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Digital Distribution: What It Means for PC Gaming

By Matt Ployhar

One of the most important developments of the past decade is the impact of digital distribution on all forms of multimedia content and delivery. The biggest forms of multimedia are music, movies, and of course, games. Admittedly there are others, such as pics, but these three are the biggest standouts for me.

Perhaps the most influential digital distribution inflection point is the advent of Apple’s iTunes -- launched in early 2001 -- and how it’s changed the music industry. Of course, there have been many hiccups and growing pains along the way. But what I find most fascinating here is that amongst the Gen Y demographics, there seems to be widespread acceptance -- and almost a foregone conclusion -- that this is the preferred method by which to get one’s hands on digital multimedia content. (I dare say that going to the store for movies/games/music is so 80’s!)

So what are some of the biggest benefits to such digital content as games? Here’s a partial listing -- some obvious, some not:

1. Ease of use (better than installing from multiple disks!)

2. Convenient (saves me gas and time)

3. Mitigates piracy

4. Cloud ownership and activation of the digital content (good for those instances when the disk is lost or scratched)

5. Longer battery life (no spinning optical drive eating up precious battery life!)

6. Less heat = less cooling = less noise

7. Eco-sensitive (saves on packing, COGS, shipping, etc.)

8. Perhaps gets us closer to the three-screen strategies we’ve heard rumors about

9. Digital content ownership provides more potential longevity for the multimedia

10. PCs and Macs have a huge advantage here over consoles (including install base, total cost of ownership, etc.)

So what are the drawbacks? Some of the obvious pitfalls boil down to pipe bandwidth and time for delivery. A part of me, admittedly, will always prefer the physical disk I can hold in my hand. (Yes I’m a bit old-school.) I’m sure there are other drawbacks, but the positives of digital distribution seem to far outweigh the negatives.

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