It’s amazing how much progress digitally distributed games have made as of late. This generation saw the rise of Xbox Live Arcade, the Playstation Network, and the WiiWare service as ways to release a lot of indie projects and smaller titles that may not have worked in the retail space. Recently, Nintendo began the DSiWare service for those who upgraded to the new model of the Nintendo DS, and Sony is going to do the same with the PSP Go, which does not use the UMD format for games, and instead uses digital distribution and houses much more memory.
The reason I bring this up now is because I’m amazed at the quality of the games released on these platforms lately. Just take a look at the front page of Blast Games, and you will see reviews for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again, Mighty Flip Champs!, and Swords & Soldiers. In each review, we talk about the value that the game gives you, at $8, $8 and $10 respectively. Cutting out the production cycle of the physical game–and in the case of the DSiWare titles, cutting out the more-expensive-than-discs cartridge format–means that the consumer can pay less and the publishers can spend less; it’s win-win all around. If Minis March Again is an indication of the level of polish and depth that Nintendo expects out of DSiWare releases from both itself and third-parties in the future, I think you will start to see DSi sales go up as people realize full retail offerings are coming at a reduced digital price. That is a game that could have appeared at retail, but may prove more successful to Nintendo in its digital-only format. Time will tell, but it’s a good sign for consumers that they are willing to try it.
You can’t beat low-cost innovation, and even though you don’t have a physical copy of the game with art work and a case, you will end up saving a lot of money purchasing games this way. While I’m not sure I want all game releases to end up this way, these early experiments with digital distribution in gaming are proving to be fruitful, and my wallet certainly says thank you.