One thing I am noticing is that I always snicker when I read websites that brag about included optical drives, which do me very little good but cost me more money. I rarely, if ever, use a CD or DVD burner. There's just no reason to. I can upload 20gb videos to my YouTube account and use services to send larger files. I rarely have a need even for that. Now that my wife and I have Pandora and Spotify, we don't even need to worry about physical libraries of music... it's streamed to us wirelessly.
What does this lack of physical media mean for the free-to-play gaming world? Well, a lot. click past the cut and we'll discuss it.
All along the way, physical storage has become smaller and smaller. Now we are being tempted by cloud computing. Cloud computing really has been around as early as people were able to log into websites to do their banking or to check their email, but now it has a fancy name! Still, we are all becoming more trusting about storing our information, pictures and music on some server that resides who-knows-where. Right now I am typing this in Google Docs, a free word processing program that is robust enough to be used by professionals but comes absolutely free with a basic signup. We take it all for granted, too. I use Google for a lot of things but always keep extra digital copies of those things floating in other clouds, and I still haven't burned a CD or DVD in a long, long time.
"Think about the last time you bought a boxed copy of any game. Think hard. Now, think about why you bought that box."
What does this have to do with free-to-play gaming? Well, you know I like to drag out my points. Think about the last time you bought a boxed copy of any game. Think hard. Now, think about why you bought that box. It was probably because it offered some fancy cloth map or a neat little statue... it seemed so worth it at the time. Well, we still buy overpriced cardboard boxes of software that we can download later, some of us trying to justify it by selling the plastic goodies on eBay. Other than those examples, we rarely even look at CDs anymore.
This has opened up all sorts of games to the market, much like it did with bands on MySpace or through websites. Now we have Twitter and Facebook and a good indie game can be seen just as quickly as a game that costs 20 million. The playing field has been leveled a bit more, just like it was during the first years of digitalized music. The music industry panicked, as they should have. As someone who hasn't seen the biggest and best MMO developers always create the biggest and best content, this is good. I hope they are panicking. I'm more than happy to see a tiny game like Minescraft blow the doors off of typical game packaging, distribution and development. I love doing my part to talk about new games that were made by one or two guys or girls, and I love the fact that I don't have to say "Order it off of their website and you'll get a CD soon."
While I was writing this, I asked on Twitter whether anyone still uses physical storage anymore. Here are a few of the replies:
@Beau_Hindman Not at all. USB only or cloud.I know this might seem like a painfully obvious topic, but I have always been a fan of noticing those things that we stopped noticing a long time ago. Think about it: Within a few years, we have gone from being people who dump millions of golden pieces of plastic into the trash to being people who beam all of that same information through the air. Yes, we still have our hard drives, but I barely even use that. I literally have a fraction of the games on my hard drive anymore. Most of them are streamed through my browser or through a tiny client. I recently threw out scores of game boxes, as well. (Yes, even the Tabula Rasa ones.) Nowadays when I see big cardboard packaging, I just see an object that will take up space and collect dust.
@Beau_Hindman I only use CDs/DVDs at work if we need to image a computer; at home none and don't remember the last boxed game I bought
@Beau_Hindman just flash drives
@Beau_Hindman I use a flash drive for carrying around files I need to access. As for games, I prefers the CD's/DVDs, when I can.
@Beau_Hindman floppy disks. 1.44MB YEAH
@Beau_Hindman I barely even use bluray's to watch movies. Only my relatives still use CD's and DVD's...
"The truth is that digital media will probably have a better chance of survival, simply because you can always make that rare physical back up of it and store the digital version in a dozen places."
I, for one, couldn't be happier about the possibilities of a stuff-less future. I think many of us have some sort of paranoia about the loss of information, as though physical books or papers can last forever. The truth is that digital media will probably have a better chance of survival simply because we can always make that rare physical back up of it and store the digital version in a dozen places. Gaming will benefit simply because overhead costs drop. MMO engines will become cheaper and be streamed, cutting costs even more. By the time I am elderly, I imagine that anyone will be able to sit down and make any type of game in the same amount of time it takes one of us to make a website today.
Of course, there will be plenty of crap to sift through as well. At least it won't be collecting dust anymore.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!