Who needs shops anyway!

I recently reviewed MotoGP 09/10 and made comment in there about the goal of this particular title to update it’s content and game-play to switch from it’s ’09’ mode to this years ’10’ version with new bikes, riders, livery etc etc. This got me thinking about how much we generally consume in a purely digital format and how the paradigm is shifting in our particular, game-shaped, area of the universe.

We’ve commented previously on the digital download and on-line consumption of games and the On-Live service is ramping up for a (US only) launch on 17th July for games access on Mac and PC, with their MicroConsole launch slated for later in the year. And this is great, if you have $15 per month spare and don’t mind renting your games.

The On Live micro-console and controller - small init?
The On Live micro-console and controller – small init?

But I do like to buy things, this may be an older attitude but the idea of getting something, enjoying having it and then having to give it back jarrs a little, perhaps I’m acquisitive but I like to have things for a rainy day. This, we’ll call it acquisitive, nature isn’t necessarily the gain of physical things though, my music purchases are all digital, my movie purchases are probably heading in that direction to some extent and I do purchase games from the XBLA every now and again. The MotoGP 09/10 experience though gave me further pause for thought.

How about this; you buy a game which is, by it’s nature, seasonal or episodic – a sports title is the very best example here but others could apply too – this could be an in-store retail purchase with a box, a disk, a manual and everything else, but you have the option through the magicks of teh internetz to say “I really like this, sign me up for next year!”. At the time of release of the new edition, you are prompted to confirm your request and, if you do, are presented with the new ‘stuff’ down the wire with perhaps a disk in the post for a few bucks more if you like to ‘touch’ your purchases.

With more games using common engines for physics, graphics and control, there’s also a potential opportunity to re-tune titles too. Let’s say that you are a game developer and the title you’ve put out in the market is good, but the physics engine you’ve been using wasn’t quite right during your development window, a new version of the engine is now available and you know that it’ll really improve some of the aspects of your title, perhaps even reviving interest and generating more sales, why wouldn’t you consider an update?!

I realise that the code engineering behind the scenes isn’t necessarily as simple as my plug-and-play example above, but I also know that proper code design DOES use code libraries and modules which are self contained, simply exposing functions and methods for consumption, so maybe I’m not far adrift.

Let’s now put this into another perspective. I LOVE Mass Effect. Both episodes so far have been brilliant. There have been comments made about the mining/resource gathering content with the first involving driving around on the planets surface peering at the radar and the second an orbital scan which could both take a while and which could miss a deposit if not thorough enough. Changes between iterations are fine, but a downloaded ‘refresh’ could provide an actual in-game update to the pieces of the game-play where there’s less than positive reception… “Visit Gaelon in the Zelene systems of the Crescent nebula and speak to [ally] who has an update for the The Normandie’s planetary scanners” – do it and the new code is used in full, don’t and you get the older functionality.

"Select a section to see the upgrades available"
"Select a section to see the upgrades available"

Think about the story too, the continuity could be more close with an almost seamless link between the final story-line encounter and summary and the next chapter. Again the development effort and planning would need to be moved in a direction which would support such things, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility – look at MMORPGs which do this stuff as a matter of course.

As a career strategist I’m constructed in such a way that I build things through a combination of interpretation and extrapolation. The future of gaming is a bright and shiny place, too bright to make out the details but sometimes you get a glimpse of what’s possible and the ramifications are fantastic to contemplate.







3 responses to “Who needs shops anyway!”

  1. John.B avatar

    A lovely notion but several issues with purely digital delivery of “refreshes” as you put it:

    1) Bricks and mortar still have a large sway with publishers and there is still a need to work with them for the future, as such saving content and ideas for boxed sequels will keep them sweet.

    2) Re-tuning titles is FAR more complicated than simply spitting out code. Good example is the Beatles game. Yoko Ono would come in and want something differently done artistically which would rip the game apart and set development back months. Putting out patches is one thing but something like changing physics would involve complete rewrite and testing of almost the whole game.

    3) Finally for sports games (which is the usually example of “ripping the consumer off”) this simply isn’t possible. Strict licence deals cut with the likes of NBA, Fifa, NFL ensures that whilst minor updates are allowed yearly updates are necessary to keep the license and for these games however great they are they are sold on the strength of the license.

    Digital delivery does open up the industry to innovation like this but it’s foolhardy to ignore the myriad of challenges which innovators will face in an industry run by publishers and stores.

  2. Ironredboy II avatar
    Ironredboy II

    John Brown / John B. I thought they were one and the same. Obviously not. Unless he’s gone mad and started talking to himself.

    Good article though. I’m all for digital download, but I’d need at least 2TB to house my current games collection.

  3. John Brown avatar

    Well I’m not him, and I’m pretty sure he’d not want to be me! 🙂
    It is an interesting set of ideas though and I’m sure we’ll here more of the ‘new paradigm’ in coming months.

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