Tuesday Microsoft released the 360 Games on Demand service but the prices of some of these games has made me wonder if downloading games is really worth it at all. Sure gamers are getting games when they want them, but they are paying a premium for a game that could be found for much less elsewhere.
For example Prey, a game that has been in bargain bins since late 2006, costs $20 when purchased over Xbox Live. While this was a great game and I do recommend that everyone play it at least once, I would also recommend that no more than $10 be spent on it. One of the major talking points in favor of online purchases is the instant gratification of download and play Xbox 360 games at all hours of the night, but wouldn’t it be worth the $10 to wait a few hours until the stores open? As if $10 isn’t enough savings take Bioshock, a game voted by many publications as Game of the Year, costs $30 via digital download, but can cost between $20 and even $15 at some locations.
Price gouging digital games is not limited only to the Xbox 360. Recently I purchased a copy of Jeanne d’Arc at a local Gamestop for $15, but if I ha d purchased it via the PSN it would have cost me $22. This is the same case with Parappa the Rapper, Pursuit Force, and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow all of which can be found for 50-80% off the PSN download price at a game store.
It seems that downloading games via the PSN or Xbox Live has some ground to make up. While I've never been the type to sing the praises of Gamestop and it's "I'll buy your games for $1 and sell it for $50" policy, they can provide games that are new and used for less than what the PSN and Xbox Live are asking. The ability to purchase games at a bargain price outside of the PSN was also one of the deciding factors in my recent PSP vs PSP Go decision and I fear that expensive downloads coupled with the lack of option to purchase in store could be the undoing of Sony's newest PSP model. I feel that unless downloading a game can be competitively priced with picking up a physical media disc at a brick and mortar store it will be a long while until we as consumers can fully usher in the digital distribution age.