Lunchtime Discussion: Digital Distribution

After awaking from an alcohol fuelled sleep in the wake of Christmas at TSA Towers it’s time to resume those wonderful Lunchtime Discussions. So what’s the topic for today? Digital distribution, the hot button topic that’s come up again and again this generation. I know that there’s certainly a split amongst the TSA staff on this issue, but as always this is all about what you guys in the community think.

Obviously digital distribution isn’t perfect yet, particularly given the UK’s broadband network. While it’s a nice dream to be able to just press a button and have a game delivered to your console, we all know it doesn’t quite work like that. You press the button and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually the download meter will fill up and you’ll be able to play your game. Well that’s great, I probably could have walked to the shops, purchased it for less and be playing the game by the point that little bar has filled up.

And there we have another sticking point, the price. A little checking shows that Burnout Paradise is available for £20 on the 360’s Games on Demand service and £14 on the PSN Store. Using my usual go to for price comparisons, Amazon, it seems that the Burnout Paradise – The Ultimate Box is available for £16.26 on the 360 and £13.95 on the PS3. Whilst maybe it’s worth going digital on the PS3 (OK so you spend an extra 5p, but who’s counting) but doing so on the 360 seems a bizarre choice, particularly given that the Ultimate Box version will save you precious hard drive space when you avoid patches and the free DLC. However it just seems crazy that both digital versions are more expensive than the physical versions, even if it’s not by a huge margin. If I’m not having to pay to have a manual printed, a disk pressed, it all put together and then shipped to me the digital version just needs to be cheaper for it to make sense to purchase that version over the physical version.

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Of course the other issue is hard disk space, particularly on the 360 with the upper limit capped at 250GB by Microsoft. The PS3 has a current upper limit of 640GB, but that’s only capped by technology so we could certainly see that improve. However at the current limits the 360 can hold 50 games and the PS3 around 128 (this is based on a rough average of about 5GB for a game on Games on Demand, could certainly be lower in real world situations). The storage issue just doesn’t exist any more, even if my estimates are quite a way off for the PS3 you should still get around 50 on there.

None of this talks about the feeling of opening a new game (the same goes for DVDs, books and CDs). Digital distribution can never emulate that and whilst I do buy a lot of stuff digitally these days it’s just one area where physical copies are always going to win. But what do you guys think? Digital or physical?

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