I Heart Downloading Games! What are your pros and cons?

The first game I bought online as a download was Political Macine 2008 from Impulse. It was a budget ware title and I trust Impulse to be around for awhile so I was cool with that. Since than, I’ve bought the Gal Civ 2 exp. and Demigods.

But branching out was a bit nervous. I decided I wanted A Murder of Crows, which was from Gamers Gate. To ‘test’ it, I downloaded Crusader Kings and the Expansion. I like how Gamers Gate puts the game on your hard drive so you can burn it to DVD later. Than I see Colonization there, with free EUIII. Fine, I’ll do that. What! Puzzle Quest for 10 bucks, I’ll grab that too!

I must say, I much prefer downloading than buying retail. The no CD in drive requirement is huge, and at least with Impulse and Gamers Gate, you can always burn the game to a CD/DVD for storage (if you want the Hard Copy. UPDATE: turns out that’s ONLY IMPULSE. For gamers Gate, you get the DL, but you need to be online when you install). My only problem with Impulse, is I understand they have to do something to a patch in order for you to use it. I believe with Gamer’s Gate, while they do offer patches online in the download manager, you can use the developers patch also.

No, haven’t tried Steam. When episode 3 comes out, I’ll grab 'em all off of Steam (no, haven’t played HL2 yet, but I will).

With Manuals becoming Flimsy, and CD Keys stored on a little piece of paper, I like this online buying mode and have no use for a CD/DVD version of the game. I also like the idea that, from what I understand, MORE of your money goes to the game makers when bought online, compared to retail. When Sins of a Solar Empire (Stardock), had reached 500,000 copies sold, I believe Brad Wardell had said that 100,000 copies had been bought online (I bought mine at Gamestop). And THAT 100,000 copies had made MORE money for them than the 400,000 sold at retail (tried looking for the article, but I can’t find it). If game developers/publishers can make MORE money while selling LESS copies by going through online transactions, this will only open the door for more interesting games.


Yeah, for PC games I’m all about digital downloads. I like Steam in that if I just totally buy a new computer, then get Steam, it will download and install anything I’ve ever bought. Nice feature.

I just wish Steam had an “install all” option. It’s a little tiresome installing from scratch.

It’s hard to say in all cases if a developer makes more from an online sale if you are not buying direct from the developer. I haven’t seen any hard data on that.

I just wish there was a meta search somewhere that let me check all the download services at once for a game and their prices on it. Support for this stuff in google shopping would be great.

Patching is always going to be problematic for digitally distributed games because if it touches the code, it might fail to apply (e.g., it’s a diff patch and the DD one is different), reintroduce something like a disc check if it’s a patch meant for the disc version, or confuse the version management of the DD client.

I’ve been buying more and more stuff through Steam and Stardock/Impulse, but it’s gone through several phases. First it was out of necessity, as the only way to get certain things (well, you could have bought The Orange Box at retail, but the end result is identical and just saves you the download step). Then I started buying things like hard-to-find games like Space Rangers 2 and collections, since they were cheap and I wasn’t going to chase them down individually at the store. And only recently have I started buying entirely new games on them, mainly due to convenience and the feeling that I’m already tied to them anyway, so what’s one more game…

The downsides are that you’re tied to the Internet (dependence varying from service to service) and the DD service, and you can’t resell or lend them, of course. How much of a problem these are is going to vary from person to person, though. Internet access isn’t too big a deal for me since I have a billion other things I could (and should) do if the Internet is out anyway. Reselling is irrelevant to me since I never get rid of games, but the inability to lend them irks me slightly. Only slightly though, as my RL friends seem to have pretty much abandoned PC gaming for now.

The really big risk is the tie to the DD service and the dependence on their long-term stability. Short-term there isn’t much risk since even if everyone at Valve got fired tomorrow, the Steam service is probably valuable enough that someone would pick it up and run it for a while yet. It’s when you look 5-10+ years out that things become less certain, and you have to judge how much risk you want to accept. (Yeah, Valve has promised they’d unlock your games if Steam ever folded entirely, but it’s not exactly an iron-clad legal commitment that you can guarantee will be applied, say, 8 years down the road.)

Why do you hate language?

Please explain.

Only if you need to be online due to some online-DRM. If people buy my games, they get an installer.exe that they can burn to a disk, or backup and keep for a million years. Even if the whole of the UK is destroyed by killer robots and I am dead and my website destroyed (and the payment providers website is also destroyed, meaning the US is toast too), you can still install the game from your own backup on your new PC.

If you format your PC AND lose your backup AND the robots attack both countries, you are fucked, but isn’t that true of buying a boxed copy anyway?

I love a nice manual but those really do not exist anymore. So, DLing games is pretty much the way to go for me. The last 3 games I have purchased have all been that way, picked up Fantasy Wars and STALKER on the cheap, and King’s Bounty on day one. All very smooth transactions.

Disadvantage of digital distribution: Being in a country with bandwidth caps ($10 a gig) and having to pay an excess for unshaped access to the rest of the world.

This usually means a 2 Gig, $20 game costs an extra $20 to download and takes about 20 hours to complete.

Although I would have to agree and say digital distribution is an excellent idea, just not for all of us…

I think he thinks “digital downloads” is redundantly redundant. (What other kind of downloads are there?)

I go digital for titles that are hard to get any other way (Beyond Good & Evil for the PC, for instance) or that are first-party games from the digital distributor (Half-Life, Sins of a Solar Empire). But most of the time I still go for the boxes on the shelf, because it gives me a Ludditistic warm feeling inside to see them all lined up patiently waiting to spill their fun all over my dopamine pathways.

He probably meant to say “digital delivery.”

  • Alan

On the .01% chance that you’re not being intentionally dense–

All downloads are digital. Describing a download as digital is an exercise in redundancy. The concept you’re describing is digital distribution (also “digital delivery”)-- as opposed to physical distribution.

I realize that “distribution” is a whole two syllables longer than “download”, but sometimes functional literacy has its price.

Sometimes being an asshole on the internet also has a price. The phrase “digital download” is perfectly acceptable and clear, and in fact used by many download services. Like Impulse, for instance. Here is some press copy from them.

Stardock is excited to announce that “phase two” of its digital download platform, Impulse, has begun and all updates, new games and software applications will soon be live. Phase two of Impulse sees new games from 2k (Civilizations III, Shattered Union, Sid Meier’s Pirates! and Sid Meier’s Railroads!) and Tilted Mill’s Children of the Nile enhanced edition.

Here’s a Google Search where the phrase is shown to be in common use.

So if the service providers themselves use the phrase, surely you’re not arrogant enough to think you know better?

language cop
he dots his i’s and crosses his t’s
language cop
you better watch your apostrophes
if you’re not sure about your and you’re
if it’s a trick to mix its and it’s
you better watch out 'cause
language cop is coming for you

Don’t you actually mean “electronic” distribution? I realize that “digital” is a whole three letters shorter than “electronic,” but the last time I purchased a DVD from a store the game was stored in digital format on that media.

Ouch. Language cop arrested by his own men.

I like Direct2Drive myself because it lets me install the games on the drive of my choice. My computer and Gamersgate don’t get along, Steam forces a C:\ install, and Impulse doesn’t have many games that I want.

What I like a lot is both a pro and a con. Really, I’d like to have a bound manual. While I can print the manual, it’s not the same as having a book you can read. OTOH, if I download the manual then I’m a lot less likely to lose it like I do the bound ones :) Not losing stuff is a major reason I use download services. With a teenager in the house who lives in two places plus friends, it’s mighty hard sometimes to locate the CD/DVD to start a game. And in fact he lost the AOE III DVD so I had to buy another copy to play it. This is not an issue with downloaded games because I control the access.

The other major problem with download services is that the games are too accessible:)

  • Alan