[Originally posted on 1Up.com]
Buying more games than you find the time to play, a rather luxury problem of mine that I've mentioned here a couple of times before (take my last post for instance). I see a sale or a pre-owned copy in a store or on the web and my itchy "Buy Now"-finger just takes control, but more than that I very often tend to pick up new games as they come out even though I have pleanty on hand already to play. In an attempt at self-psychology I've delved deep (well maybe not so deep) into my gaming past to see what traumatic experiences have induced this abnormal behavior.
What I've come to realize is that this is a fairly new thing, dating back only one-two years. Towards the end of 2005, there where more games coming out for - my then only console - the GameCube than I had time for so I decided that I would pick them up "for cheaps" on sale at a later date. Games like, PoP:The Two Thrones, Fire Emblem, Battalion Wars, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat and Paper Mario 2:TTYD. What happened though, was that these games dropped off stores in-stock lists before reaching a sweet-spot price-wise, and I have since had to hunt them down in gaming stores as far away as Hamburg, Germany and on online auction sites. Traumatic, I know! ;-) This has slowly pushed me towards picking up titles as they come out even if I don't really have the time for them. Also, in picking up a PS2 as recently as I have, sucking up the back catalogue of games for the system has done it's fair share to this point as well. But I may just have found my saviour in digital distribution, let me explain.
With the advent of digital distribution I see great benefits such as stream-lined delivery that should result in shorter TTM:s (Time To Market, i.e. from a business point of view the publisher will see a quicker ROI (Return On Investment, i.e. earning the money they've invested in development back (boy isn't this fun!) ) and potential price reductions due to the removal of middle-men like retailers and manufacturing and distribution costs (I'm looking at you Ubisoft!)).
With Valve's digital distribution service, Steam, I was able to download and play Half-Life 2: Episode One the minute it was released. If it weren't for the constant delays of HL2: Ep2, and my lack of patience with PC-gaming's pitfalls like tweaking settings and tedious installation procedures - not to mention the fact that your hardware never feels good enough - I would no doubt be a frequent consumer of this service.
After securing the Wii I was afraid that my unhealthy games purchasing behavior would take on even more grotesque proportions and I was initially very careful to think any potential purchases of Virtual Console titles through before fulfilling them. Since a couple of months back I also own an Xbox 360 on which XBox Live Marketplace does a fair job of shaking it's money-maker in my face every time I boot up the system. I was quick to fill my hard drive with game demos and some of these have subsequently resulted in purchases.
However, even though there are many titles that I am interested in playing available on both system's download services, I have actually only purchased three so far. I downloaded Bomberman '93 for the Virtual Console and Geometry Wars and Alien Homonid HD for XBox Live Marketplace. So why do my total game purchases through these digital download services amount to no more than 30 Euros? And what does it mean for the future?
There is little doubt in anyone's mind that DD will become more and more prevalent. The common opinion, one that I've shared up until now, is that digital distribution will push sales. People will more easily be coerced into impulse buys and a game can be bought in the late hours of a gaming-night with friends for just a few hours of fun that night (no doubt helped by the enhanced judgement garnered from the consumption of alcohol). But, at least in my case, this doesn't seem to hold true. The reasons I haven't run rampant on the aforementioned online stores are simple: There is no risk of these titles going out of stock; There is an infinite number of copies available of each game, so there is no hurry in securing a copy; And since they don't take up space in the same sense as physical copies in a store, there isn't really any chance of them being replaced by newer titles. Also, since I can buy them at any hour on any day of the week directly from my couch and be playing them within a few short minutes, there is very little incentive to buy something just so that I'll have it when and if I decide to play it. In a way, I already have these games, I just need to pay for them before playing the first time.
Digital distribution seems to be an excellent way for me to save money - not in the way I expected - but monetary just the same.