[Originally posted on 1Up.com]

I've been on the fence as to when I am going to pick up Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. After playing the demo of it at Leipzig I then downloaded and played it again when I got home and enjoyed it alot. However I feel that I don't really have time to play it now, I'm playing Okami at the moment and then Guitar Hero II is just around the corner closely followed by the Wii release. But hey, I might be able to squeeze in some PC-love in between the other titles...

I was listening to the Next-Gen.biz podcast this weekend and they where interviewing Valve's Gabe Newell. They mentioned that said game is being sold on Steam. Great, I thought to myself, that makes it easy, I'll just buy it cheep on Steam since I'm all for digital distribution, and if I can help Valve while doing so, all the better!

So this morning I surfed over to the Steam homepage to check release date and price... $49.95!?! WHAAAT?!? WTF, UbiSoft FFS! That's what I would pay for the physical copy! COME ON! WHAT THE HELL!? Why am I paying this much when the distribution costs are cut to just a fraction, and there is no physical media what so ever? This is complete and utter bullshit!

The high prices of games being sold on Steam was an issue discussed on the Next-Gen podcast, but I never thought it would be this high, or that it would apply to this particular game. Mr. Newell made clear that they (Valve) are in no way enforcing any pricing on Steam, the distributors are setting the prices as they see fit, and he did mention that he believes companies are setting the same prices across all distribution channels at an initial stage before they see how well the digital distribution method works, so hopefully these prices will come down, at least a bit, while physical distribution is still an option.

So on the one hand I want to support GOOD digital distribution models whenever possible, not just because it cuts out the meaningless middle-men, or that it has the potential to reduce end-user prices, but because of the ecological aspects, and the potential of titles' so called "shelf-life" being indefinitely prolonged. I'd love to be able to go to an on-line store and purchase some of the great games of yester-year in 20 years when I finally get sick of everyone raving about them and finally play them (like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII and Grim Fandango).

This to me is one of the most important pros of digital distribution, I've spent the last six months tracking down titles (half-heatedly mind you) that I didn't get when they where first released, but that I want to play. These include Metal Gear Solid, and Metal Gear Solid 2, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat and have all been a bit of a pain to find, if a reseller could have these in stock for anyone to buy whenever, instead of having to worry about the boxes taking up shelf space, that's what I want to see! That benefits everyone.

Anyway, the question remains, do I buy Dark Messiah on Steam - showing both Valve and UbiSoft that this is the distribution model of the future, but at the same time validating that consumers are stupid enough to pay full-price for an electronic version; or do I buy it in a store and continue to serve the middleman, and if so do I buy it now when I know I can get it, or do I go hunting bargain-bins for it in six months?

At this point you probably see the third option: I could just hold out, anticipating the price to drop and then buy it for a reasonable sum, on Steam... But can I hold out? Can I calmly stand by and expect to pick it up later? Maybe sales are not good enough on Steam for Ubisoft to keep it there... Time will tell... but I doubt I'll have the nerves to wait.

You know what it says at the back of Ubisoft E3 2006 Brochure? New Generation - Same Philosophy Yeah, you might want to think about that...

What's your take on digital distribution? What do you think I should do?

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