Console Digital Distribution starting to populate the digital shelves with higher profile games

Downloading games in the console market is a relatively new venture, but developers and publishers are finally starting to populate the digital shelves with higher profile games. They’re also starting to put more effort and resources into original downloadable properties as well. This expanded selection is good for business, but it’s also good for gamers. Digital distribution affords developers the freedom to release just about anything they see fit.

Take a look at the landscape of digital distribution and you’ll see a lot of games that would look out of place on store shelves. Echochrome would likely suffer the same fate of cult classic brain puzzler Intelligent Qube. The pressing would likely be limited, so its availability would likely be scarce. By the time word of mouth spread how cool the game actually is people would be shelling out well over the original MSRP on Ebay. Since the game is available on the PlayStation Network, gamers don’t have to worry about not finding it on store shelves – they can download it whenever they see fit.

Episodic content is a new market for consoles that was untapped until now. Lostwinds is one of the Wii’s best experiences, despite the fact that the game is only around three hours long. The fact that it’s only 10 dollars justifies the length, especially when one considers it’s only the first installment in what could end up a multipart series. Chopping the title up does a few things for the game. The gameplay elements might have grown stale if it were stretched out to an immediate 10 to 15 hours. Smaller chunks over a longer period of time puts a buffer between how much the player can experience of the same thing before they get sick of it. They might be away from it so long that they actually look forward to experiencing the functional and familiar tactile controls. This also gives the developers time to test new ideas to further diversify the gameplay, or even listen to fan feedback for to learn what elements were annoying or looked down upon.

Small developers aren’t the only ones getting on the bandwagon though. Capcom has recently been a major player in bringing new installments in classic series’ to download services. Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 recently hit the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. The company is reintroducing another series with Bionic Commando Rearmed before their current-gen sequel hits. Mega Man 9 will be reintroducing the Blue Bomber’s mainline series via WiiWare, and it’s rumored to be coming to other outlets as well. These games probably wouldn’t do well at retail, but cut the costs of packaging and printing discs and you have titles that are likely to make money because of preinstalled fan-bases. If they happen to expand, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Of course, that’s the main question. Is using digital distribution crippling the potential success of these titles? There’s a much larger percentage of people who buy games in stores rather than online, not to mention the fact that the vast majority of console owners aren’t jacked into the ’net with their game boxes. Truth is, it’s up to the company making the game to make that decision. Digital distribution isn’t a replacement for retail space – it’s a complimentary avenue. Games like PixelJunk Monsters and the aforementioned Echochrome are perfect examples of games that will likely benefit from this method of sale, just like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved already has.

Digital distribution affords companies to take risks and not worry about the retail costs if the game fails. The more companies can flex their creative muscles the better it is for the industry and the better it is for gamers. Hopefully downloadable games see continued success; it can only mean good things for everyone. via GamersMark

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