The Proliferation Of PSN & XBLA

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If your anything like me, you’ve been buying more of your games off the XBLA and PS Store recently. There’s several reasons why digital media is on the rise across the board, but I think it’s a bit different looking at it from a console gaming perspective rather than, say, the iOS and Android marketplace. The distribution service you choose to buy your favorite album doesn’t change the media really, it’s just whether you want to save time, or not. With video games, however, digital distribution has further reaching impact. Let’s examine why the PSN and XBLA have become so popular as of late.

One of the more gratifying parts of buying games digitally is the reduced price tag (in most cases at least). The fact that you can typically snag six titles off the PSN or XBLA for the price of one major release certainly doesn’t hurt the adoption of digital releases. I’ve actually written a piece on the best XBLA purchases I’ve ever made, and it’s a testament to the ease and quality of marketplace titles. There’s also the money saving sales Microsoft and Sony typically offer at least once a year. Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade has become a staple in my yearly buying schedule. It’s typically some of the best that the marketplace has to offer, and you’ll usually get a free game if you buy X amount during a specified period of time. The PS Store’s recent 13 for 13′ sale also offered huge discounts on some awesome titles, and even deeper discounts to PS+ members. Digital games are also available 24/7 which adds to their attractiveness.

Smaller companies usually frequent the digital game release space, and that means you’re typically going to see a few key aspects you don’t experience with larger developers and ¬†publishers. The first thing smaller digital titles have going for them is less intrusion on creativity. Profit margins are still a necessary evil any time you’re releasing a product, but smaller publishers have more grounded expectations from their developers. That leads to more risks being taken with story and game play styles. Creativity and innovation are what typically lead smaller developers to success in the bloated video game market. The popularization of the “indie” or digital games has lead to forgotten genres being revived as well. I’m a big fan of the platformer, and it never necessarily went away, but the resurgence in the genre has been fun to watch. The adventure game has also made a huge comeback in light of Telltale Games The Walking Dead’s success. The arcade game has also made a resurgence in the past few years. Zen Studios have carved out a steady niche with their Pinball FX games. Zen is known for taking popular IP’s from Marvel Comics and making fully interactive pinball tables based on past story arch’s. There’s also been a steady rise of games like Journey and The Unfinished Swan. These titles offer an experience rather than any kind of measured variable.

Large, over saturated gaming franchises are also helping the digital platform. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is liable to match the amount of releases Super Mario has seen over the past twenty eight years, in the next five, if they keep their pace. Add the fact that large franchises aren’t doing much to change their formula, and you have millions of console owners looking for something fresh and new. The longest console life span in history is also partly responsible for the franchise fatigue most are suffering from. Large publishers don’t like to take risks on new IP’s on old hardware, and we have very old hardware at the moment. A longer console generation has also resulted in much larger HDD’s being the norm, and more disk space allows for more downloaded content.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the last factor in the proliferation of online platforms. Broadband internet is faster than ever, and will continue to expand it’s reach across the country, and eventually the world. Slow download speeds are a deterrent to digital releases in general, but more people are enjoying faster internet service, and that means the medium will continue to grow.

This fact may be even more evident come our next generation of consoles. Digital distribution is becoming more popular for customers, and it’s always been insanely popular when it comes to game publishers. With less physical media, there’s less overhead to get your product to your customers, and that means higher profit margins. Publishers are definitely going to make a push for digital distribution with our brand new PS4’s and Xbox 720’s on the horizon. I’m very excited to see where the digital medium will go in the next ten years, and hope it continues it’s popularity.

Do you enjoy XBLA games and PSN exclusives, or do you prefer the monster budgets of Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, and Assassin’s Creed? Where do you stand on the proliferation of digital releases? let us know in the comments section below.

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Dylan Zellmer

I split time between games journalism and making video games. My love of it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), fitness and my family define me otherwise.