On a cold evening in Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1983, a handful of residents witnessed a fleet of Atari Inc. trucks speed past the town’s centre. Soon after the event, rumours started to spread that the studio had buried mind control devices in the desert. Others believed that it was another cover-up of an alien crash landing – because of the site’s proximity to Roswell. What locals found was more bizarre than expected: Atari was burying the body of an unworldly creature… so to speak. The company had laid to rest 3.5 million cartridges of the failed E.T The Extra Terrestrial video game as well as a couple thousand Atari 2600 consoles and high performance computers.
As technology greatly improved and the internet turned into the beast we know today, game developers have grown reluctant to do what Atari had done – jumping the gun and producing millions of hard copies of their games without the insurance that each copy would actually sell. Thanks to the age of the internet, traders are slowly moving away from printing physical copies of their games and selling their products as downloadable content through digital distributors.
The leader in this field would be Steam – one of the first to take on digital distribution in such a manner. Steam is the brain child of Gabe Newell, co-founder of the Valve Corporation (the guys who brought us Half Life and Counter Strike) and serves as the benchmark in the industry. Currently, Steam caters to PC, Linux and Mac users respectively. This platform serves the gaming community by offering games on demand, automatic updates and forum support, all a click away. This in itself has had a massive impact on the industry. In 2011, Forbes reported that Steam sales made up 70% of the R64 billion market for downloaded PC games in America alone. To give you an idea of how big a number that really is, when Witcher 2 was released, Steam was responsible for 200 000 out of the 250 000 copies sold online… and we wonder why game stores are closing down as they do.
Second in line would be Origin. Origin is a free gaming service powered by games developer Electronic Arts – the guys who brought us titles such as Need for Speed, all those sports games they didn’t pay college athletes to star in until a judge ruled a R647 million settlement, Battlefield and the Sims, to name a few. Titles on offer aren’t as vast as those available on Steam due to EA’s involvement, though the selection spans across both PC and mobile devices and all of the developer’s production studios such as Dice, BioWare and EA Sports.
There are other digital distributors out there, i.e. gog.com which specialises in classic games like Abe’s Odyssey and Grim Fandango, but we only have so many words and so much time to spend on each article, so we’re only covering the top dogs, okay? Lekker.
The best part of all is the fact that you can wake up on a Sunday morning, stroll to your computer in your underpants, purchase the latest game online and before lunch time, you’ll be shooting Rad Roaches or hunting Cockatrice. The downside to this is that you need a decent internet connection with an ample amount of cap as most game downloads range between 500MB to 15GB. In the end it saves you from losing valuable content and money because your mum used the gaming discs as coasters for her tea party.
Because of this really cool information, it’d be best that you share this article with fellow gamers. Also, Steam offers DOTA 2 as a free download and for some reason girls love playing that game… so show this to your girlfriend and she’ll let you get away with all that time spent in front of “your stupid TV games”.
By Shawn Greyling