The world of digital distribution brings a lot of possibilities to how we get our video games. There’s nothing easier than gifting a game to a friend who lives overseas or eliminating some of the hardships surrounding a physical-only release. For the most part, it is an exciting stage in the journey of games. Unfortunately, the digital era is also laced with perils that we must be careful about.
Downloading from a digital storefront is a major part of what sets digital games from their physical counterparts, and yet in some cases, it is also the weakest link. To download your titles as many times as necessary, you’re entirely reliant on the store not making the game unavailable for whatever reasons, and for the most part, it just works. But in some cases, things can just go wrong.
GameJolt’s recent ban on games including sexual content is such an example. The ban wasn’t just accompanied by a tone-deaf announcement and a terribly short period of seven days for devs to switch stores, but owners of said games only have up to a year to download the games, after which they vanish from their libraries. If you own a few of the affected games and circumstances prevent you from downloading them, you will lose a couple of purchases to a completely unexpected policy update. Meanwhile, official responses from GameJolt to Twitter users are either snarky dismissals or animated GIF memes.
Another example is Sony’s attempts to remove the ability to purchase games from the digital stores for its oldest consoles. While they have backtracked from closing their store to PS3 and PS Vita owners, the store no longer sells games to PSP owners. This is interesting as the Go, the latest PSP model, is digital-only, much like the digital-only models of the current PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. If given the chance, Sony can also remove the ability to download games for PSP owners.
I believe digital distribution brings lots of benefits to the table. But with how the end-user is reliant on the store providing the downloads, there’s a lot to be desired especially with the large libraries fueled by sales and giveaways. Thankfully DRM-free games are easy to backup if you have the internet bandwidth and free space, yet this doesn’t make the already DRM-free GameJolt’s actions easier to swallow.
There needs to be a change in perspective. Digital downloads should be a right granted for a purchase of a digital game, not a privilege that can be taken away.