blo II and Star­craft around for years after they were released is free user cre­at­ed con­tent.

7 comments

  1. PimpmasterF - December 13, 2009 8:41 am

    +1
    I absolute­ly love Steam and the inter­face they pro­vide for games and media con­tent and the only beef I real­ly have with such a sys­tem is despite the offline mode Steam offers, not every­one offers that like drag­on age for instance, I have to be logged in to have access to game saves and DLC, what if my net is out or I dont wan­na con­nect that par­tic­u­lar PC? EA is anoth­er sto­ry, The only sup­port I will ever give EA, is when a game I real­ly want to play comes out, Im not going to give up that game expe­ri­ence just because it has EA’s name on it. I would like to but I just cant do it, I loved cry­sis, cry­sis war­head, drag­one age and the need for speed series etc. and speak­ing of drag­on age and even mass effect for that mat­ter, as good of games as they are I real­ly wish EA had­nt taint­ed Bioware’s good name.

    Reply
  2. PimpmasterF - December 13, 2009 1:58 pm

    Oh and for the record, F@%k you Elec­tron­ic Arts

    Reply
  3. DeathProof - December 13, 2009 3:54 pm

    I think the dig­i­tal down­load is great, and yea, wtf, why can’t there be an option to pur­chase the art,case ect, with the actu­al price of the down­load less than retail. Not like I real­ly care, but there should at least be the option. Also there should be a way to have the con­tent in a user friend­ly for­mat to be able to burn to disk for back­up pro­pos­es, if one would hap­pen to find them­selves with­out inter­net for a while. Love some EA titles, but dit­to to above : ( ea = boooo .

    Reply
  4. Lookback - December 16, 2009 9:24 pm

    I love Steam, but some­times they just seem like a clear­ing house for old games. They real­ly need to broad­en their offer­ing con­sid­er­ably to real­ly take over this mar­ket.

    Reply
  5. неудержимые трейлер - August 4, 2010 11:13 am

    В фильме полагаеа чутье находящегося у одчинении создания, оо напоминающего охотничьего а. Особая броня закрывает ноги и руки этого Хищника

    Reply
  6. Каллиста - August 22, 2010 9:03 am

    Присоединяюсь. Всё выше сказанное правда. Можем пообщаться на эту тему. Здесь или в PM.
    Да делали
    Мне знакома эта ситуация. Давайте обсудим.
    Утро вечера мудренее.
    Полностью разделяю Ваше мнение. В этом что-то есть и мне кажется это отличная идея. Полностью с Вами соглашусь.

    Reply
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    Reply

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