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Are we ready for Digital Downloads?

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Books, Movies, Music, and Games are a huge part of any modern persons entertainment. All of them are now available in purely digital forms.

Given over half of them are created by computers you can see why digital distribution is the next step. But are there reasons to go download and can we afford them yet?

With an ever increasing number of different digital download providers out there for Video Games, I thought we should take a look at a few of the best and compare their various merits.


impulse logoImpulse have a small catalogue but don’t let that fool you, they have some of the most interesting and highly rated PC games such as Demigod and Sins of a Solar Empire. Both Demigod and Sins of a Solar Empire are cheaper when bought on DVD via the usual online retailer. Either way Demigod will get you to install Impulse to go online for multiplayer, so it ends up a very similar offer.

Impulse also brings a variety of office applications which you might not find available on disc, other than distribution, the download client doesn’t offer much so price would win on this one from my point of view.

EA Store

ea storePossibly the largest publisher of games in the world, behind such legendary titles as Battlefield, Need for Speed, Madden, Fifa, the Sims and much more. The EA store appears to be very much the factory outlet approach, selling all of their various titles at recommended retail prices (RRP) which I suppose gives all the other shops the illusion that they are selling a game at 20% off.

They also give the option to download some of these titles, but looking at a relatively new release on PC, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 you find a 47% mark up compared to buying through Gamecrawler. Even Fifa 10 which has been slashed to half price on there store, you can still find a few quid cheaper to buy the dvd and get it shipped.


direct2drivePart of the IGN/Gamespy network, Direct2drive has been around for a long time, and are one of the main digital distribution sites for the PC. Sporting titles from many developers, (however Modern Warfare 2 is notably absent) this gives a wide range of choice through their interface, but if we look at the recently released Command and Conquer 4, the pricing for the download is so far off retail you could easily think it should be a different game!

With this kind of price difference, very few will be tempted to embrace the future of distribution through D2D.


steam logoWhat began with perhaps one of the most enthralling videogames of our time, Half Life, and evolved with slick multiplayer, endless modifications and home grown talent, has become this icon for PC gaming.

With millions of subscribers and regular offers, Steam appears to be the best contender, with regular special offers and social networking features this does some value added but with new games like Mass effect 2 again twice the price of the boxed package we have to wonder if it’s even close to worthwhile?

Xbox Games on Demand

ondemandOn Demand, featuring some of the best loved games of the current generation, or maybe just games which have sunk so far that retailers are no longer picking up stocks… either way some gems such as Fallout 3 have got through onto this strangely inconsistent sections of Xbox Live (using ££s instead of points) with the benefit of not needing to rummage around for the DVD.

That said these are not new titles, and it’s not quite there with the PC with their digital preorder exclusives and bonus content so the pricing isn’t exactly impressive for last year’s titles.

Xbox Originals

Microsoft took an early lead in the frenzy to recycle ‘classic’ games from the previous generation, now sporting some of the best loved games from simpler times, Xbox originals have paved the way for digital distribution on the consoles. For a few hundred MS Points, you can jump back into some classics such as GTA: San Andreas, Halo, Fable etc and relive those happy memories… or even just see what all the fuss was about.

There is a slight issue that games have evolved and the Xbox Arcade titles are often better polished and well suited to the high resolution screens of today, and honestly if you have a few quid you can still get an Xbox with games through the auctions.

PSN store

psn logo Sony seemed to have brought up the rear, only now considering using PSN to ship full titles via digital means such as Burnout Paradise and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.

Also they have a selection of their PSOne classics, but it is rather limited, perhaps reflecting just how much of a change in hardware there has been since the good old days.


While there are signs that it’s coming and some tempting offers to be had, for most of us there is minimal benefit to it, the beautiful simplicity of console gaming is being tarnished with hard drive upgrades, transfer cables, and ISPs download limits and it feels that PC gaming is simply getting more draconian DRM making some marvellous video games impossible to play.

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 9th, 2010 at 9:53 am and is filed under General Gaming, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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