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MrJoshL

Industry Consortium for Digital Distribution?

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So I thought of something yesterday, and it piqued my imagination. Hearing from people who are into computer games yet find that digital distribution platforms ruin the experience by having different games on different platforms (i.e. Ubisoft on Uplay, Valve on Steam, EA on Origin, and everything else on Steam) and having to have different online friends and games, I wondered: What if a consortium of different large publishers and also small mid-range publishers/developers did what AMD, Nvidia, and 3Dlabs did with OpenGL? What I mean is that each founding publisher funds a part of the bandwidth, servers, staff, marketing, etc. The upside is that there are no royalties to be paid or big restrictions for member companies, and it is easier to get on the platform for non-member companies: just pay the fee, go through the product screening, and go through contracts/NDA's/paperwork. It would be maintained by a group like Khronos but for games that is made up of representatives from and funded by companies the likes of Valve, EA, Ubisoft, Activision-Blizzard, BethSoft, Square Enix, THQ (just kidding), 2K, Capcom, Nintendo, Sega, etc. The member companies (i.e. funding publishers) would also be able to put up sales around sale times, with no restrictions and no royalties to be paid to someone like Valve. I see it almost like going to a downtown commercial area in a city, only there are just games being sold, and it is digital, with each company having its own "storefront", but all in this one digital platform. Even more, the fee to be paid and royalties for selling games from non-member companies would go to the consortium, and that could encourage companies to become members of the consortium, thus broadening its reach. It would also be a boon to digital distribution's adoption in retail games, as people would just see this one, amazing platform instead of having to make an account just to play a game they just bought on a disc. I don't know, but it sounds nifty. Tell me what you think!

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Who would own it? Who would run it? Why would the major companies risk their profit margins?

More importantly, how would they draw customers when the existing services already have the market share? Would all those other systems be expected to fold their businesses into it?

I don't see any compelling reason for it right now. Sure it may provide a convenience for the end user, but I don't see any compelling business case that would justify the cost and the risk.
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If the issue is friends, using OpenID and more standardized personal metadata services would resolve most of the problem. I think the general idea is 'Information Cards'.

 

e.g. if I logged into Steam with my OpenID (whether my provider be Yahoo!, Google, or Steam itself), and then Steam could ask my OpenID provider who my friends are, match their IDs up to Steam accounts, and check if they are online.

 

Right now we have a kinda butchered half-way there system. I log into various sites, and they let me sign in with Google as an OpenID provider (great!), and then ask me for access to my Google account so they can read my entire Gmail contact list (not so great).

Not everyone in my Gmail contact list is a friend I want to invite to play Portal 2 with, and I don't want to give out my entire contact list to Steam anyway, just subsets of it. I don't even want to give out the emails of people I know, I just want Steam to tell me if they already have an account on Steam - not give Steam their personal contact information.

But if there were standardized meta-info services, they would ask my meta-info provider (Google) for the OpenID guids of the people in a meta-info category of my choosing. It'll prompt me to choose which group I want the website (or Steam) to know about. The my.Contacts.Friends group? The my.Contacts.Schoolmates group? The my.Contacts.Coworkers group? The my.Contacts.People-I-met-while-on-vacation group?

 

Microsoft was working on something like this a few years ago, that they called 'Windows CardSpace'. I think it had real potential.

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The business decision would be that there are absolutely no royalties, restrictions, or fees for member companies. The convenience for the end-user would also draw more customers. For example, it has been estimated that 3 million copies of The Elder Scrolls Skyrim have been sold digitally and at full price recently. That would be 180 million dollars worth of income, for just one bestseller. It has also been estimated that Valve takes 25 - 30 percent of the sales on Steam, thus giving BethSoft ~126 million dollars, and Valve earning the rest. Obviously I did not account for taxes or a bazillion other common expenses, but for just one game 54 million dollars is very significant, and I also did not account for sales at reduced price, so my monetary estimate could be accurate to a degree. The only real loser in a situation like that would be Valve.

Edited by MrJoshL
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