The Future is Still Retail

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i don't think anything goes away completely, and some of the digital retailers, the ones that still give you the box i mean, like amazon and such, incorporated impulse buying onto their system. like a deal for getting two other items or similar items from what your getting. but as long as capitalism lives, nothing that makes money ever truly dies

I 100% agree. I like having things I can hold and move and especially things I can say to my insurance company "this was also destroyed in the fire" or whatever. Steam is good in allowing unlimited downloads, but if someone stole my PC with my steam logon details saved on it...hrm...gonna untick that box now I think...

back to topic..
90% of my DVD purchases at least are more "impulse" from walking through a shop, seeing said DVD and thinking "I liked that" or "I never saw that, looks good". Browsing or amazon just isn't the same and thats still talking about buying a physical product.

Consider this too. Digital downloads are potentially unsustainable. Take steam again. Steam offers every game I ever bought from them for redownload at will. If I never buy another game from them again I am doing nothing but costing them money every time I download an old game, never mind patches to things like TF2.

That's a pretty good article, but it forgets one very important thing. We're going to grow old and die.

Seriously. I'd be pretty depressed to not have anything under my Christmas tree, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of kids today would be at least as excited to find stuff in Steam and email links and crap like that. Plus having a neat collection on a shelf isn't really any more satisfying than having a neat collection on you Steam list, it's just what us old curmudgeons are used to doing.

That basically works for everything on the list. So yeah, as long as there are dinosaurs like us around retail will always be relevant, although perhaps not dominant, and maybe even most of the kids on this site are old enough that they'll never want to give up their plastic disks and useless instruction manuals, but kids that're too young for this site right now? They'll never care about any of that crap. Mark my words.

So yeah, maybe it'll take a bit longer than the experts think for retail software sales to die, but it will happen.


Find out where your archives are. Find out how much spam mail you get. Find out how many faxes still are around. That was all meant to be done away with.

I know exactly where my archives are, they are on a server in a farm near las vegas, and backed up to another on a different power grid about 20 miles from there.

Reductio Ad Absurdum.
I believe starting fires is still taught in afterschool activities. Writing is certainly taught to quite a higher point in schools. Signatures are still how you get hold of a lot of your future goods.

A lot, though a signature is a unique marque, not necessarily words. I'm not really sure what this has to do with anything though. You can argue all you want about how much paper may still exist in a company, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what would have been required 60 years ago. The database I work on, and maintain, holds Terabytes of data. All of it actual information, about clients, procedures, etc. If you were to write it all down and put it on paper, it'd fill rooms! And I can get aggregate information across this data with a few well written queries. Sure, I sign the little slip when I buy a stapler, but comparing the two... is truly ridiculous.

I mean, even postal carriers are using digital signatures now, so the person who sent the package can be immediately updated on its status.

I 100% agree. I like having things I can hold and move and especially things I can say to my insurance company "this was also destroyed in the fire" or whatever. Steam is good in allowing unlimited downloads, but if someone stole my PC with my steam logon details saved on it...hrm...gonna untick that box now I think...

Steam does have a password retrieval process, though I had some trouble with it last time I tried it :(. Did work out in the end.

back to topic..
90% of my DVD purchases at least are more "impulse" from walking through a shop, seeing said DVD and thinking "I liked that" or "I never saw that, looks good". Browsing or amazon just isn't the same and thats still talking about buying a physical product.

Not a particularly compelling argument. I understand that it is a familiar process for you, but what about your children? What about their children? Familiarity is bound to a person, when we first grow into such patterns, they are based on availability.

Consider this too. Digital downloads are potentially unsustainable. Take steam again. Steam offers every game I ever bought from them for redownload at will. If I never buy another game from them again I am doing nothing but costing them money every time I download an old game, never mind patches to things like TF2.

This would be true if it were setup like a pyramid scheme, but you don't really use that much network from steam. How often will you download old games? I mean, you'd have to do it pretty much constantly to warrant any noticeable drain on their connection. And really, how likely is a scenario where you use the service but aren't covering the cost of your downloads?

Patches for existing games are just the same. You think Valve is throwing money out the window even NOW with their TF2 lineup of patches? All that is, is a clever marketing campaign to get people on steam, playing and buying games. Marketing always pays off in the long run.

If despite all this, it still ends up being true that people are using the Digital Distributer, but not paying for more content, it would be a sign of some deeper economic problem, that I don't think a retail store would recover from any better.

Your points are sound Shamus, particularly those concerning gift-giving and impulse-buying, but I'd still have to lean with with Cormack on this one. Ultimately it's going to come down to the connectivity issue.

Internet connectivity is becoming ubiquitous in our lives in the same way as the use of the telephone before it. Advances in wireless technology promise broadband infrastructure even in the more isolated regions eventually (even 3rd-world countries like Australia ;)). In the not-to-distant future I would honestly be surprised to find an Xbox owner in a locale unable to access cheap, usable internet. Eventually, publishers will have to make the calculations on whether the shrinking part of the market that is physical retail warrants the investment of manufacture, shipping and markup to service that minority and sell an unknown number of units.

As for impulse buying the digital distributors definitely have that covered. I have spent easily as much money in the last year on Steam deals and smaller download-able games from various sources than in the previous 3 years combined. I spend, after all, a lot more time at my computer than browsing box-art in stores.

Here's one more follower to the Team Nostalgia.

Whether it's games, movies, music or books, I want my stuff as a physical object, that I can put on my shelf, that I can admire even without my computer on. I am so nostalgia-driven, that I sometimes even miss the old cardboard boxes PC-games used to come in, even though they are not practical. I miss the times, when game manuals used to have more indepth information about the game, instead of putting all that stuff into the website (some still do that, though, and I do actually browse through game websites reading all about the lore of the game's world).

Nostalgia is the reason why I am often tempted to buy an old 8-bit NES from somewhere.

Am I rational? Nope.

If I were a rational person, I would spend less time here, and spend more time actually studying. And yet....

Not to mention Simply "The Unwillng" or "The unintiated" there are quite a few people who simply don't want to buy digitally and a whole bunch more who simply can't be bothered learning how it works.

I couldn't disagree more, Shamus. Consumers won't abandon retail because it's the most rational choice. PRODUCERS will abandon retail because it's the most ECONOMICAL choice.

1. Collectors: I don't see your point. I personally collect tabletop rpgs in digital format, and I don't see why digital games would make any difference. I'm not saying that physical copies of the game will disappear, though. But I believe that any phyisical copy will be called "collector's edition", and you will be able to get have it if you want. But you will order it online and receive it by mail. You know, like Amazon and Ebay are doing for years.

2. Visitors: Just upload your digital copy on a support, like for example a USB key. I believe that a lot of "portable game archives" will pop up when digital copies become more common.

3. Gift Givers: See point one. Also, in my gaming group we purchase digital rpg copies for each other. They are cheaper, which means more gifts for each of us.

4. Impulse Buyers: See above. Also, you are more likely to buy something by impulse if it costs less (and digital copies cut lots of the cost, so they will usually be cheaper)

5. Unconnetted: Unconnetted people are disappearing. Most consoles and games already require you to have some sort of connection. People without an internet access will still exist, but I doubt they will be considered a market by game developers.

In short, developers will do what's better for them. They will do like pirates do today (except it will be a legal market) because it's cheaper. Consumism, as much as the name seems to say otherwise, is not driven by the consumer's need and preference, but by the producer's ones.

There is one significant point which I feel always gets left behind in the digital distribution debate:

Have any of you people moved house lately?

Now clearly your mileage may vary, but I know plenty of people who've moved house (and/or like me, changed country) and found themselves without internet access for a month or two. You want to talk about digital distro and DRM which dials in, you've got to talk about that percentage of people at any one time who have no internet access.

Just last weekend, I went over to help out a new friend who's moved in down the road from me. She had bought Fallout New Vegas for the PC (on a disk, from Amazon) and without internet couldn't even install it. We hooked up her PC to my mobile phone to get it installed and then download hundreds of megabytes of patch.

Until then she was totally cut off from new releases, and even half her existing games collection (Steam apparently being erratic about what you can and can't play offline) and she still will be for another couple of weeks.

Shamus's fourth point is an interesting one, but I'd love to see, at any one moment in time, what that disconnected percentage is for PC users.



Shamus Young:
Experienced Points: The Future is Still Retail

The era of digital distribution may be upon us, but retail won't ever go away.

We're still waiting for the paperless office (predicted in 1975). Funny how offices seem to have even more paper now....

I work in an office. I almost don't need to know how to WRITE because I use physical paper so rarely. Imagine all those e-mails you send each day, the online training manuals for your product, or the complex process of getting authenticated by an outside company for doing good business.

We may not have paperless offices now, but compared to the 1950s... we might as well.

That last line? I smell bovine faeces. Paper now is cheap. It's insane.

Back in the 50s everyone shared documentation around (what documentation there was) because it was hassle to get things printed out or copied out by typists. Now, if I want a 50 page document at work, there's no way I'll be asking around my team if anyone's got a copy in a drawer. I'll hit print and in seconds I'll have my own copy to scribble on and take to that big meeting this afternoon.

I'll agree with you that the pen is dying, but paper? Not until we've all got a few iPads each.

Shamus Young:
But it will never kill retail entirely, because retail serves people that digital can't reach for technological, psychological, and cultural reasons.

Here's the thing you're forgetting: These things change.

20 years ago, people said these same things for cellphones, 6 years ago they said Steam would flop... And here we are. Everyone has a cellphone,when not 2 or 3, and Steam has taken over PC sales.

I'm not, by any means, saying it'll happen tomorrow. Hell, maybe not even in our lifetime, although I don't think it'll be long till digital becomes the norm.

Everything you said is true though, but, IMO, and considering human behaviour is my "area", I think you've left out a few things:

Shamus Young:

1. The Collectors

Absolutely true. Collectors are a big "safety net", and most often the ones that'll happily fork over the extra 10 or 20 bucks for the "special edition" with some sort of plastic trinket. The thing you're forgetting though is that collectors collect (period). "Going digital" isn't an impediment, it's a change. Instead of having your typical "shrine", you'll have a digital one. This won't stop people. Hell, what are achievements and gamerscores if not digital collectibles?

Shamus Young:
2. The Visitors

True, but, again, this won't stop. It's less practical, but I can load up my steam at a friend's place and let him play. Meanwhile, platforms like Steam have actually taken to transposing this kind of interaction into a digital plane: "Recommended for you", "Recommended by a friend", "Recommend a friend", "Your friends own this game", "You have X friends now playing this game", "Your friends have been playing:", etc... People can still play games at your house, and you can still play games at a friend's house. In fact, you don't even run the risk of losing the CD.

Shamus Young:
3. The Gift-givers

True, to us the perspective of a child running at a Christmas tree only to find plastic cards sounds silly. To our grandparents or great grandparents, the idea of Christmas being about gifts sounds outrageous. Hell, half of the gifts we now consider "AWESOME!!!" look ridiculous to them. Things change.

You're also right that your typical grandmother is hard pressed to buy stuff digitally. Your grandmother or mine, yes, I totally agree. But I doubt your grandmother is still buying you videogames for christmas. Mine sure isn't.

Don't forget Shamus, your average grandparent today is very computer illiterate. As the average grandparent 50 years ago was plain old illiterate. Again, things change. The gift-giving grandparents of tomorrow are the downloading, uploading, review viewing, hardware assembling kids of today. 50 or 60 years from now, you're gonna be the one buying your even-more-computer-literate grandchildren presents. And you'll probably still buy them some outdated game they'll fake their best smile at while saying "thanks grandpa!", because they know you meant well. And you'll do it on Steam. Or Impulse. Or whatever the fuck will be the "norm" then.

Shamus Young:
3. The Impulse buyers

You have 2 points #3... but I'm being pedantic.

Really Shamus? You think impulse buying isn't applicable to digital platforms? Go to our PC gaming group, or the TF2 one, or any group that revolves around PC gaming, ask them how much money did they spend on this last "Steam Pre-holiday special" that they never intended to spend. Ask them how many times did they buy stuff they weren't particularly looking for at that specific time, because steam, or impulse, or any other platform suddenly did a "special".

Shamus Young:
4. The Unconnected

Shamus, the internet has been around for public use for just 20 years. In 1996, less than 3% of Norway had internet. In 2002, 72% was covered. Just one generation ago, during the PS2 and Xbox era, going digital seemed like a lost cause. The Xbox "championed" that notion the most, but regardless, most games did not come with an online multiplayer mode, and if they did it'd be as a quirky extra. Now you're hard pressed to find a game with split screen or with a multiplayer mode that isn't online. In just one generation we went from having barely any connected players to connected players being the norm.

Took us about 5 years to get around 70% of console users connected. How long do you think it'll be to get those final 30%? And do you honestly think developers will give a shit once we get to, like, 90%?

I don't think we'll see retail die down just yet, hell, not even in 20 years, but it will happen. If nothing else, because retail of any kind will simply become obsolete, like carrier pigeons and galleys.

For people who dont have fast speeds for their internets- remember we're talking about future events, broadband speeds have been getting faster and faster with improved technologies, and with that it gets cheaper too. Eventually no one should have a problem paying for high speed internet.

HOWEVER, I do contradict myself slightly when I criticize physical copies of games. For music and stuff, I love to have a CD collection; everyone who agrees with me probably couldn't explain why- there is just something about having a physical CD or vinyl that is much more precious.

To put it in another way, a cabinet full of records that I've treasured for 20 years is much better for me than a silver box propped on a table containing 10TB of my favourite music (hyperbole I know).

I don't know who will ever take the time to read this, but since i disagree, allow me to at least partially refute some of your points.

1. Having a huge games collection on Steam is around the exact same thing as having a drawer full of videogames. Sure, it may not have any physical weight, but the feeling is there. As a bonus, your things won't scratch or stop working. And no, i quite disagree that there's a huge part of the population out there that HAS to have something physical for it to count. More on this later.

2. You connect to your steam account on a friend's house. Admittedly, i don't know how this works with consoles, but that's one solution. Alternatively, you invite your friend over. I don't think i've ever been to a friend's house with a CD to install a game. If he wanted to see how the game was, he'd come over to my place instead.

3. See, this strikes me as a form of antiquated thinking. The only reason you like wrapped gifts so much is because they were a small but significant part of your childhood memories. The next generation will most likely not put as much value in boxes wrapped in colored paper if they're not raised to do so. Waking up on christmas and going to see the presents under the tree was cool but we're hinting to a slightly different future now: waking up on christmas, logging into your Steam account and seeing these awesome new games Santa magically made appear. It'll put a smile on a kid's face just like he was getting that Transformer toy, except now that transformer toy is on the screen and he can fire its lasers and do crazy cool stuff for a lot more time than he'd have spent playing with it in real life. For me at least, i've attributed the same or more value to some virtual things as to real life physical things. I'd always get bored/frustrated and break my toys as a kid. I can't break a digital video game, and it'll still be there when i get nostalgia cramps 6 years later as opposed to lying in pieces on the shelf.
Also, in the future, grandma won't do the shopping because grandma will be long dead. WE will do the shopping. For our kids. And we'll know what they like.

3(4). Have you forgotten about steam sales? Impulse buying will exist regardless of retail. Games have shiny images on steam that can attract you as well, with the added benefit of gameplay trailers and the like. That's a lot more information than you could fit on a cover, and it can potentially affect you way more.

4(5). This is what it mostly boils down to when people are discussing digital distribution: the absence of a digital network puts it to a complete stop. This is true, for the present. However, we're talking about the future. 10 years ago, people were writing eachother letters to communicate. Right now, my classmates at school turn on their laptop during hours and fuck around on Facebook with their friends from Farawayland. They do this, you see, because their iphones' screens are too small. They're old-school like that.
So what exactly do you think will happen 10 years from now? I can reasonably predict that at the very least, iphones will become so commonplace it'd be like carrying a pen with you is now. Right NOW, you can walk around town with your laptop and find free internet out of thin air. Do you really think the spreading of the internet will somehow stop?
Again, i could use this same argument for internet speeds and their drastic increase. Technology is evolving, the world wide web is STILL extending. And with a little luck, it won't stop until everyone has it. At that point, it's not fair to say that retail will disappear, it'll just be a very small venture for a nice crowd who's too old-school to be mainstream.

Look: it's struggling right now. Both game publishers AND digital distribution platforms are contributing to keeping retail afloat. Look at limited editions, gold editions, game of the year editions. Look at the prices on Steam and how they tend to both be higher than retail and stay the same over a longer period of time. But sooner or later, i'm confident these too will stop.

i bought a disc the other day (because it was cheaper than digital) and i found out its been so long since I've used my CD drive that it died of dust :( now its either unscrew it and clean it out or buy a new 1 for 20$ .. if i would have just bought the game digital i'd be 100% fine

Hard copy games = Hardcover books.

Worst case scenario.

And people still buy Hardcovers, last I checked.

Hm, well I've got converted... I was one of those people, that thought DIGITAL will prevail, but you make fair arguments and I can't really argue with any of those - you're right. Retail is here to stay for a long, long time!

For me, I have this "Paranoia" about having all my information in my computer. Less to do with hacking and more to do with my comp going on the fritz for one reason or another. That is why I keep any and all passwords and usernames in a black book of mine.

If one of your games becomes unplayable for one reason or another that single game is effected, not everything. If you use a computer and it goes on the fritz, than you can't play your hard copy games until your computer is fixed. If you have all your games digitally downloaded AND the computer is on the fritz, than your SOL unless you saved your KEY numbers. Now all you have to do is install every single game you digitally downloaded into your computer. Yeah, that isn't going to take forever.

One more thing, for those that say that computer connections will get better, I LOL in their FACE!!!! It was reported in my hometown that we would get cable internet to do better than DLC, that was 6+ YEARS AGO and we still do not have cable at all. Sure bigger cities would have better connection, but not everyone lives in a big city there are still ALOT of small cities and towns all over everywhere in the world.

EDIT: I have a hard copy of FONV. I decided to re-install the game because I messed up on some mods. So I decided "Hey why not use steam to re-install it since it gives me that option", so I had steam re-install the game and gave me the waiting time of 18 hours. Than I decided to cancel that out and re-install from the Disc. The disc took 20+ minutes to install the program. During those 18+ hours I could have gone to a store, bought 2+ games, talk with friends, eat dinner, than return home and install both games. Chances are, all that would have been faster than waiting for one game to install.

One more thing, for those that say that computer connections will get better, I LOL in their FACE!!!! [INSERT WORST TYPE OF GENERALIZATION]

Because if it hasn't happened to you so far, it's sure to never ever ever happen to anyone on the planet, including you. And because it hasn't happen to your small town, then it hasn't happened to ANY small town anywhere in the world.


Here's how you take your digital copies to your friends house.

step 0: go to friends house
step 1: type in steam account
step 2: type in steam password

I dunno about you guys and gals but my friends and I do this all the time at LANS (who doesn't have an extra computer around for guests nowadays?). Ditto for Starcraft 2.

Also, it really isn't that difficult to pack up your 360 and take it to a friends house either (a little more complicated than typing a password in, but not much). I have a station set up in my living room that has all the cabling run, my friend just needs to pop in a 360 and go. Xbox live is absolutely genius at tunneling multiple 360's through upnp NAT's btw.




Eh. Connection speeds are one of those things...

I used to download large files on a 56k modem.
Now, those same files that took upwards of 20-30 hours to download, take all of 2 minutes.

Waiting 18 hours for something to download is painful.

Waiting 30 minutes? Not so much.

Well, I wish my connection was as fast as yours.

Connection speeds are something of a lottery, to be honest.

Mine is the cheapest option my provider has, but it's 10 megabits/second. (they do up to 50, or even 100 in a lot of places.)

And yet, 10 megabits that actually reliably gives that speed is above average in a country where DSL is still the norm...

And if you're unlucky enough to be in a country like Australia...

Well, let's just say I was chatting on a webcam to someone in Brisbane about their expensive 'fast' 4 megabit connection.

It felt a little weird to then have to say that my connection (which for me was mainly just the 'cheapest' available option), was more than twice that speed.

His speed is 4x faster then mine. I'm on a 1mb connection, and I know others who are on a slower speed. Rural Vermont doesn't have much in the way of fast internet. There's satellite, but that is just awful for playing games online.

Although there is a silver lining to my situation, for my current ISP, there's no contract, or bandwidth cap. So I guess in retrospect its not all bad. But still slow as hell...

You're forgetting three groups:
The come lates: If a game isn't profitable to sell via digital distribution, it will be taken off the market, this goes for old games as well as it costs money to maintain servers and server space is limited. Say I wanted to go back and play a classic that I didn't get a chance to play when it originally came out. I am going to have a harder time finding it through digital distribution as the data simply won't be there anymore.
Those who seek stability: Hard copies are reliable, they're there, there won't be some sort of download problem.
Those who understand economics: Digital distribution is cheaper because it's built around less people being involved. It kills jobs. Digital distribution is inherently built to monopolize. If Steam were the only source for games, then they could charge you whatever they wanted. And I don't like the idea of giving money to Valve so they can put more money into damaging the games industry through their bad ideas.

If digital distribution drops game prices like it should then yeah it would gain a bigger hold over the market. But at the moment my choice was to buy cataclysm in store for 40$ or buy it online for 40$ and I said well for the same price I want my damn physical copy. So in a few days I will have a box and on wed it wont matter what I did lol.

Always the same basic assumptions, that "improvements" in tech make change inevitable, that everyone has the same idea of what constitutes an improvement etc. The first point to make is that the reason surveys ask for "connected" rather than "actually use" is because the "actually use" numbers are comparatively low and subject to manipulation. I've never seen any article blaring about huge rates of change in console internet use, have you?

What's been happening in entertainment for quite some time isn't a gradual convergence to a single standard, but instead the creation of increasingly diversified niche markets. Console gamers who are heavy internet users (i.e. everyone on this board) are a niche market...but it is probably nice to think of yourself as a daring pioneer early adopter paving the way for the awesome future.

Nice article.

A market dominated by digital distribution is nothing but a pipe-dream. Publishers and developers want it for obvious enough reasons; more money in their collective pockets. But Unless there is a *serious* revolution in consumer habits, I predict that DD sales will level out at a sizeable minority of the market.

As Seamus says, shopping habits aren't logical. Nevertheless, there are trends. Trends that DD Cheerleaders seem completely oblivious to. For example, people do not (as has been suggested) generally drive to town, buy a single game, and drive back without doing anything else. People go out to town for the day. They go to the supermarket, during which time they might browse the games section. Perhaps they're looking for a gift and want to talk to a real person. It is almost impossible for an industry to change those sorts of habits in the short term.

But DD has increased in value to the industry. Well yes, but the figures don't tell the whole story. Even if DD now accounts for X% of industry sales, we never hear what that actually consists of. Are we talking about games at full retail price? Are they marked-down special offers? What about DLC (free or paid), linked to a physical purchase? This is important, because the industry's business model relies on the sale of full games at full price. If DD can't deliver that as reliably as a non-digital retailer, the industry faces a painful and costly reformation.

Then we have to ask who's using DD. The figures aren't readily available, but we can make inferences. We know for example, that men tend to buy things from websites like and Amazon, while women tend to buy more from shops. I suspect the majority of DD users are tech-savvy 20 to 30-something males. Fine when you're selling Dragon Age or Mass Effect. Not so great when it comes to your Kinect titles, your Wii Sports, your casual games. Most, if not all the new money in the last five years has come from the industry targeting people outside the traditional gaming demographic. DD simply will not reach that audience at present!

So Digital Distribution is not the saviour of the industry, and will probably never overtake sales of the physical product.

Consumers won't abandon retail because it's the most rational choice. PRODUCERS will abandon retail because it's the most ECONOMICAL choice.

It won't matter what Producers want if Consumers aren't interested in following them. As long as there are enough consumers who want to continue to purchase through retail, then producers will continue to make their products available through retail, simply because it'll be more economical not to cut themselves off from those customers.

Here's how you take your digital copies to your friends house.

step 0: go to friends house
step 1: type in steam account
step 2: type in steam password

I dunno about you guys and gals but my friends and I do this all the time at LANS (who doesn't have an extra computer around for guests nowadays?). Ditto for Starcraft 2.

And for those who don't use steam/the download purchase system of their friends choice?

Oh, and I'm sure there are large numbers of people who don't keep an extra computer around for guests. I know I sure don't. Why would I spend that kind of money on a computer that's just sitting around in case a friend needs to use it?

Also, it really isn't that difficult to pack up your 360 and take it to a friends house either (a little more complicated than typing a password in, but not much). I have a station set up in my living room that has all the cabling run, my friend just needs to pop in a 360 and go. Xbox live is absolutely genius at tunneling multiple 360's through upnp NAT's btw.

Or, with a physical copy, if both you and your friend own an Xbox, you can just take your copy of the game and a memory storage unit (memory stick or memory card or what have you) over to their place and plug them into your friends system. Much easier, if you ask me.

Completely right as always, Shamus.
Also: "I hope you like typing serial numbers!" hehehe ;)

I sometimes buy games digitaly but only if I don't have a choice(for example the game is a PSN exclusive). I dislike programs like Steam, spyware shit if you ask me. And their prices aren't that good either, it's only worth it when there's a promotion or something. I'd personally always stick to retail games.

The points are very fair. Despite the fact that I'm not much of a collector, don't care for achievements and such, and consider myself a very practical person, I still bought a retail copy of Cataclysm instead of the digital download at the exact same price, despite the fact that my retail copy will arrive during mid day on the 7th and not instantly as soon as the clock beats midnight. It just feels more comfortable to have an actual item to hold and justify the spent money.

This has been mentioned many times before, but I think it's worth reiterating.

I downloaded the Orange Box off of Steam. Wonderful games, all five of them, and practically a steal at their price. But it took me about three days of near-constant downloading to get all the games installed, and my connection wasn't even that bad. If I had been able to find the Orange Box for PC in a store, I could probably have installed all five games in a couple hours. I wouldn't have been effectively unable to use my computer for three days.

In short, I say there will always be a market for retail games, and although my case was hardly extreme and did not prevent me from buying the digital version, I'd be willing to bet quite a few people would refuse to put up with massive download times and simply avoid buying large games if digital was the only choice.

Retail will never die because of punks like me, who love-love-LOVE physical media ownership. Who relish having collections massive enough to build a guest home out of the plastic involved. Who delight in being able to have something crazy happen, like for example a girlfriend having an 80s-themed birthday party and being able to lug over my NES and a massive bundle of cartridges for it, or a buddy who still sticks by his PS2 and being able to loan him a crapton of games when finances are tight.

Now, this doesn't mean I don't also enjoy digital distribution. A couple bucks and some time downloading equaling a tasty game for me to enjoy, hell, I can dig that. But I can get the same thrill times ten when I drop by my local stores and drop dimes for some low-cost games (and CDs and DVDs). And then I own them. And I can do as I wish with them. Loan them, watch them solo, watch them with others, have them sit on my shelf and look pretty. It's hard to add to a room with CD-Rs alone.

1) I feel this point is completely subjective. I am just as content scrolling down my Steam list enjoying my collection as I am looking at my shelf for my console game collections.

2) Flash drives? External hard drives? On Steam, I can simply sign myself into any other computer. Use this idea for a console and it is the same deal.

3) I feel like this is an awfully controlled case. You are being pretty nitpicky, I think. How many kids' sole source for entertainment is digital? Younger kids will always have action figures and the like. At my age, I would love for someone to give me clothes, furniture, accessories, etc. as opposed to simply games or music. And don't forget what is needed to listen to the music, play video games, read books, or watch movies. Gifts can still be consoles, controllers, headphones, iPods, Kindles, etc.

4) I think this part really hurts your point more than supports it. Impulse buys are more common digitally. Think of how constantly Steam has sales. Or how relatively cheap Steam games are to retail games. And look at the iPhone. Would it even have half as many app sales as it does if everyone had to go to the store and buy each app?

5) These numbers will get smaller. And this is where I can bring up what I feel is an over-arching point: new generations will do things differently. For example, my kids will be born into a world where Nooks/Kindles, iPhones, Netflix streaming/On Demand, and PSN/XBLA/Steam/WiiWare, etc. is not only common, but the norm. They will be born into a whole different world. And not only with digital distribution, but with technology in general. Technology is getting way more sophisticated constantly. Finding a 2TB hard drive nowadays is as easy as walking into a Best Buy. A couple years ago, that was unheard of. Think of how this will be in a couple years from now. 512TB?

Onyx Oblivion:
This isn't even accounting for internet speeds of connected consoles, as you touched on, in the quote below. Connected could be anything.

Some of those folks simply cannot reach broadband access from where their console is sitting.

When I first got on Xbox Live, the first thing I did was download Shivering Isles. That's the sole reason I got online in the first place, really.

Do you know how long it took to download with my internet at the time?

18 fucking hours. For 1 GB.

That was with DSL. Hard-wired.

I made the Xbox Live version of DOOM lag, with just 2 players.


I love Steam, but when I buy things, it's when I'm about to go to bed because that shiny new copy of Civ V is going to take 18.9 hours to download.

Whereas my 22X DvDROM drive can install the disc version in about 3 minutes.

I enjoy your articles, Shamus, but I think you're wrong on this. I come from that very mindset you're arguing in favour of - the collector, the old retail model, etc. I used to have crates (quite literally) of game disks. I dunno how all that changed for me, but I think XBL had something to do with it - that, and the steady building of a better broadband (here in the UK, at least).

Those first few tentative downloads via XBL were a slow revelation... suddenly, the idea of 'owning' something that could always be recalled from 'the cloud' became an attractive concept; I looked at my room cluttered up with endless game disks and figured 'this could all be virtual' and I'd even get some living space back into the bargain.

Since then I've not only cleared out all my old games, but enjoyed the simplicity, convenience and cost-benefit of downloading entire games - on 360 and on PC (especially PC). I find the very idea of owning another game disk anathema. I like the idea that once purchased digitally, the game is always available for me out there in interwebland should I need it again, but, better - it's always the latest, most-up-to-date version (Steam is great!) - yes, the game will always remind me when it's keen to update itself. I like that.

Online will be the future of video game purchasing, like it or not - and it's practically here, now. Maybe not for those with mindsets still locked into quaint notions of 'owning' a physical disk and case, but for the vast majority of younger people now and in the future it will be the new normal.

Well said on point number four. There are large portions of U.S. where there simply is no real broadband option. Hell, the only time I get to use broadband is when I visit my parents every weekend, who live in another county.

I the end, this move is all about transferring costs from the developer to the consumer. We pay for bandwidth, not them.

I will continue to buy physical versions of games.

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