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They Still Don't Get It

11/22/06 | by Adam | Categories: Games

Electronic Arts and Atari have been pushing their new downloadable games pretty hard recently.

Let's take a brief look at EA's way of doing it, using their new NFS: Carbon racing game:

How EA Downloader Works
1. Make your purchase. Terms of Sale
2. Download EA downloader to your computer. (EA downloader is only 8MB, as small as a music file.) More Info
3. Install EA downloader. Your purchased games will be displayed when you open EA downloader.
4. Download your game by selecting "download now" button.
5. Install your game on release day to begin playing. A system tray reminder will indicate when game is ready for installation.
6. You must leave the EA Downloader installed on your computer and maintain a continued connection to the internet in order to validate the license for certain products acquired through the use of the EA Downloader.

You saw that requirement to leave the EA downloader running all the time to validate the game, right? Think of this as a variation of Valve's Steam online validator.

Ok, now compare this to the retail version. No validator, you get the backup media and the manual. How about price? Well, the Future Shop retail price is CDN$49.95; the EA download price is USD$39.99 (roughly CDN$45.65) It's not much of a discount given that EA no longer has to pay freight or manufacturing costs, and isn't being savaged by the middleman's distribution cut.

Oh, yeah, and then there's the download time:

Download Time
* T1: 12 hours
* Cable: 8 hours
* DSL: 16 hours

I reckon I can drive to a bunch of computer stores to buy a copy of that game within the eight hours it'll take to pull it down from EA. Unless you buy your games in the middle of the night, I can't think of a case where this gives the advantage over retail.

Unlike music where the downloaded version of the content is different from the version on CD, the code in both games is pretty close (with the notable exception of the validation tool.) I have no real issues with buying software over the internet, but I do expect that the vendor will make it worth my while since it costs them so much less. EA gives nothing -- there's no real price break, you don't get as much for what you do pay, and there are more strings attached. This is not the way forward.


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