The mere possibility of the next generation of consoles going “download only” for game distribution is something that petrifies me. See, due to me living in the middle of nowhere I am part of a rare group of gamers who can’t get broadband internet. The kinds of things that take a couple minutes for the privileged many out there (like downloading patches or games off of Playstation Network or Xbox Live arcade) sometimes takes me a couple hours. So what’s it like to live in this dark world? Well, it isn’t fun.
The biggest thing that a gamer like me misses out on simply because I picked the wrong place to live is online multiplayer gaming. Imagine for a second that you just got your new copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. You have heard all the buzz, you’ve read all the reviews, and you’ve waited with baited breath in anticipation for finally being able to hold that glorious game in your very own hands. Now the day is here. The game you’ve waited so long to get is finally yours. You get home, you pop it into your system of choice, and 6 whirlwind hours later the Campaign is over. Now what? For normal people in a normal situation, it’s time to hit the online portion of the game hard. Heck, a lot of people will just skip the Campaign and go straight for that. But the non-broadband gamer? He now has a 60 dollar paperweight.
With the online portion of the game unavailable to him, he sits there twiddling his thumb, knowing that in one marathon game session he’s done all he can do with the game he bought. Sure, he could beat it on a harder difficulty, but that’s not all that much fun. Gamers like me are essentially buying half-games these days. While the rest of you get to enjoy the whole thing, I’m paying 60 bucks to play half of it while the “Online” menu selection laughs at me every time I see it.
If that were the only inconvenience gamers like me had to live with, we wouldn’t have it so bad. But that’s not all. This generation of consoles has introduced us to a new enemy known as the “patch”. Patches are good, right? They fix the things in a game that are broken. How can that be a bad thing? Well for gamers under normal circumstances it isn’t, but for people like me they aren’t as much fun. Patch sizes generally vary from small things, things that are just a few megabytes, to huge game-altering updates that run a few gigabytes. And it’s the ones that are a few gigabytes that are the biggest problem.
Gran Turismo 5 put one of these out that fixed several problems with the game, added the much-needed “Seasonal Events”, and added a much deeper level of customization for your personal driver. It was a wonderful update. It took what was a good game and it made it great. But given that it was a few gigabytes, I couldn’t even download the patch at my own house. I had to go to someone else’s house, beg to use their internet like the tech peasant I am, and hope that they obliged. Shouldn’t the game I buy on the disc be pretty much the final product? I can understand fixing a few bugs here and there, but adding new modes? If the game isn’t finished, then why am I paying full price for it? Obviously these things don’t bother most people, but when I have to go through so much trouble to get these updates, they sure as heck bother me.
And now, as we enter a new generation of consoles with the Wii U on the horizon, and the Playstation 4 and Xbox 720 (which would surely be named something else, as that just sounds odd) to be formally announced shortly, the issue of digital distribution has come to the forefront. Games right at your fingertips. No more going to the store, no more standing in line at midnight releases, you just log on to your console, go to the store, and download. Digital distribution brings with it a lot of advantages that many gamers would love. Heck, I would love those advantages too if I were in a position to take advantage of them. If the next generation of consoles are digital only it completely locks people like me out. And it might not seem like there’s many of us, but there’s more than you would think.
All of these people, who would otherwise be more than willing to shell out the hundreds necessary to stay current with their console gaming experience, would now be forced to be behind the eight ball though no fault of their own. Go ahead and bring digital distribution to us next generation. That’s fine, our problems shouldn’t stop what will be a great innovation for gamers everywhere, but I beg you console manufacturers, please give us a physical media option as well. Because if you don’t, you’ll lose more than a few otherwise loyal gamers through no fault of their own.
I’m sure many of you reading this roll out of bed in the morning, check the internet on your iPad, maybe throw on some Pandora while you’re in the shower, and then you log on for a big group free roam session of Red Dead Redemption with your friends. And I know a lot of you take this kind of thing for granted. Well I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t. Thank the gaming gods every day for the gift of broadband internet that they have bestowed upon you, because in reality you could have it so, so much worse than you do.
What do you think about the the issues brought up in this article for gamers that do not have high speed internet? Be sure to let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below, or discuss it in our forums!