I’m Not Afraid of Digital Distribution

Okay, okay, so we’ve all talked about it at least once. The digital distribution renaissance; a forthcoming time where physical video game media will be no more and all game sales will occur digitally, with the used game business amicably crumbling. Most shun it while some embrace it, but everyone feels a little afraid. The consistently growing virtual consoles and downloadable games market, rumors of all game manuals going digital and the substantial growth in the used game market…it definitely leaves you wondering.

Fellow gamers, I will attempt to dispel these fears and enlighten you all as to why digital distribution is truly a revolution in games, and it should be welcomed with open arms instead of being something of nightmares. Some of you may ask why anyone would want physical copies of games to perish. It’s simple really – I detest the used game business.

I hate the fact that retailers take these “used” games in exchange for a measly few bucks to then resell the games at near full price. It takes money from the game creators, which is where we really want all of our money to go, not to some grubby used game retailer. Why should I pay Game’n’Trade’s bills when I could be increasing the chances of seeing a sequel or continued support for a game I love?

I know that many people love used games and also the reselling of their games to the aforementioned retailers, and I definitely understand that. But, the prices of new video games could drop substantially in the digital distribution era. Sure once you’ve played Shooter XZY to completion you won’t be able to turn it back into currency, but at the same time you probably won’t have to pay sixty bucks for it.

The majority of people who trade games in do so in order to make another game more affordable. Imagine – and this is purely speculation – if new, fully priced titles where just forty dollars. That’s a whole 1/3rd cheaper, and that would bring you much closer to any new game. Forty bucks would be even cheaper than games last console generation, and that’s because they, too, used physical media.

Not only that, but we would probably still be able to resell our games, they just wouldn’t be used. Say for example we began using a licensing system, where we purchased licenses to games. This license would be tied to a database kept by the game creators for identification purposes. What would stop you from selling your license to another?

Nothing except you’d have to lower your asking price for the new game, because if not they could just buy it from the creators, which is again beneficial to the industry. We could also still trade games. What would stop me from trading my license to RPG XZY for your license for Shooter XYZ? If they both retail for the same price, it’s perfect. So that takes care of the used games business.

Another reason the idea of digital distribution scares people is because nothing beats the security of the physical copy. No matter what happens to the network or the console or the servers, you’ve still got your copy. What if this physical copy was simply a card lined with keys and numbers, no different than a credit card? You could use this card to download your game, restore it in the case of errors, and even take it to a friend’s house to play while away.

Of course, that friend would have to be connected to the net for the downloading and identification purposes, but who isn’t nowadays? So right there you’ve got all the functionality of a disc, without a disc. But it doesn’t stop there. Ever break, scratch, drop, step on, crush or decimate a disc? I know I have, and countless times a game I paid good money for was rendered useless because of some “physical” issue.

That would never happen again. All your games would play perfectly, never a skip, bump or blemish during gameplay. Ten years could go by and your game would still be mint and this is something that exceeds the capability of the physical disc. Even the mighty Blu-ray can be injured. It has happened to me in the past.

Physical discs could exist exclusively for limited or special editions, and even those should include an ID card for the game, so your physical copy can sit on your display, timeless and perfect forever (many people do this now by simply buying two copies of each game but we’re not all made of money).

So, now that we’ve cleared the physical copy and the used games business, the two bastions of the digital distribution argument, on to the yet impossible, the undone, the things we can’t achieve until the DD era. First of all, you would never have to worry about a game selling out or not being available. When BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger dropped, no game store in my city had a copy.

Has anything similar ever happened to you? It would never happen again. You could always download your game and get your ID card in the mail the next day, five, ten, twenty years after release. Every game available for the console would be right at your fingertips. Secondly, the lack of a physical capacity would allow games to be bigger and more extravagant than ever before.

Games could be engineered that would even surpass the next console generation (that is of course, if they used physical media). All developers would have equal access to a nearly limitless pool of memory and utility; it would be unprecedented. Thirdly, and I just had to throw this in there, it would do the earth a largesse of good. It would produce absolutely no waste or carbon footprint that would outlive us. It would be utterly and entirely green.

Fourthly, and perhaps more importantly, it returns all profit to the creators. The destruction of the used games business would give the hardworking developers and publishers every well deserved penny of the returns and this is exactly how it should be.

A boost like that to the industry could change the face of gaming as we know it. Look into the light fellow gamers. The road is unbeaten and untraveled but it is ascending. The mental security of a physical disc can be mirrored by the ID card which would exceed previous functionality. The lack of memory restraint would take games over the edge.

The rerouting of profit to the creators would create a healthier industry. No longer would retailers be able to blindly rob both consumers and developers by way of used games. No more expensive importing of region specific games.

No more broken or damaged discs. No more ridiculous prices for legacy titles. No more buying high and selling low.  No more multi-disc games. No more loading. No more choosing between which versions of a game to buy, No more waiting in lines. No more sold out or out of print games. No more staggering manufacturing costs. No more tons and tons of landfill waste. Yes, we will certainly lose some things in the conversion to the digital era. But does the gain not more than suffice?

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Kenneth Richardson

Kenneth is a Graphics and Game Design student who's worked as an author for DualShockers.com since June of 2010. His favorite gaming genres are Fighting, Role Playing and Sadistic Action games like Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta. In addition to gaming, he is also strongly interested in music, fashion, art, culture, literature, education, religion, cuisine, photography, architecture, philosophy, film, dance, and most forms of creative expression.

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