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Sony on it’s PS3 E-Distribution Initiative |

Gamasutra has a very interesting article about Sony’s PS3 E-Distribution initiative where they chat to John Hight, Director of External Production at SCEA Santa Monica.

Sony seems to believe some of the benefits of digital downloads include: the ability to reach consumers on a global scale, lowering costs, reducing pre-owned game sales, and a reduction in the amount of pirated software.

If games didn’t cost so much in the first place people wouldn’t be drawn to buy pre-owned games or to pirate software. I’ll be very surprised if full games are available to download on a wide scale within 3-4 years and one of the key factors will be cost. They wouldn’t get away with charging $50+ on every game as a lot of people trade in games to pay for newer titles. Downloadable games is a long way off in my opinion so I’ll refrain from going too deeply into the subject until it’s presence is near.

One of the many criticisms levelled at Sony has been the high cost of development on the PS3 by 3rd party developers but John Hight believes that:

“This new form of distribution will lower the barriers of entry for new developers. We can try out new ideas in a low risk, quick feedback environment.”

Hmm… but Sony will be funding in-house development so the only difference 3rd party developers will find is reduced costs from not using BD.

Another interesting point was whether Xbox Live Arcade titles could be ported onto the PS3’s E-Distribution set up and vice versa. Hight said:

“Our 1st party projects are all unique to PS3. Some of our games, by virtue of their design and hardware demands, simply couldn’t work on Xbox 360.”

Not really a surprise but what about 3rd party content? Will we see the same type of downloadable games on the PS3 as the 360 has from 3rd party developers? I suppose it will depend on just how similar Sony’s online service is to Xbox Live.

It seems that Sony already has a number of games under development in-house and I’ll be interested to see just what their plans are. Will we see PSone games available to download?

Gamasutra – Sony Talks PS3 E-Distribution

  • observer

    “ the only difference 3rd party developers will find is reduced costs from not using BD”

    With online distribution, you don’t just eliminate the cost of the physical disc but the whole physical distribution and promotion chain. It’s not as much about reducing costs of the types of games you see in stores today, but making a feasible market for much smaller and simpler titles with much lower dev costs. This is more about Geometry Wars or Marble Madness than God of War or Gran Turismo.

    That said, why does everyone talk about online distribution as if it were new? Software has been sold and distributed electronically for a long time; even before the Internet (on bulletin boards). In the PC world this is extremely common and on cell phones software is almost never distributed any other way. The only thing that is new is that online distribution is being introduced to the console world.

  • Gary

    The talk seems to focus on full games though. There’s equal chance that they could do old PSone games & full games such as GT5 etc. Of course I don’t mean GT 5 literally but they do seem to be saying that they are working on games to be bought via download.

    How many games can only be bought via download that you know of? I can’t think of many if any notable games.

  • MANY MANY games can ONLY be bought only… Ok, like observer said, none of the caliber of GT4 or what, but cool games like Gish or Crimsonland are Online only!

    I am EXTREMELY cautious about this Here they say, they want to conquer preowned sales, piracy and whatnot…

    Sony, tell you what… LOWER your prices! That way you can conquer almost anything AND you will come out leading in the console war! 20€ premium in 6 years (10€ from ps1/pc games to ps2 and now the same with ps2/ps3) is NOT feasable. In 1994 I paid 130DMs (65€) for Wing Commander 3 on the PC, it was worth it (still playing it sometimes via emulator!), because it was REALLY good, but you say ALL games have to cost premium prices… WHY? Because you RIP OFF on that!

    I know, I like Sony like some of you do too, but the games prices (just like 360, but not the wii) are just retarded. How can they charge premium, if the PC version costs 20 bucks less AND is easier to copy (for safety purposes of course… I cant tell how many games i cant play anymore, if it werent for CD Burners… WC3 also!)?

    Man… I always hijack my own posts… I hate that!

    I just hope, REALLY hope, that buying FULL games (like MGS4) will REALLY be cheaper than buying the “real thing” (i mean AT the most the can cost about 35€ (half the price!) as there are no etailers in between…).

  • Gary

    I don’t know how much say Sony has in setting the prices for the software especially 3rd party software. I don’t think you can aim your anger solely at Sony for that. Everybody gets a share of the pie, developers, publishers, sponsors etc.

    Like I said I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony & other game developers are aiming to have some big name franchises as download only eventually.

  • Matt

    It will be interesting to see if Sony charges as much as 3rd party developers. Microsoft charges $50 instead of $60 like all 3rd parties. This will come to an end and I think that Gears of War will be the first MS published game to cost more than $50.

    This generation will be the trial period for downloading full games. I don’t think it will happen until the end of the cycle. I would bet some family jewels that Sony and Microsoft are building their next gen system with this fully in mind. By then, Extremely large HDDs will be available and internet services should be much, much faster.

  • Gary

    The biggest hurdle, for me anyway, is that a lot of people buy pre-owned games because they can’t afford full priced games even at a reduced cost. They then trade the games in that they don’t plan to keep to help fund their next gaming purchase.

    Once you download a full game I doubt you will be able to sell it on so hopefully Sony (or whoever) will have some type of reward system for content you no longer want so you can part exchange it for newer content but I don’t know how this would work.

    I will be sticking to disc based games for a good while longer yet.

  • There’s something really reassuring about holding the media in your hand. The same thing goes for buying music.

  • observer

    You guys are thinking of the big-budget $50 games we are used to. I really don’t see digital distribution happening for those. I’d rather have the DVD and the physical distribution cost isn’t a big part of the price. But when you are talking about small, easy to download $5-$15 games, the physical distribution costs are much more significant, digital distribution makes impulse buys more convenient, and you aren’t as concerned about reselling your small investment.

    BTW, most PC games have digital distribution purchase options (Direct 2 Drive), but they aren’t significnatly cheaper, so what’s the incentive?

  • Thats what I mean, Observer etc…

    if I am NOT able to resell my games for whatever reason, it REALLY makes the game less interesting in the ways of cashflow… I mean, I buy a new game for 60€ and can sell it later on for as much as 50€ on ebay… I cant do that with downloaded games… So that way, I lose money, if the game sucks or if I ain’t willing to play it anymore. And THATS why downloaded games MUST be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than the “real deal” with physical media.

    As my local video rental store only supplies me with PS2 games, I am not concerned that they will stop there, and wont move on to PS3… If even the rentals would be more expensive (I pay now 1€ per day) I’d still prefer it, as most games dont need much more time to play thru than lets say 3-5 days.

    I’d like a e-destribution rental store… 10€ per month or even 15€ for one game at a time would be GREAT! As my ADSL line gets upgraded soon (to 6000kbits), I’d rather get games that way, than the other way round.

    Direct 2 Drive and the others DONT work in Germany… There’s (afaik) only one e-tailer doing similar stuff, but ONLY with OLD games at a TOO HIGH PRICE (the “back then” SRP)

    The “holding the media in hand” feeling slowly degraded in my household… Everytime I buy media, it gets thrown onto the server, so the complete house can access it. The medium itself gets “thrown” into the shelf for the rest of its lifetime mostly… So, backing up PS3 HD Data via Lan or USB2.0 would be very nice as 3.5” HDDs are MUCH cheaper than 2.5” ones.

  • observer

    Segitz, I see your point. Typically, you can’t resell games that are purchased electronically. So, for people like you, that really limits their appeal. But you aren’t the regular consumer. Lots of people, like me, don’t resell games; I probably should resell the mediocre ones, but it just seems more time and hassle than it’s worth. Lots of others just resell to outlet stores where you typically get $10 or so for a $50 game; that’s better than nothing, but that’s not a lot to miss when moving to digital distribution.

  • I disagree Observer, I know a lot of people who trade/sell their games on because gaming is such an expensive hobby. I typically get at least half of what I paid for a game back when I trade it in & so do my friends. We simply couldn’t afford to buy the amount of games we do if we kept all our games.

    If developers & game companies managed to put a stop to pre-owned games the games industry would collapse because people simply can’t afford to buy new games without making some money back on the games they no longer want.

    A lot of people would limit the amount they spend on games & a lot of companies would see a huge drop in profits probably seeing a number of companies going bust.

    If developers decided to go the route of digital downloads & end disc based games they would have to reduce the price of games greatly in my opinion.