What has everyone (by everyone I mean the few people that actually care about this sort of thing) been talking about lately? Why the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format war of course. What? You don't know what I'm talking about? Where have you been for the last year? Check this out for a refresher. With the announcement from Warner Bros about them exclusively supporting Blu-ray, it seems the war is almost over. Only two big studios are left behind HD-DVD and with reports coming in stating that about 85% of HD sales are going to Blu-ray. Don't expect them to stay that way for much longer. I know, HD-DVD players are cheaper than it's rivals are right now, but I have two things to say about that: 1. No titles, no sales. 2. PS3. Enough on that.

The real reason I bring up the format war (even though I detest even mentioning the thing) is this: Why would people care about a new format if digital downloadable content is the future? Online sales of music is pretty much the norm these days. Heck, I don't even remember the last time I bought a CD. Will movies and games go the same way?

With the advent of music downloads, services like Live and PSN for the game consoles, and Steam for computers, among many others, the case for buying from a brick and mortar store is dwindling. Convenience seems to be one of the biggest reasons for buying online these days. When going into a store you will invariably have to deal with a sales staff. Maybe you go to pick up the latest game for the Wii or PSP. It would be great if it just ends there right? But no, we have to put up with questions about joining a discount a club or about the latest game for pre-order. (Note to all GameStop employees, if I want to pre-order a game I'll tell you. Don't ask.) Situations like those are the reason I buy from retailers online almost exclusively these days, but I still buy the physical game, not a download. I know downloads are the future right? Yes, but I still prefer having an actual game in my hand instead of only having a collection of ones and zeros on my hard drive.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm used to getting something when I pay for it. Oh, I know I get something when I download a game. My point is, what happens if your hard drive crashes or if it gets too full to add a new game? Both problems are pretty common these days. My take is this: I don't want to go through the hassle of re-downloading something I bought because something went wrong, or having to erase something else to add the game I just paid for. What happens if you have already downloaded that title to the max allowed by the online service? What if you lose your account information? What do you do next? The choices are simple. Either you buy the game again or you don't play it. Having the actual game on my shelf prevents me from ever getting into either of those situations. Don't get me wrong though, I have downloaded games and content from the Internet-with mixed results. I like getting content from PSN and have had no problems with that service yet. Steam, on the other hand, I will never use again.

I bought a physical disc for The Half-Life holiday pack last year for Christmas. A bunch of great games for a great price, how could you go wrong? By having to log into the service every time you want to play the game. What a tease. I buy a game and I can't even play it right away. I first had to set up an account, download the content from the website (because the disc I paid $50 for only had the Steam software on it), and then have everything authenticated with the disc I bought. Good in theory, but there are some problems. What if your Internet connection goes down? Sorry, no game. But it has an off-line mode you say. You still have to authenticate your account on a regular basis. If you can't authenticate, again, no game. I know it's an anti-piracy measure, but it just makes things harder for the consumer. When I buy a game I want to be able to stick it in and play it. I don't want to set up an account. I don't want to run your client software. I just want the game I paid for. If I wanted to download content, I would have download it directly off of the website. I learned by lesson though. Whenever I buy a computer game these days I look for one evil word: Steampowered.

Digital downloads may be the future, but for me, a physical disc (with the actual content on it) is the best option. I know the developers and publishers want to expand their profits -and not having to pay for packaging and all the other costs associated with it- are a great way to do it. But at what cost do they do it? Convenience of the customer has to be the primary focus or these online retailers will get a GameStop-like reputation.


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