My case for Digital Distribution

7 03 2010

A lot of people have said that digital distribution is a bad path for the game industry to take, mostly because of things like not having a tangible copy of the game and also the inevitable problems that would arise from a site shutting down or if the servers were offline. But personally I feel, given the way computer games have been slowly disappearing from retail stores even before things like Steam came along, that this is a good path for computer games to go down. I can use my own personal experiences watching the retail computer game market shrink to back this up.

Back in the early and mid-90s there were a multitude of computer stores in the city north of my hometown. CompUSA, Circuit City, Computer City, Babbages, Funco Land, the list goes on. Eventually Babbages and Funco Land got absorbed into Gamestop, but that’s not really part of my argument. By the time Gamestop stopped carrying as many computer games and equipment, it was already a well established trend. Computer City had closed down before the year 2000, and CompUSA and Circuit City have been out of business for a couple years now. But even before they went under it was already becoming clear that computer games were a shrinking part of retail space. Whereas a large part of a computer/video game store might be devoted to computer games, it’s now maybe 2 or 3 shelves at best. Best Buy is the most glaring example of this, in that while about 1/3 to half their store near me is devoted to computers, only one double-sided shelving unit and another half shelving unit is devoted to computer games, most of which are only a couple months old. The same can be found everywhere else, especially in Gamestop’s case where, back in the early 90s, maybe half the store was computer games.

With digital distrubution sites like Steam and Good Old Games, gamers are able to get games that are older but still viable, as well as get them for reasonable prices, especially when sites have special deals or sales going on (Steam has at least something on sale every week, for example). Also these content distribution sites can strike deals with developers to get older titles released for profit. Good Old Games just had a “Month of Activision” where some of Activision’s older classics were released to their site, including a greatly underrated gem, Interstate ’76. And people say Activision is pure evil (citation needed).

The point being I wouldn’t be able to get these games for the prices that are offered by places like Steam and GoG anywhere else, even on Amazon. In a way these digital distribution sites are not only allowing us to keep in touch with older games and make them easy to find, but also preserving the history of gaming itself.

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