This week saw a bevy of sales on Xbox Live. I think I dropped about 60 bucks and got six games. They were dirt cheap. Some of the deals even rivaled bargain bin prices in retail stores. The Ultimate Sale may be over, but you can still pick up a lot of titles for a decent price.
I usually don’t buy full digital titles. They take too long to download, gobble up a lot of space, you can’t share them, and I just don’t have a lot of confidence these games will be available to me in the future. This goes for all services; Steam, PlayStation Store, Virtual Console, and Xbox Live to name a few. One day, they may not exist and your library disappears. All that money spent, gone.
The major problem with digital distribution is ownership. When games are locked to an account, the control over a game is taken more out of your hands. Many games in my library are more than 15 years old, and still in mint condition. To a point, I control their fate barring natural disasters that destroy everything.
Retail games, however, eventually go out of print, and become harder to find. Xenoblade is a good example of that. A digital copy gives a game like that with a limited print cycle a lot more redundancy. Sadly, not all games get that treatment, nor can they. Name me a place where you can (legally) play NHL ’94 without the original cartridge. Some titles just will never be available to a digital public for purchase. Too many licensing issues.
The Ultimate Game Sale on Xbox Live, however, gave me hope for digital sales, and actually made me take the plunge. No game I bought exceeded $15. If I lose the games I bought this week, it will not hurt as much as a $60 title (granted if they don’t add up). Steam has sales like this all the time, as does PlayStation Store to their Plus subscribers. The next generation of consoles will try to increase the emphasis on digital. NPD is going to start reporting digital sales by the end of the year.
It will take a long time for digital sales to become the norm. The music industry finally saw digital sales surpass physical media for the first time in 2011. It wasn’t by a wide margin. CD’s and vinyl continue to exist. This past week with the Ultimate Game Sale actually has me a little less skeptical about a digital future. Now if only they can work on game sharing.
This is a weekly blog focused on the world of video games. Follow the author, Ray Atkinson, on twitter. @FilthyRay