216. I just counted my games and that’s how many I have. Of that I have 3 that I bought via a download service, namely Geometry Wars, Super Stardust HD and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2. Looking through my collection there are probably 5 or so more that I can buy through a download service if I want.
Download services are supposed to be the future for video games offering a number of benefits to the game developers and publishers. They can reduced costs in getting a game to us, the players. They can easiily flog their dead horses by providing DLC (something I assume means Downloadable Content because I’ve never seen it explained). They can beam a smile at the knowledge that video piracy will be dead.
But what are the advantages to us? From what I’ve read of download services the supposed advantages are not that numerous and can be summarised as:
– Games will be cheaper because of the reduced costs incurred by the developers and publishers
– Instant download means we don’t have to wait as long to play the game because it will be available in just a few hours, rather than having (God forbid) to trudge to a shop.
– Fixes for games will happen automatically thus removing our need for us to trawl a million crappy servers that allow us the right to download the patch if we just register for their mailing list.
-As smallers developers take advantage of the download systems we will get access to a more varied catalogue of games.
Well, bullshit, that’s all I can say.
Nearly every week I have a gaming session with a mate of mine. We play loads of different games but generally have one FPS and one RTS that we concentrate on. Up until COD 4 and Supcom everything seemed ok. Once-in-a-while we would have to download a “patch” from some server somewhere and install it.
However the last few games we have bought have relied on virtual stores and our sessions have been ruined because of them.
First up there’s Steam.
There we were on seperate occasions, Dawn of War and Empire Total War in hand, whacking in the DVDs to install and play them. Straight away there are humongous “patches” to install. I’m sorry but 500MB downloads do not constitute a patch in my opinion. Off it trudged at 30kB/s. then it failed, then it started again then it failed. And that was on just one PC, we had to update on two PCs. No longer could we simply download a patch once and use it twice.
Then, eventually, at 12.00 at night, the patches finished and we managed to get a game. Except Dawn of War 2 spluttered and juddered and eventually lost itself up it’s own arse and crashed on one of the PCs. Total War was just too slow, despite the PC meeting minumum requirements.
It’s fair to say that just about every time I load Steam there is an update to install for Left 4 Dead, Dawn of War 2 or Empire Total War and I have to wait an unspecified amount of time while the developers try to fix the shit code they released in the first place.
Next up is Impulse, what an utter steaming pile of bollocks that service is.
I have been gagging to play Demigod for weeks. I noticed it became available for download over Impulse ahead of the shop release in the U.K. (where I would have got a nice box and manual too). Sod the box, I wanted to play it that day. So I handed over my cash, well, typed in my credit card numbers, and downloaded it. The game downloaded very quickly as it happened, and installed without a problem. Would it run though? Would it shite. Well that’s not true, it would so long as I turned off the sound using the /nosound tab, which I found out about after a fair bit of reading online. Those robbing bastards had sold me a game that they knew full well had stupid shitty problems that they were going to fix later. In other words I was beta testing their bullshit code, at my expense, using my broadband technology and (most importantly), my gaming time.
I couldn’t get it to work even after at least 5 hours research and driver updating. A couple of days later an update became available which Impulse duly tried to download. Except it got an error. My registration is not valid apparently. Well kiss my arse you dirty robbing bastards. Now I have a game that I spent the best part of £30 for, which I can’t update and won’t work until it is updated. Assuming the update fixes my problem, which I’m willing to put a crisp groat on that it won’t.
So much for the “ease of update” advantage. So much for the “available to play almost instantly”. So much for the “games are cheaper”. ASDA charge £27 for most of their new games. You find me a new game for less than that on any download service.
Now let’s jump ahead a few years, because I’m sure that eventually the developers and publishers will work out how to resolve their shit software and start releasing good finished products (or at least we will have all gone fibre optic and will be able to download the patches in a nanosecond).
Looking through the 216 games, stopping after about 3 foot of scanning the shelves, there’s one called Spellbound. You might not have heard of it. Many moons ago, when I were a lad, it came out for the C64. I had a quick game and thought, “I’ll do this one day, when I have more time”. It’s still there, waiting.
How many games from now will be available in 25 years time if they are only released in digital download? In 25 years will I still be able to play Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD, just like I can still play Stardust and Super Stardust? I doubt it. I suspect that once my hard discs die then that will be it, the games will be lost forever.
Companies go bust, Woolworths proves that. Will Steam and Impulse be around in 20 years time? What about 50 years time? And when they go bust what will happen to the games they host… Oblivion, I’ll bet.
That’s the biggest problem for me. Not that the only advantage of digital download is for the developers (to get me to spend 6 hours beta-testing their shit code), but that the history of video games will be lost. It’ll stop now. You’ll be able to play anything you like in the future, just so long as it came out before now, because someone somewhere will still be selling the hardware and the software to play whatever game it is you want to play.
Digital distribution marks the end of video game history unless distribution companies step up to the plate and release the games so they can be stored on media, for free, and played without protection codes once they have been flogged to death and no longer provide revenue.
Steam, Impulse, Awomo and Onlive along with the console download services are going to kill video game history, I’m sure “the masses” don’t care, but I do.