Over the last few years, the games industry has gradually started moving towards digital distribution. The PlayStation network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade and Games on Demand services have given console gamers access to a huge range of games (some casual, some core) online, whilst PC gamers have a bewildering array of distributors to choose from.
The Proliferation of Download Platforms
The most prominent platform for PC gamers is Valve’s Steam, which has thousands of games on it. However, Valve isn’t the only developer with a digital distribution platform. Electronic Arts runs the Origin platform, whilst Ubisoft uses Uplay and even Microsoft has a (rather limited) platform in the form of its Games for Windows Live app.
With so many platforms to choose from and so many accounts to maintain, you may be wondering why you would want to buy games digitally when you could pick them up from a store, especially if you have a fairly slow Internet connection. There are several reasons to go digital.
The Benefits of Digital Distribution
The main reason to download PC games online is the price. Many online stores offer spectacular sales, from the Pay What You Want offers on indie bundles of games to the deep discounts available across multiple vendors during the seasonal sales. It’s easy to build up a great digital library for a fraction of the cost of purchasing the equivalent games in stores or on consoles.
Another benefit of digital distribution is the ability to pre-load your games. When you pre-order a PC title via a digital distribution platform, there is a good chance that the retailer will allow you to start downloading the game a day or two in advance. This means that the moment the title is released, you will be able to start playing it. If you were buying a physical copy, you’d have to wait for the store to open, travel to the store, buy the game, travel home and then install the game.
Perhaps the best benefit of digital downloads, however, is that you don’t need to put the disc in your computer’s DVD or Blu-ray drive to play the game. In fact, you can have a game installed on your PC and your laptop so that you can play it whilst you’re away from home. You’re also freed from the worry of losing your installation media. If you ever need to reinstall the game, you can simply re-download it.
Patching digitally distributed games is easy, too. Services such as Steam and Desura handle downloading and updating patches for you, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of what version of the game you’re running and installing the latest patches. If you like to play Arma II with the DayZ mod, or any other frequently updated game, this is a massive bonus and saves you from having to download third party applications to handle patching for you.