Wherein digital vs. brick/mortar may no longer matter

I was amused to discover tonight that the latest Sims 3 expansion is entirely a digital offering. In that you can buy what looks like a disk containing package in a store, in what is a standard DVD case, and all that is inside is a card with a serial number and instructions on how to download the content. To be fair to EA, it’s not like they hid this, but replacing the standard “PC DVD” logo with something that says “PC Digital Download” doesn’t exactly stand out to the average consumer.

None of this really matters to most of us, since most of us have already adopted digital delivery. But it does make me wonder just how long even brick and mortar stores will continue to offer actual content on disk packaging. Those thinking stores will be the source of the physical copies they demand, either because it makes them feel they actually bought something or because their internet connection is less then ideal to download the latest multi-gigabyte game, may soon find that hard to do.

How big was that Sins expansion? Not defending the practice- but there’s a huge difference between a say, 20MB mini-expansion, and 15GB Shogun 2 install.

Well said. the size of games is getting huge, and frankly, a lot of game publishers need to remember that the 40MB download speed they get at the office is not the speed that their customers get.

It is not only speed, but download limit as well. Not everyone has an uncapped download limit, and with the size most modern games are, you can easily go over downloading two or three of them.
Our ISP just cracked down on people going over the limit by charging €2 per gig, which would make the avarage Steam sale game cost more to download then it was to buy it so
we decided to swap to a different package.
Not everyone might be able/willing to do that, and I can imagine people being very unhappy buying a game in the shop, only to find they’ll still have to download it which will add to the price.

So basically trees are felled, oil is drilled, rent is paid, all to sell you the physical equivalent of “Let Me Google That For You.”

It’ll be like orange juice - you’ll buy it with bits or without bits.

This has been going on for a while now on consoles. I know Fallout 3 had expansions that were sold like this. I’m pretty sure there have been map packs for the Halo and Call of Duty series sold in that format too.

Did a bit of research on this, looks like the content actually came out several months ago (September 2010) as an online-only offering. Perhaps it didn’t sell as well as EA hoped, so they’re not testing the waters by releasing something “new to retail,” in a kind of PSP Go experiment.

For reasons mentioned in this thread already, I don’t think we’re looking at a digital-only future any time soon, although I’m sure publishers would prefer it that way. It’s a bit of a surprise to see this done with a Sims product though, given the wide appeal of the game and the fact that EA probably expects it to bring in a fair amount of revenue. I think in 6 months time we’ll know whether this is a viable model now (based on how many other EA products are released in a similar fashion, at least as an option). My guess is no (for a big publisher like EA).


If the US gets broadband caps- DD is going to suffer- either by disappearing or by monopoly (Valve could cut a deal with the big telcos to have Steam not count against the cap)
The telcos in the US are fighting hard to make caps palatable- they’re doing all sorts of shady stuff.

Either way prices go up, as these costs will be passed onto consumers.
This is why I’m really worried about any sort of caps.

Or game devs could re-learn how to make games smaller. It staggers me the size of some games, when they don’t actually seem to have that much content in terms of textures, sounds etc. Some coders and producers and artists can be scarily wasteful.
Hey, maybe it will mean less bullshit FMV cutscenes?

Amen to that. Elite in 48K(32k if on the Acorn Electron) or Elite2(Frontier) in about 400KB-800KB depending on platform.

Bloatware(glossy graphic) gaming and peoples limited download ability is going to be a big snag for DD, maybe an impossible nirvana outside of the niche hard core gamer with a good income?

Gets caps? Where do you live that your ISPs don’t already have them? They’re just not as ridiculous as they are in some other parts of the world (Australia, say).

I have unlimited downloads, i’m in the Uk, we are pretty much uncapped at the moment. Normally though if you go for the dirt cheap provider you get less of a service where as premium payers get a better service

While I agree with the sentiment, I think we can all agree this isn’t likely to happen.

When I worked in the game industry, I worked in mobile (pre-smartphone) and in PC-casual spaces, both of which placed a practical limit on download space (~1MB and ~20 MB respectively). You can get a lot of gameplay out of a relatively small packages size.

But once the pretty graphics genie comes out of the bottle, I think it’s really very hard to put back in. The marketing push to make games just a little prettier for screenshots compared to the competition isn’t going away. Even if games get smaller (scope wise), and budgets get smaller, I don’t think this would go away. I think that a good first impression screenshot might even be more important in the crowded online space, since there’s so much more competition you need to stand out from.

I was very pleased to see that XBLA Torchlight was < 200Mb.

They could have tiered downloads, most games, its the textures that take up the most space, and usually because they have multiple versions of the textures, at least a low, medium and high quality version of every texture. Its partially for LoD, partially to help run the game on older machines. So they could split it up, having an HD texture pack, and a standard texture pack. The game suffers graphically, but the majority of users might not care if they get to play the game sooner without extra download fees and it actually runs on their machines.

This isn’t entirely uncommon, Rockstar produced cases in Australia for the Lost & The Damned expansion for GTA4 that just contained a card inside with a redemption code.

I’d suppose it would be better for gifts between friends & family members - tearing open gift wrapping and looking at the box for a game you wanted would be better for a lot of demographics than an email saying “check your games list,” and quite frankly I’d suspect that a lot of Sims players would fall into that category.

This “shady” practice has already come to pass. my Australian ISp (iiNet) has for a number of years had a Steam content server located within their infrastructure. it means I download steam purchases at 1500kB/s, quota / cap free.

It very much differentiates their service from other ISPs that do not mirror steam content, to the extent that it influences purchasing decisions when deciding on ISPs. That’s called customer service, not “shady” practices.

iiNet is the number two broadband ISP in Australia.

Some people are confusing their “internet rights” with “i dont want to pay heaps of money compared to joe average downloader to download all the massive amounts of stuff I get off the internet. I want the rest of the customer base to subsidise my internet habits”

I’ve has an internet “cap” for the last decade or so and my steam games list has a frankly scary number of games in it. I don’t believe that caps will hurt DD sales in the long run.

Australia does not have ridiculous caps. My cap is 400Gb per month (or something like 20 - 30 Shogun 2 total war per month :-)