Five years after the last post about the topic, the state of the everlasting commercial and technological war between gaming consoles couldn’t be more different: the machine which seemed to be done (PS3) recovered brilliantly, the Nintendo battleship is living a new difficult moment in its troubled history and the eighth generation of home console has been finally deployed in full with the PS4 and Xbox One debut. But the market is pretty different compared to the past as well, while everyone’s expectations – for publishers, analysts and players – have grown a ton.
Cloud computing is a digital hell that burns data, security, reliability and privacy for users and companies, a technology cancer that within the short turn of a summer brought new evidence of the fact that the worst, for the fools willing to completely tie themselves to the feudal power system of the new digital Lords, is yet to come. It’s therefore important to keep a constant track of the incidents, the unfulfilled promises, the countless privacy violations and the pure and simple lies the unscrupulous corporations persistently try to sell as the future of everything. The future, on-line, has an expiration date and is intermittent.
After more than four years since the post with which this blog tried to highlight the dark side of that hollow and meaningless thing hidden behind the “cloud computing” moniker, I think it’s now time to go back on the topic with an annotated list of the most recent and remarkable horrors fallen down from the sky of Internet servers. The “mainframe 3.0” class services promise a lot, keep very little and don’t give any guarantee on anything. Or to say it with the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, selling one’s own rights of ownership on software, data and products is the first stone of the road that leads to digital hell.
The incoming future of video games will not be streamed, in the cloud, or in social games available on-line for free, and this is a fact that I have tried to explain before. The topic of this post, conversely, is the series of positive novelties that the success of digital delivery as a supplementary tool for releasing games has brought to the industry, the developers and to whom must purchase these games in the end. In that sense, the lack of a physical copy of the gaming software is widely repaid by a greater range of choices for everyone.
There is recurrent thinking going for a while, within the video games world, a thinking that sentences to death the “traditional” way of selling, playing and doing business while serving a completely changed audience. The future of gaming will be streamed, that thinking says, it will be “social”, “free-to-play”, purely and simply in digital delivery. So let’s try confronting what certain interested thinkers describe as clear trends with some factual data of the videogaming business.
From the mist of the video gaming past a genre thought extinct returns, thanks to a title provided with “an oldschool heart but a modern execution“: the genre is the grid-based dungeon crawlers one, the game which brings it to the present is Legend of Grimrock made by Finnish developer Almost Human. LoG has been released starting from April 11 on the software house site, Steam and on GOG.com, and in this last case the release is particularly important because it matches the renewal of the gaming digital delivery “alternative” service for PC.
Even though it has partially overcome its original mission to be the cornerstone of legal retrogaming on PC, GOG.com (formerly Good Old Games) continues to delight old gamers’ taste (and even the new ones tired of the usual FPSes or the dumb casual games for smartphones) by releasing true gems of the past equipped with compatibility fixes for the latest Windows OSes. During the last days the digital store has practically ran wild in that regard delivering the first two chapters of the Thief series and announcing the coming of the historical Full Motion Video horrors made by Trilobyte.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies and their noxious inclination to spoil the day for PC gamers are steadily at the focus of the gaming debate, and almost everyone takes for granted the fact that it’s a contemporary issue not concerning games of the past at all. Nothing more wrong: maybe some years ago (or many years ago) they were more trivially called “copy protection”, but DRM restrictions continue to do harm even among people that engage in the noble art of retrogaming or are interested to digital contents preservation.
The latest weeks have probably been among the most turbulent ones in the brief history of Good Old Games: the retrogaming store has caused controversy, released “new” classic titles of the PC gaming past and has preannounced an important novelty for the product type that will soon be available on its virtual shelves. The digital delivery service created by the Polish publisher CD Projekt is in a sense victim of its own success, and of the ample trust granted by its users as an alternative channel for on-line videogame purchases.
How much are digital downloads worth within the PC video games market? According to a recent report by NPD Group, in 2009 digital delivery of commercial products would have taken 48% of the overall marketplace in North America. NPD says that the 44.8 million games sold the past year would split in 21.3 millions in digital format and 23.5 millions on optical disks. The market research firm depicts a situation where on-line distribution of videogaming products would be on par with traditional retailers, positioning itself as the only business capable of putting back in shape the PC video games market.