Musings: Sony and Digital Distribution

Sometimes there simply isn’t too much news and/or I don’t have a lot of time to write a post. Instead of delaying posts or putting out a lot of fluff I have decided to create a segment called musings, which will be merely a small look at a topic, which I don’t think is big enough to get a full post. So instead of me trying to make a comprehensive post, I will simply reflect on one topic or another.

Today is one of those days, and the topic I want to look at is Sony’s policy on digital distribution.

Love the use of the imperative here.

Sony has been pretty sneaky. They have been releasing and promising to release games digitally on the PSN at the same time as a physical media release. This model of day 1 releases is unheard of in consoles, which makes it innovative, but it has its roots strongly in other forms of gaming.

Firstly, it would be unwise to overlook that PC games have been doing this for years. There is a reason that PC game isles in video game stores are bare. Most PC gamers buy their games online and facilitators such as Steam allow for day 1 downloads, and even pre-downloads so that games can be unlocked on the first day.

Despite this Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have not been pushing this form of release until recently, and Sony is the one that has been pioneering in this field. Starting with the much hated PSP Go, Sony has been releasing new PSP and later Vita games digitally at the same time as they are released in stores. However, it has not been until recently that they have started doing this with retail console games. The way they eased people into this is interesting, as they started by releasing older PS3 games on the system, often pairing them with Playstation Plus game trials.

But then again, did they ease people into this practice, or did they just decide to take it a step further? And, if they were easing gamers into the practice, why do they think that gamers would oppose it or is the slow release for a different reason? It seems to me that the earlier releases were mainly to gauge the interest in such a form of distribution and to see if a profit was able to be made. Clearly, Sony has decided that this can be profitable and are pushing it now in a big way.

The question really is whether this form of digital distribution will really catch on, and when. Despite reluctant gamers, one day physical media for games will likely be obsolete. Will Microsoft follow suit soon? Nintendo likely won’t because they have barely found out what the interwebs is. However, with Sony and Microsoft pushing digital distribution, physical media could become rarer and rarer.

Whether this is a good thing or not, I will leave to a future post, but for now, I have to wonder if Sony is opening a huge can of worms with its policy. Will they lead consoles forward the same way Steam does for the PC, or will this fizzle out? Would this be an effective cure for the used games problem, or would this just prioritize online accounts and make people far more vulnerable to cyber terrorists?  Perhaps both, but at this point the consequences from this action cannot truly be measured as we have no idea how far Sony will push it.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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