This post was written by Wisnie86, A. Young, and M. Ericksen:
Wisnie86: Not too many years ago the only way that you could purchase a video game was from a brick and mortar video game store such as EB Games, Software etc, Gamestop or various others. As an ever increasing number of these retailers created online shopping websites, more games were purchased online. Eventually as internet connection speeds increased and more people were connected via broadband, yet another method of distributing games emerged: digital distribution. Systems such as Valve’s Steam have pioneered digital distribution. Steam requires that you first create an account, and then allows you to either import valve games that you have purchased otherwise into your steam account by entering the CD-Key into the system, or purchase games from the steam marketplace, thus allowing you to download the game on any computer that you log into steam from.
Personally, I find this type of system to be very effective. Not only does it remove the need for keeping track of cd-keys and game install disks, but it also creates an extremely easy method of acquiring new games for the most part as soon as they are released. Additionally, this type of system is beneficial to the developers and publishers of the games in that steam for example often has weekend deals that drastically reduce the price of certain games that have been available for a long time, causing a great increase in purchased of that particular game, thus creating more interest regarding that game. An example of this was when valve dropped the price of Team Fortress 2 to $2.50 for random hours throughout the weekend, this caused many people to try very hard to get it for that price, and even caused some people to buy extra copies to distribute to friends who don’t yet have the game. This in turn causes more people to play TF2 on steam, and therefore introduces more people to the steam system.
In addition to helping the big developers and publishers, steam also assists smaller developers by removing the extremely large barrier to entry that is distribution of physical media. For example, there are many smaller indie games available on steam that probably would not succeed if not for the simplicity and value of the steam system.
All in all, steam and other digital distribution systems provide many benefits to both the purchasers and producers of games, even if they can be a very large pain in the ass if the service goes down or becomes unavailable.
A. Young: With the market place in video games today demanding that every console have a heavy online component, downloadable content has become a prominent source of extra revenue for publishers and developers alike. PC gamers have long since experienced this with the “expansion pack” system. It is pretty much a given that any AAA title that gets shipped nowadays is going to have some DLC coming after it down the pipeline. The quality of this content has failed to hold up consistently with the standards of the original games. Titles like GTA IV, Assassin’s Creed II, and Fable II have all put out downloadable extra content recently with mixed reception. I actually just purchased GTA: Episodes From Liberty City and true to the reviews I read, the two separate games are excellent extensions to the GTA IV story-line/universe. I have also read that the expansions to Creed and Fable are less than stellar and are not worth their price tags. This brings me to the main issue I feel some people have with downloadable content: they don’t understand why they should have to pay extra for an experience that they feel should have come in the box originally. Personally, I feel like developers should not make downloadable content unless it significantly enhances the experience of the original game. If the downloadable content is a completely separate game, or if it adds holes to the original story then there is no point in releasing it under the parent game’s moniker. Obviously there are cases where developers are just trying to exploit an IP’s established market to make a few extra dollars so they just throw some nonsense out there. Then there are situations like Borderlands where the game studio has actually gone through great pains to add to the original experience. This is why you must do your research to avoid getting burned.
M. Ericksen: I tend to lump downloadable content into three categories, free, a large supplement to the game, or a shameless attempt to milk every penny from customers. The first category, free, goes with little explanation; it’s free so there is no real question of whether or not it is worth it because it’s free. If you like it then keep it, if you don’t then delete it from memory, either way it cost nothing so there is nothing to lose. The pain is when game developers feel that they can make a game that is mostly lacking in either length or just general content, and then decide to dump a whole bunch of pay-per-item content. This is just ridiculous, and the fact that they can get away with it is even more ridiculous. While they could have a “reason” for doing this, like they needed to get the game out on time and so they cut things but then finished those removed elements and now wish for you to pay for them. I think this should stop immediately though, if things like this are allowed to continue then a can see a very obnoxious future. Picture spending $60 dollars to get a videogame like Halo 5, and you fire the game up and all that pops up on the screen is a beautifully rendered menu with one gorgeous HD option “Download.” When the option is clicked then it gives you a buffet of weapons, armors, character, and levels all of which can be yours for a price. These things should have been shipped with the game originally, but they weren’t because it was better to charge you for a menu and then make you pay for every part of the game that you want/need. Now this is a huge exaggeration, games these days do try to get away with putting less in the game initially and then charging you to download things to bring it to the necessary “full game” length. This just makes everything harder for the people who actually try to make their games worth the price.