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January 6, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Coffee Talk: Digital Distrbution, The Way of the Future?

Long time no see, Geekadelphians. I apologize for my lack of presence on the site recently. Let’s just say finals suck and leave it at that. Kay? I’d also like to thank Dan for posting in my stead last week with a poignant look into digital distribution. If you have an idea for something we should be talking about or would like to make any suggestions, please email us at geekadelphia@gmail.com. Also, follow me on Twitter where the discussions can continue throughout the week.

Last week, Dan discussed digital distribution and its potential effects on the games industry. This week, we get a chance to see its realities as Chris Kohler of Wired points out that EA’s The Saboteur will release with some scandalous downloadable content (DLC) included in each new box. Scandalous in that this content will unlock a “nudity switch” within the game’s settings that causes the title’s strip club scenes to go truly topless.

The content will go for five big ones if you decide against buying The Saboteur new or borrow it from a buddy. So, what’s the big deal? Find out after the break.

sab3

The issue at hand, beyond the fact that EA is selling digital bosoms, is that dastardly DRM, or digital rights management, that Dan mentioned last week. Since we all should now have a common understanding as to what DRM is now, I’ll just jump right into it. Essentially, EA is forcing consumers to either buy a copy of The Saboteur at full retail price or fork over the $5 for the good stuff as one should assume that if he or she is buying used or borrowing the game that the ta-ta access is denied. Such a tease, we know.

Publishers have been doing this sort of thing since the online gaming became widely accessible with this generation’s consoles (as Nintendo holds on to its last sliver of stupidity purity). Look at EA and Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins, for example. While hanging out in your party’s camp, you’re given the option to chat with an NPC who will tell you a long and terribly involved story of his personal plight. After a few minutes of arduous dialogue, the man asks you to join him and restore his beloved ruined keep to order — for $7. See a pattern here?

sloth_mage_fight_001_bmp_jpgcopy

The issue at hand is the carrot-on-the-stick business model (whether the carrot be digital breasts or digital beasts) that many a publisher have decisively put to use in the realm of DLC. While DLC and micro-transactions are a fantastic way of extending the amount of time a game remains inside your console (see Fallout 3 or GTA 4), maybe publishers should reconsider using them to distribute arguably vital game mechanics such as improved inventory space or beefier player characters.

However, this is a discussion column, so don’t let me do all the talking. We want to hear what you think about all this touchy DRM nonsense in the comments section. So, get to it by clicking on our spankin’ new, unmistakably big and red comments button!

(Thanks to Eric for the tip!)

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