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Where Credit's Due on Game and Player

Where Credit's Due

Ed Kirchgessner  //  December 14, 2009

Perhaps retail isn't doomed after all.


or the last few years, we've all been reading about the digital distribution revolution and how it will change the way we bring games into our homes. Granted, services like Steam, Xbox Live and PSN are incredibly convenient, but do they really signal the doom of traditional brick and mortar retailers? As awesome as digital distribution is, it has an inconvenient side effect: exclusion.

Gamers are an incredibly diverse group, hailing from all walks of life and economic strata. One fact that I feel is overlooked by the trade media as they sing the praises of an entirely digital future is that there are a lot of gamers out there without access to credit lines. That's right, folks — until they find a way to include a cash slot on your PC or Xbox, digital distribution will continue to exclude those who lack access to their very own Visa or Mastercard.

There are a lot of gamers out there without access to credit lines.Admittedly, there are workarounds. Playtime cards are available at retail for a number of popular online games as well as Microsoft point cards for use on the Xbox Live marketplace. Yet while these intermediaries open up digital content distribution to those who otherwise would be unable to access these services, it kind of defeats the purpose. The whole point of digital distribution is to not have to leave your house in order to make a media purchase. As it stands, the currently proposed model would merely transform traditional retailers into middlemen.

While there's no stopping the industry's drive towards a future that incorporates more and more digital content, a lot's going to have to change before digital media purchases become the norm. For each early adopter downloading every available PixelJunk title off the PlayStation store, there's a passionate gamer with limited means or a younger player who isn't yet able to apply for a credit card. Until content providers find a way to fairly reach all these audiences, brick and mortar stores have absolutely nothing to worry about.

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