Games on Demand

SBC Yahoo! has a service called Games on Demand that allows you to download a game for three days for five bucks. These are major releases like Civ III, Warcraft III, etc., not Spades and stuff like that. My question: does anyone know how this works? How are the games crippled so that I can’t just keep playing beyond the three day limit? Am I actually running the executable over the 'net or something? Just curious.

One of the gaming mags tried it out a few months ago (CGW??) and didn’t give it glowing reviews. It could have improved over the last few months, but I am suspicious of Yahoo’s ability to deliver a better experience than buying the CD.

-DavidCPA

While it isn’t quite the same thing, I recently joined one of the many online game rental places, and I am enjoying the hell out of it. I can finally play all those games that I have avoided because they are too short or I didn’t think I would get my full money out of them. The process is easy. You pay a monthly fee, they send you games that you keep as long as you want, and they give you a free package to send the games back in. I will save a lot of money with this.

Of course, it’s only good for console games. PC games wouldn’t work for this format. I also can’t use Yahoo’s service because I don’t have broadband.

This is a direct download thing. Does anyone know how it works?

I’m half-tempted to fork out five bucks just to see.

I’m not sure if the exact mechanism behind Yahoo’s Games on Demand (Gamespy is soon to be coming out with a competing service, by the way), but I have used Steam, by Valve Software.

When I beta’d Steam, if I remember correctly, you installed the client software and after becoming authorized to play a game, you downloaded the game client, and the files necessary to start playing within just a few minutes. While you were playing the game, other files downloaded in the background, such as maps for later on, etc… It was actually quite seamless and worked like a champ over my broadband connection with Half-Life, TFC, and the other mods.

Not sure if Yahoo will work exactly the same way, but I’m fairly certain it’s a variant on the same idea. You’ll probably get some setup software and that will initiate the download of the gameclient files, as well as kill the game when your time limit is up.

I’ve almost tried it myself, but I’ve actually been waiting on the service from Gamespy to start up, as I figured they’d have a better selection, for some odd reason :)

If its the same as the one EB used, it utilizes some type of streaming technology.

IINM, Yahoo Games uses the Games On Demand service from Exent Technologies. I worked quite closely on another website that uses Exent, and earlier than that on another site that used a competitive solution, Yummy (now defunct).

The basic idea here is that you first need to download their client, which will track and manage your subscriptions. The service takes the game content and chunks it up, so that your initial download only consists of the content required to get you playing right away. While you’re playing the first level, additional content is downloading in the background, so eventually you will have the entire game installed on your drive.

Conceptually, it’s a pretty solid idea. In practice, it’s a non-starter.

First, the time to download is usually 20-40 minutes… if not longer. That’s pretty prohibitive to a lot of people, and quite frustrating. Second, few publishers will give their A-list – or even their B-list – SKUs to these guys for fear of cannibalizing the higher margin/higher volume retail channel.

So, combine those and you get a situation where renting Heavy Metal FAKK2 for $4.95 for 3 days just doesn’t make much sense when you can probably pick it up (if you really need to play that game) in a bargain bin somewhere for 5 bucks – and get docs and media.

By all means, give it a try. The very idea that you can do this is pretty cool, and it’ll only cost ya five bucks and a couple days out of your life.

3Dgamers.com already has this! it is called “Play it Now”… check it out!

So what you’re saying is that all the gamefiles end up on my computer eventually, right? So all I have to do is kill their subscription software and the game is mine? That can’t be right.

I can see, in level-based games, where maybe only one level at a time is streamed to my machine so that the most I could ever steal is one level, but even then, what if I played through the whole game and copied the levels as they were downloaded; then canceled the service? The full game would be mine, right?

I’m having a hard time seeing how they’re safeguarding the publishers’ rights with this thing…

OK, I demand Duke Nukem Forever on my hardrive before this summer! Lets see how that works out.

This concept has been around a long time – and it’s always been a bad idea. There was also Yummy Games http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,39505,00.html
I think they’re dead now, after sucking in a lot of stupid VC money.

There’s also Infinitum Labs, which “is developing Phantom.net, the first open, secure game distribution channel”

All utter crap.l

Except that it’s done in such a way that you cannot play the game without the subscription software remaining in place and in control. Think of it as having to play the game through proxy software that serves as an authentication gateway.

Personally, I can’t see how it doesn’t just add yet another variable in the large number of things that can go wrong in the stability and performance of PC games. Having been a member of Netflix for almost two years, I think I’d rather go the route of snail-mail disc-rental scheme.

Except that it’s done in such a way that you cannot play the game without the subscription software remaining in place and in control. Think of it as having to play the game through proxy software that serves as an authentication gateway.

Ok, so it’s a specially compiled executable then. It’s not exactly the same as the boxed version.

My main concern is whether the version your getting is patched to the latest retail version. Who wants to spend three days playing a buggy POS?

I checked out the 3Dgamers site. The game selection is beyond weak.

36 games.

Including:

Backyard Football 2002.
Tonka Construction 2.
Monopoly.
Monopoly Tycoon.
Howard Marks Video Casino Games.

Yahoos list contain 88 games.
Of these, Splinter Cell seems to be the best deal, since it’s fairly new and you can finish it in three days.

Gladguy

Second, few publishers will give their A-list – or even their B-list – SKUs to these guys for fear of cannibalizing the higher margin/higher volume retail channel.

And this is the main problem with this model IMO. Possibly solved by focusing on games where three days won’t get you the best of the game, like BF or any other multiplayer heavy game. Or like NWN, where the downloads are a major plus.
Or even if a publisher would try this model themselves, thus getting better margins on this deal, and retaining full control over the product.

I’m tempted to try it just to give IL-2 a shot without dropping the cash on it. Not a bad idea for a service really.