Is Day 1 Digital Really Worth it Yet?

I’ve always anticipated the digital sale of console games day and date with retail as a feature that we’ll probably see next generation, but it looks like Sony is going ahead with it now. I’m already seeing doubts however as to how good of a job they’re doing starting out.

Of course the gold standard of digital distribution of games for a while now has been Steam. With its sales, pre-order deals, and other features, Steam in most cases makes the most sense for buying games if you’ve got the hardware for it. But let’s just look at those who only buy games on consoles or just don’t have powerful enough computers.  Being able to buy games digitally day and date with retail is a proper and needed new feature for consoles, but what really are the advantages of digital pre-orders?

When you really think about it, why do you even need to pre-order a digital game? The original reason people pre-order in the first place is to reserve one of the limited number of copies physically out there. That problem doesn’t exist with digital. Lower prices and faster access seem to be the standard way to encourage digital pre-orders on places like Steam and even iTunes.

Sony is taking 10% off of pre-orders, but only for PlayStation Plus members. For everyone else the advantages pretty much just come down to the absence of sales tax and not having to drive to the store.

That’s just North American PSN though. From what I can see, the European PlayStation Store is doing its own thing. In the UK not as many games are available, but those that are will pre-load so buyers can boot them up right at midnight of launch day, including Assassin’s Creed III and Resident Evil 6. NA PSN definitely needs to pick up on that, and the UK store doesn’t even lock the feature behind PS+.

Hopefully this evolves into juicier pre-order deals to match what GameStop regularly offers. Steam already has its own inventive ways to do this with collectible Team Fortress 2 items and even full classic games as free bonuses. With Sony’s PS1 Classics library they could certainly pull off the latter. Getting a PS1 copy of Resident Evil 2 for free would be a nice incentive to pre-order RE6 on PSN.

What’s a bit baffling at this point is why Microsoft hasn’t jumped onboard. For years they’ve been aggressive with Games on Demand, building an impressive back catalog of full games on Xbox Live, but almost all of them still come out weeks after retail. This is one area in which even Nintendo – a company mocked for its online infrastructure, threatens to pull ahead of them. Oh, and you can’t even pre-order PlayStation Vita games on PSN despite every game being there day one.

What’s going on now is probably the trial run of features we’ll see in full force on next generation consoles. Hopefully all three console manufacturers will take those launches as an opportunity to establish strong digital ecosystems from the outset.

BULLETS:

  • A bit surprised at Far Cry 3’s 4GB RAM requirement for the PC version. I know most people are rocking at least 8GB by now but I’m still on a five-year-old system with only 3GB. Really need to upgrade this year, despite how everything else in my current setup is more than adequate for this game.
  • Looks like volume 30 really will be the conclusion to Blade of the Immortal: http://t.co/C0oE11SM
  • It’s nice to have a release date for Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories however: http://www.darkhorse.com/Books/18-466/Hiroaki-Samura-s-Emerald-and-Other-Stories-TPB
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2 thoughts on “Is Day 1 Digital Really Worth it Yet?

  1. Matt Mason says:

    It’s nice to have the option to pick something up digitally as opposed to having to deal with the hullabaloo of going to the store, etc.; but beyond that I’m curious to see how everyone approaches day one sales.

    There definitely needs to be incentives; I enjoy tchotchkes and I’d consider picking something up electronically if the price is right. We’ll see how it goes with the Wii U, which I plan on picking up, as I’ll be a part of the 10% club for buying the Deluxe Set. Right now it looks like everybody is just dipping their toes and testing the water, afraid of upsetting their big brother, brick-and-mortar stores.

    There needs to be a price disparity for sure when you consider that publishers don’t have to produce a physical product and they cut out the middle man. I’d like to get Crosswords Plus (I’m not even being facetious right now) as a download just for the sheer convenience of having it on my 3DS whenever I want it without having to switch out a cartridge; but I’m not convinced the digital version should be $30 just like the packaged edition.

    I could go on for hours pontificating about this stuff. Like you, I’ll be curious to see where everyone goes this next round of consoles.

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