How Far Away Is the Future?: Recommended Reading on Digital Distribution
Fat Princess just launched last week; you can read my review of the latest PSN game here. Elsewhere on the interwebs, complaints have been floating about the connectivity issues plaguing people who are trying to play Titan Studios’ maiden effort. If it feels like déjà vu, it’s because much the same thing happened with Battlefield 1943 just last month. Sure, the bugs for each game are already fixed or will be eliminated soon, but will launches like these just be the reality of digitally distributed games?
For an interesting look at what it’ll take to build thatreality, I recommend reading anarticle from the New York Times magazine from a while back. The piece caught my eye because writer Tom Vanderbilt opened up by talking about playing Call of Duty: World at War. At first, I was annoyed that he was sheepish about playing what’s generally agreed is a pretty good game, but I quickly forgot that when swamped by all the interesting data in the article.
When you think about what Vanderbilt talks about in the piece–with regard to the square footage, energy consumption and technological advances required to implement a broad-scale data center strategy– it brings up some questions. If companies as all-powerful and buzzed-about as Microsoft and Facebook find themselves huffing and puffing to lease space andcreate infrastructure for their server farms, how much harder will it be forentities like EA and Activision? The two biggest video game publishing companies still adhere to business models that still depend heavily on brick-and-mortar sales. The transition will be even harder for them to make. Then you have new players like OnLive and Gaikai who are promising lag-free, remote gaming services. Will digital distribution be cheaper? People like to say that digitally distributed games will be cheaper (and maybe even greener) because considerations like physical manufacturing and shipping will recede into the background. But the money spent on those things will likely just beshunted elsewhere in building up the aforementioned real estate and serverresources necessary to create the necessary digital infrastructure. So, maybe they won’t be cheaper, after all.
It’s been a rising trend to talk about cloud computing and the way it’ll change the way we use PCs. Console gaming's an entirely different beast with different challenges. Do you think you’ll benefit as a consumer from the eventual transition? Do you expect games to be cheaper?