Saturday, 10 March 2012

What's the future of app-based digital distribution?

Are we currently seeing the genesis of a new type of app-based proprietary online digital distribution store?
Or is it just another internet marketing fad?

You may have heard of, if not used, the Steam digital distribution platform before. But do you know about the other players in this newly emerging market?

If you don't know, Steam is a PC and Mac based  computer games distributor and reseller, which distributes games and their related media on-line. You can pay for games through an on-line purchase and then download the games program to your computer, no box, no posting, no shop-front. However, in order to play these games, and organise your Steam purchases, you are first required to download the steam client application to your local  computer. As well as allowing you to play the games this interface also serves as a database to keep track of your purchases and allows for community based multiplayer elements, which includes utomated game updates and  in-game voice/chat functionality through a Steam community HUD. The Steam platform was developed and is run by the Valve Corporation, and carries a fairly comprehensive list of games from both the large software houses and the small independent developers. At the last count over 1504 games were available through Steam. But it isn't the only game in town...

The Desura site also offers digital distribution through a downloadable stand-alone client platform.
This application was developed by the DesuraNET team and runs on the Microsoft Windows and Linux platforms, a Mac OS X version of the client is currently in the works.
Unlike Steam Desura primarily focases on content from the small independent developers instead of  the larger mainstream software houses. It is uses a similar games distribution system to Steam and also has its own community features and automated game updates. But there is another aspect to Desurs, it also has a strong MOD and independant developer community assosiated with it and provides additional resources for this market.
Both these componies, especially Steam, have already become quite established in their own ways, but their small corner of the web market looks set to get a lot bigger and a low more mainstream.

Origin (formerly EA Store) has recently joined the digital distribution party, and it is bringing in its heavy-guns with it. Many of the market-leading Electronic Arts games are now available for direct purchase through the freely downloadable Origin client. The service is primarily aimed at the PC and mobile markets, and although there has been no mention of other markets as yet they may be included in the future.
Like the two more established sites the Origin client also offers social networking features, including user profile management, direct game chat, and an interactive overlay showing both local community and external networking site integration. The Origin site's external capabilitys offer links to Facebook, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. The aime is to match Valve‘s Steam service in terms of compatability and value.

But a new bread of independant app-based digital distribution sites are also snapping at the heals of these pionears, eger to get a peice of the newly forged market. Sites like wildtangent and other start up outfits see this as a more accesable route to diectly ditributing their wares. So the future may become a very interesting place for the digitaly distributed games industry.

We shale have to waite and see.

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