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While other new release download-to-own-product has retained its retail value, Battlefield 1943 is available for just $15 (£8), but DICE insist this is still a premium game. Do they think there’s a danger models like this could erode prices across the board? “That thought has crossed my mind, but I don’t think anyone can pull off such a product,” defends Liu. “DICE has been in a great position with this game, and offering a download only for just $15 is a unique opportunity for all gamers. We have a lower barrier to entry with this title, but kept most of the depth of a classic Battlefield game. I think we’ve set a new bar for what you can achieve in that segment, and I expect others to follow. There’s no excuse to only release a certain type of game just because they’re small and cheap. It’s possible to deliver a full shooter experience as well.”


Above: BitRaider founder and CEO, Royal O'Brien

The appeal is not just the ability to save space in stores, but also to offer instant sales on the game’s day of release, a proper back catalogue, 24-hour sales and instant price discounts – much in the way existing services do. It’s just the logical next step in how games are bought.

“It’s already been proven that if you make it difficult to get a product to the consumer, they will simply go find other means to get it,” says BitRaider’s O’Brien. “Digital distribution allows the gaming market to monetize their products faster and easier in many ways. It’s already been proven that sure, people can go download MP3s anywhere, but last time I checked, the iTunes Store was doing well for something that people could download from anywhere. Bottom line, people will buy online if you give them ability to do it, which means digital distribution is not going anywhere, any time soon.”


Above: Good Old Games, another of their rivals

“It’s a complex business to manage,” adds Metaboli’s Howes on why more traditional retailers haven’t just introduced a download service themselves. “You’ve got to bring together all of the content from all of the publishers. We work with 56 different publishers from whom we license content - that takes a lot of time and energy to manage. Also you need to aggregate technologies for the different types of technology: DRM technology and streaming technology to deliver this content over the internet and we tend to package it up so the user has a consistent experience. We’re specialists in the area so I think they’d rather use us than bring in their own people to manage this type of service. The investment is considerable and why we’ve been successful, is that we do it for lots and lots of people. So we can spread our costs across lots of different channel partners, whereas a single partner just couldn’t justify the investment at this point in time.”

Metaboli are in discussions with two or three retailers which could well launch in the next three to six months: “There are more of them now that are going to be launching download services,” says Howes. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all the top five had them within the next 12 months.”


Above: One of DICE's producers, Patrick Liu

“I think that’s the only way for them to survive,” adds Liu. “Holding on to the old as the music industry did for a very long time, and still does, will not work as technology moves forward.” Eventually we expect most games to be distributed digitally. Soon enough physical product will be treated as some sort of luxury (limited editions with nice big manuals anyone?), but we’re still a little way off that as DICE’s Liu concludes: “It will take another generation of gamers to reach that point. So when our kids grow up they will know nothing better than digital download. Just as physical media has progressed from floppy discs to USB drives, and downloads are just the next natural step.”

Jul 16, 2009

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19 comments

  • jojo13jojo233 - July 19, 2009 8:08 a.m.

    Actually speno93, with steam if you buy a game you can install/uninstall it on any computer, thats actually the reason why 90% of my games are DD
  • speno93 - July 18, 2009 1:45 p.m.

    the only real problem with DD is that if you have too much space and you wish to install something new with an ordinary game you can just uninstall it and put the disk back in when you want to reinstall it but for gams already on your computer it becomes way more difficult and you may have to pay for it again, i may be wrong but until i see how you can uninstall a DD bought game and reinstall it without having to buy it ill only really buy games digitally that have a small amount of disk usafge such as TF2 I still love the way it is used and that the prices are always so much cheaper than in retail stores although some sites like Steam should distinguish between prices such as Us and Australian dollars
  • darkvare - July 17, 2009 7:23 p.m.

    i prefer discs by a long shot
  • Csheroe - July 17, 2009 4:49 p.m.

    I love digital distribution via steam. Lots of indie games I like to buy!
  • TURbo - July 17, 2009 12:31 p.m.

    If 90% of videogames have Securom at retail stores, I'll just get a credit card when I grow up and never buy retail again.
  • oreomonkey - July 17, 2009 6:51 a.m.

    Royal O'Brien, shave that or your not pickin up any girls soon. Your already not looking good as your job revolves around video games.
  • SwampRock - July 17, 2009 6:47 a.m.

    C-c-c-c COMBO BREAKER!
  • Ensoul - July 17, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    I really hope digital distrubution doesn't replace the "old" way any time soon.
  • Tymiegie - July 17, 2009 3:08 a.m.

    I really like Steam. The best part is that it is great for going back and buying games that you might have missed. I got Half-Life, Beyond Good and Evil, and Thief: Deadly Shadows well after they were released and I didn't have to spend time searching for a used copy
  • lovinmyps3 - July 17, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    I don't think I could download an entire game. It seems wrong. I really like having the case to a game and being able to look at my collection on my shelf. That's why I rarely buy used games, because I like having cases in good condition.
  • r3ap3r - July 16, 2009 7:53 p.m.

    im happy their is a sie providing this although im still gonna keep using steam and il stop by this site every once in a while 2 see the games they got.
  • Cyberninja - July 16, 2009 7:44 p.m.

    shouldn't it have handheld games for games on the go?
  • sbghost64 - July 16, 2009 7:20 p.m.

    First!!! Downloading games or going out and buying them... it really doesn't matter to me it's not like its that big a deaal to go out and buy a game at a store
  • STR33TFiR3 - July 22, 2009 1:35 a.m.

    I love digital distribution! Steam is great! Maybe we will see google games one fine morning!
  • Jordo141 - July 17, 2009 6:22 p.m.

    I prefer to actually own a copy on a disk, then worrying what would happen if my PC/console breaks.
  • iLoveKFC - July 17, 2009 5:16 a.m.

    I LUVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV THA KFC
  • civver - July 17, 2009 12:47 a.m.

    Online distribution will be great. Lower prices, faster dissemination, etc.
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 16, 2009 8:03 p.m.

    After picking up the Orange Box this year I've been starting to use steam alot more and have bought a few more games off it. Personally I love it, and I think digital distribution is great, but I'm a bit weary of the idea of it completely abolishing the process of physically going to a store and buying a cd in a box... I just kinda like it, having a cd in a box i mean, not the having to go to shops and buy them, that bit still sucks.
  • ChrisAntistaSmellsLikePizza - July 16, 2009 7:43 p.m.

    Steam will always be the better business IMO but that doesn't make metaboli bad. Steam not only has the game marketplace but also a fairly complex friend system built in. Now before I say anything else, I want to say that I have never been to metaboli so I don't know if they have a friend thing as well.

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