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July 13, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Coffee Talk: The Resistance to All Things Digital Presses On?

… And we’re back (sorry folks, was busy with graduating)! Welcome to Geekadelphia’s weekly discussion column, Coffee Talk, where we talk about the finer topics concerning video games, technology and all the other things you can’t talk about with your slightly-less-geeky friends. Have questions or suggestions? Send an email to or tweet with us. Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to keep this week’s discussion alive.

A recent study by UK media research firm Ipsos MORI claims that gamers still like their shinies. The study, which surveyed 1000 folks, shows that 64 percent of them prefer physical media over digital download when it comes to how they purchase games.

According to IGN, senior director of Ipsos MORI Ian Bramley attributes the majority vote to the used games industry. While I couldn’t agree more, aren’t we ignoring one major contributing factor? Join us behind the cut.

A visual breakdown of Ipsos MORI’s results

Sure, I like buying games on the cheap as much as the next gamer (as long as I get to see the disc first), but that really isn’t what keeps me from buying online. While we’ve visited this topic here before, let’s give it another go, shall we?

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a hot topic for debate for several reasons. Namely are the restrictions that many publishers place on their titles if purchased online. Everything from limited amounts of installs to requiring an internet connection to enjoy even single-player experiences.

Is this too taboo of a subject for even a top level member of a media research firm to address? Basically what’s going on here is the publishers and developers’ fears of losing hard-earned cash is affecting their policies on distribution. But there is something to say to the fact that these obstacles might just turn users to piracy anyway.

Then the question comes, “Do we really own the things we download?”

The answer is an emphatic no and let’s not get into it much further than that. The bottom line is that if you don’t hold in your hands, chances are you don’t and you merely have the rights to use it.

So, the question ultimately is how do we get around this? The games industry, unlike other entertainment media industries, relies solely on its products. Changing the profit model would be pretty tough (hell, it’s been rough for those music folks, though the focus on live performances and bundled sales is helping) at this point.

It amazes me that more publishers haven’t either joined the Steam network or at least tried to emulate their model of distribution. Honestly, the best we’re going to get outside of direct downloads via your browser is the type of social service that Steam provides (and the deals!). If you’re going to require your users to be online to play your games regardless of said games’ features, at least give them a reason to want to be there.

Maybe then we can finally abandon these hunks of plastic and glass and move on. The biggest issue aside from this we need to overcome is game saves and data back-up (I think I can speak for everyone when I say I don’t like losing the things they paid for). Those clouds are looking like a safe place to go right about now.


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