The Expanding World of Network Gaming

-Geoff Barry

For most of my gaming life I’ve known games to be primarily disc-based objects that can be popped in or out of my console. Even when I first got my PS3 I rarely paid any attention to the titles that PSN had to offer. Games like: Plants Vs. Zombies, Tetris, and Castle Crashers never took hours from my life because I didn’t realize how great some of the downloadable games were. It wasn’t until the spring of 2011 that I found out about the seemingly endless world of the PSN games. Not too long after that, I signed up for Playstation Plus. I picked up Plants Vs. Zombies right away and got indulged into the colorful, fast-paced action that had me hooked for weeks. The game is only $14.99 on PSN, and it gave me much more for my money than dozens of disc games that I’ve picked up from gaming retailers. 

Sometimes, even if a game isn’t very good, but it still gives value in overall depth, I will consider it to be successful. A game like Wet is a good example. This title wasn’t necessarily the smoothest, or had the best story line, but when I take a look at all the gameplay that is available, I consider it to be worth my money. Isn’t that what we should all look for in games? If we drop $60 on a game we should expect it to be worth every penny. Publishers and developers work very hard on their games, but it’s a little crooked when I get more gameplay out of a downloaded title that cost 1/4 of the price of a disc-based game.

I’ve picked up a handful of download-only games recently. Journey was a good experience, with gorgeous artwork and creative story telling. Was it truly worth $15? Perhaps not, but it’s a little easier to handle not getting $15 worth compared to $60. I also purchased ‘I Am Alive’ and ‘Datura’ in the past month. It’s incredible that I can get four games for the price of one, and get a completely different experience in every title. Another significant factor of PSN is the fact that they give out free games every month. If titles like Awesomenauts and Trine 2 are going to be free every month, why would I spend money on a game that I’m not guaranteed to enjoy? Awesomenauts and Trine 2 may be platformers, but if I don’t like them it’s no big deal because they were free! 

We’ve heard the rumors that stores like Gamestop will be out of business someday. The thing that keeps them alive is their used games. Every time they sell a used game, it’s a pure profit. As long as there hard hard copies of games, Gamestop will be in business. When people buy new games, most of that money goes to the publishers and developers, so we can see why publishers insert their online passes into new copies. Do we feel cheated when we buy a used game and have to pay $10 more to play online? Yes, as consumers we do. However, the publishers feel cheated when their sales are down because people wait to buy their games used, at a cheaper price. So what is their solution? Along with the online pass, they are also putting their games on networks like PSN and XBox Live. Sure, some of the money goes to Sony and Microsoft, but the game is always purchased new so publishers and developers are always making money on the games sold. 

Saint’s Row The Third was just released on PSN, and for Plus subscribers it can be purchased at a discount price. Sony didn’t get the rights to sell the game on its original release date, but the fact that now it’s available on the Playstation Store means less people are going to buy the game new at retailers. If all games start becoming available through download, then the death of some gaming retailers could be a reality. It would be a way to cut out the middle man in the gaming industry, which could be good, but at the same time it would also mean no more used games available.

If the Gamestops of the world get shut down it won’t happen over night. Maybe on the next gen consoles, but it’s more likely to happen two console gens from now, if it even does happen. I like the convenience of getting to browse around at the stores, but if there is a better solution out there for the overall price, I’m all for it. For now, I’ll reserve my copy of Assassin’s Creed III at the store, but if I can get it at a cheaper price for beingPlus member I’m going to do it.