Games to go

Earlier this year, Metaboli, a leader in the world of digital distribution, announced an incredible 120% year-on-year growth. They boast partnerships with Rockstar, Paradox and Epic Games and have recently inked a deal with Ubisoft, making their games available by its download-to-own for the first time. While many other industries are suffering in the recession, this ambitious firm also forecasts growth of over 100% for the rest of this year.

Above: Metaboli in action

“Although we offer download-to-own – a single purchase of one game – we also offer games-on-demand – access to a catalogue of content for a single monthly fee,” says Paul Howes, Metaboli’s European business director. “And that’s how we’re very different to Steam and Direct2Drive because we offer games-on-demand through a subscription, and games-to-download.”

Metaboli are working with publishers to make digital distribution even more attractive by including exclusive digital add-ons, and providing value in both content and delivery. “One of the other things that we’ve been looking at is what we call pre-load where you download the game before it’s released, and then we send a code to enable you to play it one minute past midnight on the day of release,” said Howes. “So in that sense we can speed up distribution, although we are very reliant on publishers to build that into their strategy.”

Above: Paul Howes, Metaboli's Business Director

Valve recently announced that Steam, Metaboli’s closest rival, has over 20 million accounts and almost 700 games to download, so it’s certainly a healthy business. But Metaboli and Steam may not be able to keep up as innovative options for gamers crop up as mainstream companies begin to take downloads more seriously.

BitRaider’s technology was originally unveiled at Austin GDC last September. It’s unique as it allows players to start playing a game when only 10% of it has been installed, leaving the rest streaming in the background. Although BitRaider say they’re working with a number of publishers and developers, founder and CEO Royal O’Brien admits many are skeptical until they see their product streaming.

Above: Steam, their chief rival

“Well, 99% of the time the feedback starts with ‘It’s not possible’ and moves to ‘How did you guys do that?’. From that point, we provide some feedback to them as a courtesy on how the game runs at the kernel level and we move forward from there. It is actually a simple process.” DICE has been in an experimental mood of late, with new games (Mirror’s Edge) and heading EA’s Play 4 Free program with Battlefield Heroes, so with Battlefield 1943, it wanted to try something different too. “I’d like to see this as another foray in the unknown,” says producer Patrick Liu. “Why? Because we must learn to change and adapt to the market.”