The Digital Distribution Dilemma
Something has been really bothering me lately and since I’m almost thirty, I feel like I need to practice my old man ranting…
A few days ago I tried to play Battlefield 3 online with my brother. We had a rare moment when we were both free. I popped in the disk and I loaded the game. Oh, my PlayStation needs a firmware update? Coolio. Wait… I have to back out of the game, go to settings and initiate the update manually? Fine, whatevs, I guess it’s not that big of a de… What the? Its going to take 30 minutes?! Come on, I just want to play the game. Okay. Its done downloading. Another 15 minutes to install it? This is getting ridiculous!! Finally. Its done. Lets just get into the game and take out our frustrations by pwning some newbz. Are you kidding me? The game needs updates too? There goes that free time I was talking about.
It’s gotten to the point where I have to make time to check for updates so when I want to play, I don’t waste my time sitting at a progress bar. It’s freaking 2013, and that’s a bunch of BS.
Back in the 90′s there was a game for the Sega Genesis called X-Men 2: Clone Wars. As soon as you turned on the system, you were playing the game. No opening credits, no title screen. It was nothing but a randomly selected mutant out in a bitter winter storm and you were controlling them. It still does exactly the same thing today, and I still push the reset button until I get Wolverine or Gambit. I miss that. And guess what; it will never, ever need an update.
I understand that updates are a necessary evil. It comes with having this wonderful new generation of electronics that can do everything from checking your Facebook, to watching movies on Netflix, and even occasionally playing video games. I can play Halo from Texas with friends in New York and California at the same time. I can download free demos and buy entire games without leaving the house. The app store has made impulse buying easy by letting you download $0.99 apps no matter where you are. Those things remind me that I’m living in the future. But, the illusion is broken when it makes me wait two hours to just get into DC Universe Online.
My friend remarked that it’s my fault for not playing the game for so long and stacking updates on top of each other, thus making the download pain a self-inflicted wound. She probably has a point, I should definitely play more often. But, even though my PlayStation is always plugged in, it wouldn’t update without me having to do it manually. Sure, you can pay for PlayStation Plus which offers automatic updates, but should you really have to? It really just proves that it doesn’t need to be an arduous, agonizing ordeal… They just want us to pay.
They’ve found a new way to cash in and we are more than willing to oblige. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the success of the Call of Duty Elite service and map packs. How about the day one DLC for Mass Effect 3? Well, day one DLC is another talk entirely, but day one bugs are unforgivable. Well, I guess rushing a product to launch and fixing it later is better than just making a bad game. Did you know the Wii U makes you update the firmware right out of the box? Good thing I’m not even considering buying one.
I’m torn. The digital age is creeping up on us. I can’t sell my used apps to GameStop for store credit or stack them on a bookshelf so I can show these darn kids what gaming was like back in my day when I had to game uphill in the snow, both ways. But Vita games bought online get a 10% discount and I can download and play Minecraft on my Mac even though I bought it on PC. I’ll take the good with the bad for now, but I’m really going to have to look at the pros and cons more closely when I can start downloading stuff straight into my brain. That is gonna be so cool.
Microsoft dipped their toes in the water to see if the time was right to implement some forward-looking features, but quickly turned tail and ran when people realized it was just a cash-grab instead of value for consumers. Sony didn’t even try. Both systems will be able to save your game while they are in a low power state and claim to let you pick up right where you left off. Here’s hoping they don’t make you update first.