GameFly has stripped its digital PC game distribution client of its beta tag and launched it as a polished download. It's both a storefront for over 1,500 Windows and Mac games, and a queue management frontend for subscribers to GameFly's game rental service, essentially a Netflix equivalent for games with a Steam-like distribution model baked in. To celebrate the launch, GameFly is offering up BioShock for free.
Remember when you could walk into a store like Software Etc. and wade through aisles and aisles of PC games packaged in gigantic boxes? Those days are long gone, and though you can still find a single rack of PC titles at your local GameStop, boxed copies are becoming something of a rarity these days. For Electronic Arts, the demise of boxed games, PC and console, can't happen fast enough as it looks to go all-in with digital downloads.
It’s been almost a year since the famous Sony hack leaked the personal information of millions of unsuspecting gamers into some of the seedier corners of the Internet, and history is repeating itself again, this time with Microsoft. Those visiting the Microsoft Online Store in India this morning were greeted with the haunting image of Guy Fawkes warning them that this “unsafe system would be baptized”. A hacker group known as the Evil Shadow Team has taken responsibility for the attack, and has even released proof that passwords stored on the server were not encrypted.
BioWare's Community Coordinator, Chris Priestly, is letting Mass Effect fans know that if they plan on helping Commander Shepard save the planet from Reapers, they'll have to go about it without using their Steam accounts. Mass Effect 3 will require interacting with EA's Origin platform and will be available for purchase through Origin and select digital download services not owned by Valve.
Is Valve's dominant digital platform the future? Or does it herald the end of PC gaming as we know it?
Steam. Publishers and rival digital distributors want to be it. Gamers and developers want to be with it. And animals lacking opposable thumbs want to learn how to use computers just to use it... or so Valve would have you believe. But all isn't as rosy in the land of PC gaming as all that, and as Valve's digital gaming platform has picked up more and more, well, steam, it's garnered its fair share of backlash as well. With Valve's recent tiffs with EA over their upstart Origin distribution platform, never before has the community been so polarized by Steam. Will Steam continue to dominate the PC gaming landscape? And if so, what does this mean for gamers?
First off, let's dispel the myth that Origin is a rival to Steam. Perhaps it will be in time, but as it stands now, EA's digital marketplace is just that - a digital store front for EA published titles. For the moment EA is content in simply bypassing Steam, in order to sell their products directly without losing revenue to a rival distributor.
So, no, Origin is NOT in direct competition with Steam, but neither are any of the other PC digital distributors. And I don't mean 'no competition' in the 'we're kicking your ass in marketshare' kind of way. No, I mean they're literally not selling competing products—they simply lack the depth and breadth of what Steam has to offer. Whereas Origin, Impulse, Direct2Drive, GoG, GamersGate and others are all perfectly valid online stores and distributors, they aren't what Steam is: a unified, managed gaming platform for the PC. And therein lies the true heart of the Steam debate: is the establishment of this type of system beneficial to the PC market?
Let's be honest, copyright law is a mess, especially when it comes to digital media. Want to convert your legally purchased flick to a mobile format? Chances are that by doing so, you'll run afoul of the DMCA, and that's just whack. In an ideal world, movie studios would jump on board dismantling the DMCA, but that's not going to happen. However, most of them are willing to look at another solution.
The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which is made up of several movie studios and tech companies, today announced "it has reached key milestones towards establishing the first open market for digital content distribution." That has the potential to be big news, considering an additional 21 companies have joined the group, which now stands at 48 members strong.
One of the milestones DECE reached is a Digital Rights Locker, which would allow consumers to access their digital entertainment on any device that supports the DECE standard. That includes TVs, media players, smartphones, and everything else, though iPhone and iPod touch owners would be excluded (Apple is one of the few companies not on board with this).
Check DECE's full press release here (PDF), then hit the jump and tell us what you think of this approach.
The magazine industry is finally starting to realize they need to get going on this whole internet thing. A group of publishers today committed to begin digital distribution of their properties. There are little actual details to go on right now but we do know that the principal partners in the joint venture are Time Inc, Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst, and News Corp.
The entities have individually worked on a number of digital formats. Condé Nast for instance, is building a digital reader with Adobe. Then there is the digital magazine prototype format shown off by Time just recently. In all likelihood, the partners will need to settle on one standard.
The likely goal of the joint venture is to ensure publishers retain direct control of distribution rather than allowing heavy hitters like Apple or Amazon to resell their content. Can publishers expect Amazon and Apple to support this move? While Apple seems to be happy to cut deals to get more content into the iTunes store, Amazon may be a tougher sell. Amazon will be concerned with protecting the end to end experience on their Kindle eReader. Publishers can only hope their combined influence can get them a favorable deal.
The economy is tanking and so is the market for film DVDs. All slumps warrant that businesses make the most of their resources. Warner Bros has resolved to do exactly that: it is going to milk old movie titles in its archive for some extra cash. The film studio has begun selling 150 old movies as part of its new DVD-on-demand service. Movie buffs can choose between made-to-order DVDs and digital downloads.
It plans to add 20 movies and TV shows to its DVD-on-demand service every month. The new service will let Warner Bros squeeze some extra cash from its film archive without having to worry about the demand. As DVDs will only be produced when demanded, there is no risk of superfluous production.
Each made-to-order DVD will set you back by $19.95 (exclusive of shipping charges). If you have altogether abolished the old-fashioned habit of purchasing DVDs, you can download these movies for $15 per title.
You hear that, GameStop? Capcom thinks you’re all washed up. Maybe it’s time to let the younger, prettier, and – most of all – immaterial new generation start helping you across the street, because your time’s running short. In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Capcom VP of strategic planning Christian Svensson explained why.
“Absolutely. No question in my mind. Digital distribution on PC ties directly into our strategy," Svensson replied when asked whether or not digital beats retail. “We will probably do as much digital selling as retail in the current climate,” he later added.
“To that end, on the PC side, I’ve spent the past year building up a digital distribution channel that has about twenty different partners. We’re ready on the console side, and we were the first Japanese publisher to do anything on Steam.”
Just in time, too. Our collection of game manuals was starting to get a little out of hand.
Amazon has been pretty good about digital distribution in the past. Their music store is a strong competitor to Apple’s iTunes, and now it looks like they’re planning to man up the casual game division with their own game download center.
The fledgling game store is already packed with 600+ titles here on day one, and they’re planning to add more as time goes on. And, as a bonus to people that sign up with the store this week, they are offering full versions of “Jewel Quest 2,” “The Scruffs,” and “Build A Lot,” all for free.
Though, they are sure to note that this is only a beta launch, so if there are kinks, don’t stress about them too much. Growing pains are all part of starting something like this. Amazon, we’ll keep our eyes on you, you’ve impressed before.