If you were to buy a red car, you would perceive that most cars on the road are also red. I call this the Red Car Effect - or RCE for short. I made this up, so don't bother Googling - you'll just get this page, anyways. And this one, which I'd never seen until 30 seconds ago.
My point is, I recently had an RCE day. A day where I heard something in the morning that made me pay attention to something else in the afternoon, which led me to actually have an opinion about something in the evening.
In the morning: A friend of mine related an experience where he had found a forgotten copy of a video game in his house. Still pristine in its shrinkwrap, smelling of 9 year's worth of CD out-gassing - my friend loaded it onto his modern PC, happy with his unexpected windfall. Mind you, there were problems in combining these 2 pieces of technology that had been separated by epochs in tech-time, but it was an interesting story nonetheless and I couldn't help but hope some patching would fix his problems.
In the afternoon: I was driving around town running oh-so-bland errands and checking out a new podcast. A few of the disembodied voices started talking about direct-download video games. As the story goes, a bigwig executive from EA Games recently opined that the next decade would witness the demise of disc-based game media in favour of direct-download distribution. We'd all pay less (no media to distribute!) and the distributors would store our games somewhere in The Cloud.
In the evening: I thought about direct-download some more. It has some merit, I suppose. Steam has been working this model for awhile now and it works not too badly. But I'm super-skeptical. First off, The Cloud is a lovely buzzword in tech these days, and the chattering classes of tech have made it the current darling of the IT consulting business.
But the reality is that it's simply a collection of servers that are attached to the Internet - owned and operated by a company who wants your money. In this alone, there are mountains of issues to be solved before we see the demise of the CDROM or DVD gaming media: Cloud capacity, security, escrow guarantees, re-installing games on new/upgraded PCs, etc. etc and friggin' etc.
And that's just for starters. Buying a new game often has some social or synergistic aspect that direct-download can't satisfy. Need a guitar for Rock Band? You're going to a store. Want to dig through the clearance bin? It's better at a store. Want to kibbutz with the guy behind the counter or check-out the gamer-chick in the next aisle ? Well, you get the picture.
And what of my friend and his found treasure? In a world where The Cloud rules all, he would have been denied his eureka moment. And would The Cloud even bother to remember a 9 year-old game that had never been touched?
For me, direct-download isn't very attractive, at least for the big, expensive games. Spending $10 for a fun PopCap download doesn't feel very risky, but I'm not ready to trust The Cloud for Fallout 3. And, really, I love that new game smell under the shrinkwrap.