Gamer's Piece: Effects of the shift to a digital-first marketplace
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 23:03
There are rumors that the Playstation 4 may have single-use games that will be forever tied to the first console they’re played in. A physical copy of “Fire Emblem: Awakening” has been nearly impossible to find since its release in early February; at a local Gamestop a week ago, an employee reported the store had received a whopping total of two cartridges since the game’s release, though Nintendo offers the game at full price through their eShop. Playstation Network and Xbox Live Games on Demand have recently begun stepping up their online services with free games and big discounts.
Console gaming finally seems to be making a big jump into digital marketplaces, years after Steam revolutionized PC gaming, but are the results going to be positive or negative for consumers? There’s evidence on both sides, but at the moment it’s looking bad for gamers’ wallets.
First, the Playstation 4’s store is supposed to always be online, even downloading portions of games it predicts users may like while it’s not being used. While this is an interesting idea, the current greed-mongering strategies of cable companies will collide with it head-on, especially data caps. If users are only allowed a certain amount of Internet usage per month (250-300 GBs of data is a normal monthly total), these downloaded games could push many gamers over a pricey cliff, not to mention take up valuable hard drive space better used for other things, like games users actually own.
As for games being tied to one specific console, there are somewhat positive and negative aspects of this new change. The good is that in cases of theft, stolen goods will be able to be traced back to their specific console. That’s about it for the good. Negatively, this would crash the used-game market, possibly throttling Gamestop’s overall sales figures, and prevent gamers from returning purchases too. It drives up the lifetime cost of a console drastically when every game released can only be picked up for what the publisher thinks the game’s worth. When games turn out to be bombs, there won’t be any way to sell them off or warn others of their awfulness outside of pre-release demos, sure to become even rarer than they are now.
Less frustrating is the new option to buy a game digitally versus buying a physical copy. The “Fire Emblem” scenario was more than tolerable, considering Nintendo sold individual stores download codes for in-store purchases (great for people with in-store credit or gift cards) and had the game readily available online. However, as “Fire Emblem” is a game worth holding onto for months, if not years, being limited to a digital copy impossible to resell isn’t as much of a problem as if it were two hours long. Also, considering that games are tied to specific consoles, in the case of a theft, you might have to cross your fingers and hope the police will catch your perpetrator before they reach a pawn shop. Consumers are going to have to be on their toes, using the Internet as a valuable resource, in coming years. In the meantime, pick up some cheap flash drives or externals. They may be pretty handy.