Digital downloads - convenience but at what cost?

Discussion in 'RPG, Simulation, Strategy and Others' started by Drifter, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Drifter

    Drifter Getting Started

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    I really love the idea and convenience of digital downloads. I love the convenience of paying for something online and downloading immediately (cable ftw). I also love the fact that I can play without the discs -- something that I've become accustomed to between mmorpgs and Stardock (Gal Civ series).

    Unfortunately there are some downsides that I came across this weekend.

    I had points to spend on HitPoints.com from my Fileplanet subscription so I spent them on Warlords IV. The version that was downloaded was 1.01. I saw on Gamespot that there was a 1.05 patch. Unfortunately the company, Trymedia, that is responsible for the secure distribution of the game doesn't have this patch available. So now I'm stuck at 1.01, unable to update the game.

    So that's one caveat to watch for - some digital purchases have restrictions in that you can only use patches released by the company you purchased the game from. It's the same for expansions in that if you purchased the original as a digital download you may have to buy the expansion the same way (digital purchase from the same company). So if you're local retailer has the expansion on sale, you may not be able to buy it and upgrade your digital purchase.

    Now keep in mind, this does vary between sites that offer digital purchases and between games. So before you buy, do some research -- read the site's faq, the game information, etc.

    For example, when I was looking into Warlords IV, I visited HitPoints (where I got it originally), Trymedia, and Ubisoft. All three ultimately point back to Trymedia as the digital distributor. So even if I had bought the game from the Ubisoft site, I wouldn't be able to update to the latest patch because Trymedia didn't have the patch available.

    Now in contrast, looking at Civ IV: BtS, I would be able to buy this from Direct2Drive and upgrade my retail copy.

    Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword requires the original game, and is compatible with both the boxed retail and digital versions.

    Then there's the activation keys and how they "secure" the game. This also seems to vary by store. HitPoint's FAQ basically states that I get two keys and then I lose access to the game. If I reformat my drive, I lose the first key and use the second key. Buy a new PC, that's a new key. So if I frequently updated PCs, there may come a point where I wouldn't be able to play the game because my activation keys would be used up. In contrast, the Ubisoft site was more friendly in that they state to contact their customer service dept if that would happen.

    One company who I think gets it right (outside of mmorpgs) is Stardock. There are no restrictions like that. If I use Stardock's "Stardock Central", once I'm logged in it shows me the games I've registered (regardless if it was purchased digitally or retail) and makes them available to me. So for example, my copy of Galactic Civilizations I which was 4 years ago and 3 computers (and many more OS installs due to hard drive upgrades, etc) is still available, no discs required, no more having to dig around for serial numbers. I can download and install at any time.

    So in closing, digital downloads are great but make sure to research the stores and how they're offering the game before making the investment. Make sure you understand what you're buying and what your rights as a customer are.
     
  2. zero

    zero Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2006
    Messages:
    247
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Newcastle
    Stardock sounds a lot like Steam, which is growing in titles day by day. The advantages for me, living in Australia, is that I can prepurchase and predownload a game I'm waiting for and play it the minute it's released in the US. However, Aus is getting pretty good at getting the games released at the same time as the US (and TV shows too), so it may be a thing of the past for me, because of the next point.

    I think the disadvantages of digital downloads are pretty obvious: no physical proof that you own a game! I like to have a box, discs and manual. Even though they are getting pretty pathetic these days. It also makes it easier to eBay off if it's not an online game and I'm done with it :) There's also a sense of pleasure walking into a store, grabbing the box and paying for it, then rushing home to install it.

    Definately a double-edged sword, but it's gonna be the way of the future so we best get used to it :)
     
  3. Jero

    Jero Getting Started

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Messages:
    521
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Eight Mile Plains, Brisbane
  4. Drifter

    Drifter Getting Started

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    Thanks for the link, but the problem wasn't finding the latest patch. :)

    Since it's digital distribution is secured by Trymedia, in order to apply patches, the patches themselves have to be distributed by Trymedia. Patches from anywhere else won't work. :(

    It's similar to buying games from from Direct2Drive, Steam, or Digital River. An example is Medieval 2: Total War(TM) Kingdoms:

    *This product is not compatible with the Medieval II: Total War versions digitally distributed from Steam or Digital River. If you have any questions about whether your copy of Medieval II: Total War is compatible, feel free to contact our customer support.

    Just something to be aware of when buying games online.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2007
  5. Gaping_MAW

    Gaping_MAW Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Messages:
    1,826
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    Brisbane
    I use gamersgate and steam. Gamersgate is good because it doesn't necessarily encrypt the installed files like Direct2Drive does. So I can save the install files onto a CD for the Sword of the Stars game and if Gamersgate disappears I can still install the game and any released patches. GG have been quick with updates, but I'm not sure whether you have to use their patches or can use the official ones...

    Steam just rocks.. auto-updates, cheap prices - if they go under the world is probably ending anyway :) I don't re-sell games so that aspect means nothing to me.

    I guess the moral of the story is go with those digital distribution companies that have a good game base and record (i.e. not Direct2Drive and the various tiny players out there). Gamersgate is a niche player in the market, but has just secured titles from Atari and focuses mainly on strategy titles.
     
  6. Drifter

    Drifter Getting Started

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    Are you implying that Direct2Drive doesn't have a good record or is tiny? It's part of the IGN network so I'm not sure if I would call it tiny. I've never used them so I have no idea how their service is.
     
  7. Gaping_MAW

    Gaping_MAW Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Messages:
    1,826
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    Brisbane
    doesn't have a good record in the games I've seen... they are the DRM nazis, so I give them a wide berth.
     
  8. Chief

    Chief Retired Captain

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Messages:
    2,014
    Likes Received:
    163
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    I've bought a few games through Direct2Drive, but most of the stuff I want is only available to people from the US, or from the UK through Direct2Drive.co.uk.

    As I stated in another thread, I tried to buy Titan Quest Immortal Throne the other night since it's less than half price through them, but it wouldn't let me because I'm an Aussie. Damn racists :p
     
  9. Drifter

    Drifter Getting Started

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2007
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    Good to know. :)
     

Share This Page