Moving along to other Digital distribution systems, we stop at some that have only popped up in the last few years, but have become very popular.
Electronic Arts unveiled their EA Online store years ago, hoping to capture sales success after Valve cornered the market for more than two years. Other companies tried the same thing and failed and very few had the mind share and marketing budget to get their store off the ground. EA recently changed things around again by renaming the store to Origin by EA, and created a web-connected local client to the service for gamers, just like Steam.
Like Steam, Origin features the ability to download your games on any additional computer that your account connects. While good, Origin lacks an online save feature for your games should you experience a crash or a hard drive failure (Valve added this feature into Steam back in 2008). Origin also allows you to re-download any game you’ve linked to the service and provides free games to draw users into the service, although the majority of titles in the free games section are demos.
Sadly, while Steam regularly drops prices and has weekend sales, Origin is likely to charge less than other services thanks to the service’s exclusive retailing of EA-published games. On Steam, EA titles retain their launch price even three years on in the example of Crysis Warhead still staying at $30. On Origin, all prices are displayed in local currency and have lower price points than most would find in retail stores. EA titles that didn’t receive good reviews, however, are usually priced around $10 a few months from release.
What makes EA’s service better? There’s not much, actually. The service is still in Beta phase and isn’t ironed out completely. There are many features on the store that don’t work yet and not all regions have the same online content to purchase. EA’s likely to keep the service free for now, but may charge for online play as time goes on. Unlike Steam, Origin doesn’t display review scores from games from Metacritic, somewhat mitigating the player’s choice in buying quality titles without research elsewhere.
Origin also only accepts credit cards and EA hasn’t mentioned any plans to support more payment options, possibly due to management overhead or whatever deal they’ve got going with Mastercard and Visa. At the time of writing, Origin is doing well for EA and has an active user base of 9.3 million gamers. Revenues from the service total $1.06 billion, which is quite a surge considering the service launched only last year.
Good Old Games was started by game developers working for CD Projekt Red in their spare time, and the company later launched the website as a complete subsidiary to CD Projekt Red. Yes, those are the same awesome dudes who gave you The Witcher and who don’t put any DRM on any of their games.
GOG.com does things a little differently by offering old classics up for sale to gamers. They regularly source and retail games for the online community and bundle all sorts of goodies with your online purchases. With any game from GOG, you can be sure to receive a colour manual in PDF format, a soundtrack to the game, concept art, wallpapers, custom avatars and much, much more. While its not like Steam or Origin, GOG.com offers you the option to re-download your games and extras at any time, and can be accessed through a web browser on any computer.
You access your games library in your account, your titles neatly stacked on a digital bookshelf. When signing up for the service you get a number of old classics for free, including the original Fallout. Clicking on your game pops up a window below that shows you download links for the game and your bundled extras. Since the games are DRM-free, you are allowed to distribute the ones you received when you signed up to friends and family, and you’re even encouraged to invite them to join the service as well.
Like Steam, GOG.com has many payment options, offering Paypal to those who don’t have credit cards. You can gift games to others and once bought, the game immediately appears in your library available for download. Games are also rated up to five stars by community members, giving new players a good idea of what titles are going to be more enjoyable for them. In addition, older games have been pre-patched by the GOG.com team to work on your OS even if you’re on Windows 8, and none of them have DRM. Support is through the GOG.com community, and you’ll easily find the help you’re looking for.
If you buy any CD Projekt Red-published title, you can redeem a spare copy on GOG.com as a back-up option in future should you damage or lose your discs. Unfortunately, while GOG.com offers a huge array of titles, many companies still don’t allow access to their games because they perceive bigger revenues from other content providers.
Continue Reading on Part 3, dealing with consoles (coming soon).