Monday, August 10, 2009

I demand my Games On Disc

Microsoft is rolling out an update to the dashboard, and included in this update is the launch of a new service, called "Games On Demand". It replaces the Xbox Originals program that was available, where you could buy some Xbox 1 games, download them to your hard drive as if they were a (multi-gigabyte) Xbox Arcade game, and play — in fact, all the Xbox Originals games are being moved to this Games On Demand service. What's new is, they are also adding Xbox 360 games to this service. (They are also allowing direct purchases of these games, in real dollar amounts, using a credit card, instead of requiring the purchase of Microsoft Points first.)

It's probably not hard to guess what my opinion of this service is, considering I've complained about trading out physical discs for digital downloads on more than one occasion. Whereas some might find this "convenient" or a "sign of the future" that they can just download and go, I find it a sad harbinger of the further removal of our rights as customers. So far, the games they are releasing on Games On Demand are older games, not current releases, so the level of scrutiny will be a little lower. But I have to wonder how many times it will take for someone to wait several hours for a full DVD to download (when they could have driven to the store, bought it, and returned home in less time, probably — in any case, it certainly won't be quite "on demand", especially compared to, say, Netflix, which goes from "click" to "play" in under a minute) before they give up on the service. How many will find themselves unable to play a retail game when their internet connection drops, because their license information got screwed up in the last repair. How many will suddenly realize they can't trade in this older game. How many will complain when the first bit of retail content is removed from Microsoft's servers due to a licensing issue, and that retail game they bought is no longer available. When will the majority of the consumers realize that this "iTunes model" of digital content is no good here?

I may not have to worry. It looks like Microsoft is trying very hard to shoot this program in its own foot. Gaming blogs are already noticing that the games are way overpriced, compared with the open market on the same games on disc. (They haven't yet reported on the connection, though, that the prices are perfectly inline with their other annoying fact, that the DLC for these games is still on Marketplace, still at its original price.)

Microsoft also continues to provide way undersized and overpriced storage solutions. $150 for 120GB of storage? You can buy hard drives measuring two TERABYTES in size for two thirds the cost. So, users will be more inclined to keep their old 60GB and 20GB hard drives; and if they don't have the disk space for a digital download, it won't happen.

1 comment:

Sheriff Bullock said...

I can see Microsoft owned studios like Epic offering special promotions for their games bought through Live. For example, purchase Gears of War "on demand" and get a free map pack. By selling their games directly to consumers, they cut out the middle man--the retailers. But I don't see other developers, say, Ubisoft jumping at this. Either a retailer takes a cut, or Microsoft does.

Personally, I would never buy a digital copy of a game that is also available in physical form. I cannot sell or trade anything that is digital. I cannot loan it to a friend. (I feel the same way about e-books and Amazon's Kindle.)

Maybe--I stress *maybe*--if the digital versions were substantially cheaper, I would consider Microsoft's Games on Demand because of the "convenience," but not only is their catalog not cheaper, it's more expensive.

For example, they're selling Viva Pinata and Viva Pinata 2 for $20 and $30. The prices for new copies at Amazon? $10 and $19. Plus, you get the manual and a case to put on your shelf for posterity. Oh, and those are the *new* prices. They're even cheaper used at

And how many games can I fit onto my hard drive? Maybe one. And I'd need to delete some GRAW map packs first.

Here's something I haven't heard: Do you have to play these games whilst connected to Live? (A requirement of DLCs like Oblivion Shivering Isles.) And what happens if your console goes bust? I bet you can't even download these 8 gig files if you're doing something else on Live, like multiplayer Gears.

If digital distribution is the future, where's my time machine?