Amazon’s PlayStation Store rollout came out of nowhere – much like Typing of the Dead: Overkill, it was a stealth release no one really anticipated. Right now, it’s not really anything special. It’s just got launch titles for their retail prices along with some season passes, but you do get a $5 PSN credit for buying some things. However, the potential for it is to become a content delivery method akin to Steam, Desura, and Amazon’s PC download section where competition breeds lower prices. Amazon’s PC game download branch has been remarkably forward-thinking by reaching out to the gaming community for ideas on sales, and it’s resulted in them having some big sales on Steam-activated games in-between the usual Steam mega sales. It allowed PC gaming to flourish in ways never before imagined – and it’s at least partially due to the Humble Bundle starting, creating a slew of like-minded bundle deals, and driving down the cost of PC games as a whole.
Gone are the days when $20 for a disc at Wal-Mart is considered a major savings. Now, the idea of spending $50 on a new release brings about more internal debate since you know it will be on sale later for far less – even if it’s a AAA title, as the inclusion of Battlefield 3, Dead Space 3, and the first two Batman: Arkham games in fairly recent bundles show. Sony has been very indie-friendly with the PS4, and indie games were the first games to benefit from bundles since they were the first ones sold in them. Their usually-lower base price makes them appealing impulse buys anyway, but when included as a part of a $10 bundle, you can easily wind up with a great game you otherwise would have missed out on. Sony going with an Amazon storefront brings about hope that we’ll see great indie deals first, leading to AAA-level games being sold at big savings later.
It’s very easy to imagine a scenario in perhaps six months or so – when the PS4 is reasonably entrenched, that a bundle will be made available on Amazon that combines Resogun, Contrast, and perhaps even Transistor at a rock-bottom rate. If it takes time for the system to take off, then a more realistic option would be something combining cross-buy indie games like Sound Shapes and Knytt Underground for a lower price, but offering up a major savings. For a first-party storefront, the default PSN store can be counted on for some amazing savings – it’s easily the most budget-friendly one out there since Xbox Live sales rarely drop prices below 50%, and neither version of the eShop is known for heavy savings for major games, although there have been some surprises – like the free version of TANK TANK TANK! on the Wii U.
Console gaming is in a major transition period when it comes to content delivery because packaged games have been the norm for 30 years, while PC gaming has shied away from physical games and focused on digital releases for the last half-decade. The previous generation saw an increase in acceptance for digital games – with even die-hard physical gaming fans who simply MUST feel the packaging seeing the merit in doing without physical games to save space in their homes. The requirement of having both the Xbox One and PS4 install full game data on their respective hard drive makes the transition to digital a bit easier – as do things like stripping away manuals and making packaging a bit more bland, or in the case of the Xbox One’s dark green cases, a bit unsightly. The biggest downsides to an all-digital console gaming world right now are download speeds, massive game sizes, and relatively small hard drive. 500GB could get you pretty far on the Xbox 360 since that doesn’t have mandatory game installs. The PS3 has them for some games though, and you can easily find yourself low on space if you have a stock older drive, although that system is the easiest to get around the issue since you can install an off-the-shelf drive yourself and it’s largely goof-proof.
Internet providers putting a cap on bandwidth is going to become a bigger issue for console gaming, as you can already find yourself getting a nastygram for PS+ downloads, and that’s only going to get worse as game downloads of 40GB become the norm. It also means the days of being amazed at storing 300 games on a PS3 are over since you simply won’t be able to store that many games on them, barring perhaps a ton of lower-sized indie releases. This is where physical games become a viable option to still own because you can easily just delete the game data when you finish the game, and then re-install it if you so desire later on without having to go through the hassle of re-downloading it all – the data’s the same whether it comes off the disc or is downloaded.
DRM has been a hot topic as well, and while I don’t think anyone was down with the idea of having a physical disc and only being able to trade it in to certain retailers, and then being locked into accepting whatever that retailer would offer and not having any competition, the new setup of being able to play your games on another system as long as you’re logged in is a great way to ease people into digital downloads. The Amazon storefront could easily lead to things like a Humble PSN Bundle down the line – and that would be a ground-breaking moment for console games since there’s never really been one before. It would be an interesting test if one was done for existing bundles – like if a game gets greenlit on Steam, you’ll eventually get a Steam code. The recent Humble EA Bundle was a surprise, but had to disappoint people with both consoles and a poor PC because you couldn’t really play the games – what if a retroactive PSN code was provided for buyers? That would open the doors for console bundles without making a big deal of it. However, it’s probably best to wait and do a proper console bundle before just throwing out “oh hey, here are some PSN codes too” – that would make the PSN releases seem trivial.
Amazon’s storefront could be just another content delivery system, but it’s easy to imagine it becoming a great way to save a ton of money on PSN games. Since it covers the PS3 and Vita, it’s probably best to start offering up games on that system for super-low prices first since they’re already like that to some degree on PSN, and this would just give people another way to add to their PSN library without spending a lot of money. It’s also a great way to trumpet PS+’s benefits without actively doing so since you can offer up games for around PS+ prices, but maybe not go as low, but open up people’s minds to the idea of saving a ton of money on a more regular basis by being a PS + member and getting more out of it with online multi-player as well. The next year is going to be very interesting, and this storefront could wind up changing the game for everyone by raising expectations for Microsoft and Nintendo’s online store setups, and requiring more competition in that front just like we’ve seen from brick and mortar and online-only retailers. It will be a boon for consumers that could make this next generation gaming’s best one to date.