Friday Flame War: All Digital Is All Awesome?

Earlier this week, Electronic Arts caused a minor kerfluffle when EA’s Frank Gibeau said this about EA’s future:

“We’re going to be a 100% digital company, period. It’s going to be there some day. It’s inevitable.”

WHAAAAT? Does this mean we’re all going to be essentially renting games from the Worst Company In America? Maybe not, if the EU Court of Justice has anything to say about it. But we think it’s absolutely an awesome idea! Or maybe it’s the worst idea ever! But why let us decide? We put it to our loyal readers to fight this battle to the test.

Is a full conversion to digital the devil, or the future?

Sound off in comments, and be as mean as possible.

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6 Comments on Friday Flame War: All Digital Is All Awesome?

JawaEsteban

On July 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Afraid I’ll have to disappoint on ‘mean as possible’, I can see some very valid points for both sides of this particular coin. If (and this is a really big if) the correct consumer protections are in place, there are a lot of advantages to digital. No worries about replacing scratched disks, can’t lose the disks, your games are available anywhere you go (mostly), automatic patching (not always a good thing) etc. etc.
Mostly, these are all convenience factors. That, and it saves having to wade through the halfwits the big box electronics retailers are staffing their stores with these days, now that they don’t have to worry much about market share.
(I should probably point out that by ‘digital’, I mean Steam-style purchase and download. I do not mean this always-on persistent internet DRM crap that seems to be going around lately. That s*@t needs to stop.)
However, consumer protection is the linchpin. Unless there is absolute ironclad law about what a company like EA can and cannot do after you purchase a product (and an agency with a mandate and legal teeth to enforce it), I think that we’d just continue to see more of what we have now, which is EA figuring out new and creative ways to bend customers over a barrel every month.
Plus, I like my giant shelf of game boxes. It’s like browsing a library, sorta. If they are going to go all digital, how about an option to still get a box shipped with purchase?

Axetwin

On July 7, 2012 at 4:33 am

I think when handled correctly, digital downloads can be a great service. However, when its not handled correctly, itll blow up in the face of the company and guess who gets hurt by it? We do. Theres a long list of reasons as to why Steam is such a great service. However in the end the only reason that matters is that Valve doesnt tell players what they should want.

EA on the other hand, as of now, their manifesto reads as such: all games will be designed to reach as broad an audience as possible, all games will feature multiplayer, all games will feature Day 1 DLC, all our games on Origin will come with DRM, all our future digital downloadable games will start off at 60-70 bucks and will remain at that price for as long as possible, all future games will feature a type of cash shop. Then they finish this manifesto with “we do all of this to show that we do listen to our fans”. Everytime they add to this, they always say “our research shows this is what gamers want”.

I think EA is right that the future of gaming is digital downloading, I dont think that time has come yet though. Unfortunately, EA is going to try to force this the issue because while they see the potential to make lots of money, they fail to understand why its been such a success for Valve. So when it blows up in their face, I think it could have damning consequences for the entire gaming community. Quite possibly even setting the industry back instead of propelling it forward.

J

On July 8, 2012 at 3:28 am

While it’s not necessarily a “good” or “bad” thing, going digital will mean that you will be getting less for your money (no more nice boxes, manuals, extras, etc). What will make it good or bad, for us AND the publishers, will be how the prices will be adjusted to take all of that into effect (no tangibles = no manufacturing costs, no shipping costs, no taxes, less taxes, no store taking their slice of the pie.) If prices drop by say 40%, I can’t see it as being a bad thing.

Though the issues of distribution services and drm still remain. If they go the route of gog.com (which all signs point to no) then I’m sure it would be less of a case of, “Hey, digital isn’t so bad after all.” to, “Why didn’t they do this sooner???”

Dave T

On July 8, 2012 at 5:47 am

Hmmm, unfortunately not every gamer in the world has an unlimited internet bandwidth connection. This move could well stop a lot of people playing software all-together. Especially since most ISP’s at the moment are trying to enforce ‘fair usage policies’ on customers, or in some cases switching users automatically onto bandwidth plans after contracts have ended.

S

On July 8, 2012 at 9:26 am

Dave T. brings up a good point. Some of the issue is not even whether we as a consumer community are ready for all digital, but whether our infrastructure is. Right now, it really isn’t in a place where all digital distribution is practical.

I like digital distribution as a choice. But like many, I’m also not ready to give up my physical copies, especially when the price is often not terribly competitive for digital copies. If the physical and digital copies are pretty much the same price why would I not buy physical and get my nice box for my shelf, usually with a nice manual and all that . I don’t worry so much about scratching since I am pretty anal about disc care. When I buy digital, I’m usually taking advantage of a good Steam sale.

lol

On July 9, 2012 at 6:58 am

I’ve been buying digital since 03 when Steam came out. Only exceptions are special editions of certain games.

It’s nice.