By Brad Cook
iTunes and the App Store have revolutionized the way you buy, organize, and enjoy music, movies, TV shows, and games and other applications on your iPhone or iPod touch, so get ready for digital distribution services to do the same for Mac games. Right now, at any time of the day, you can download and immediately start playing everything from The Sims 3 and Portal to the unique independently-developed game The Path and the funny Gothic adventures found in A Vampyre Story.
As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers need open, high-quality Internet clients. The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services, explains Gabe Newell, President of developer and publisher Valve, which owns the digital download service Steam. Through Steam, Valve sells a wide variety of games, including its own library of original action-packed titles, such as the unique first-person shooter Portal and the distinctive team-based multiplayer online game Team Fortress 2.
Virtual Programming CEO Mark Hinton continues: We live in a world where everyone wants it immediately. Our service Deliver2Mac provides instant gratification, and with increasing costs for manufacturing and shipping, digital distribution is a greener, more cost-effective solution. It also reduces our carbon footprint.
Paul Nowosad, Vice-President of Marketing and Licensing for TransGaming, which runs the digital download site GameTree Online, adds: It should also be pointed out that Mac customers possess the highest broadband penetration rate of any computer platform group, as further evidenced by the fact that they currently receive a large percentage of their Mac OS X software via digital delivery and have also become very accustomed to accessing digital media online, as a result of iTunes.
Digital distribution is a greener, more cost-effective solution. It also reduces our carbon footprint.- Mark Hinton, CEO, Virtual Programming
Powered By Steam
Valves Steam is a free application that you download and install on your Mac. Its the home for all the Mac games you buy through Steam, allowing you to not only launch them from a central point but also automatically keep them up to date. If youve already purchased the PC versions of any Steam games, dont worry: you can download their Mac counterparts for free.
Not only that, but many of Steams games also support Steam Cloud, which stores settings, saved progress, and other information on a central server, enabling you to stop playing on one computer and pick up where you left off on another, even if, for example, the first is a PC and the second is a Mac. Or if youre playing a game on a desktop Mac and you need to leave on a trip, just make sure you have Steam installed on your laptop and pick up your gaming on the go.
In addition, Steam offers many other handy features, including: tracking of in-game achievements; lobbies where players can gather and review game settings before heading to a server for multiplayer action; a matchmaking function that groups players by certain criteria, such as experience level; in-game blogs that feature the latest news; and support for communication with other gamers, including friends lists, gamer profiles with information about games played, one-to-one and group text messaging, and audio chat via Voice-over-IP. Many game mods are also available free of charge through Steam.
Making Digital Downloads Easier
Believing Mac games need an application similar to iTunes, Inside Mac Games founder Tuncer Deniz launched Mac Games Arcade in December 2008. Its our attempt at making digital downloads easier, he explains. It offers an easy-to-use interface where you can browse hundreds of Mac games, download demos, make purchases quickly and securely, and maintain all your purchases and serial numbers. With the majority of games on Mac Games Arcade, you dont even have to enter a serial number; the program does it for you.
The Mac Games Arcade software has been download more than one million times since its launch, with over 250,000 registered users who are downloading games. That immediacy of being able to play games right away is what makes digital delivery so attractive, Deniz says. Version 2.0 of the Mac Games Arcade application promises to add a buddy list, live chatting, news alerts, special deals, a point system that awards free games the more you play, and more.
That immediacy of being able to play games right away is what makes digital delivery so attractive.- Tuncer Deniz, founder, Mac Games Arcade
A Natural Choice
Game Club Café likewise grew out of a previous endeavor, in this case Codeminion, a puzzle game publisher. Co-founder Maciej Biedrzycki explains: It seemed like a natural choice for us to launch Game Club Café, as we are a game developer at heart. At first we offered games from other developers at our Codeminion web site, but we soon discovered that many people thought we were making all of them. So thats how we decided to split our game development and distribution branches.
Given his companys focus on casual games, Biedrzycki found that digital delivery was the perfect way to deliver entertainment. I dont think anyone would make an impulse purchase of one of those games if they had to go to a store, he says. Casual games are all about try before you buy, and thats not possible with standard boxed delivery.
What Fate Has in Store
But will digital delivery services make physical distribution obsolete, the same way iTunes has made many music lovers forget about CDs? Not everyone agrees on the ultimate fate of the game-on-a-disc model.
Retail stores will never go away, notes Deniz. That said, digital downloads are becoming more and more important each and every day. Game companies that dont offer them will be left behind and will lose out on big sales.
Nowosad adds: GameTree serves as an alternate vehicle of distribution that supplements the Apple retail channels.
On the flip side, Hinton remarks: Digital downloads will eventually replace physical products. Our customers like the fact they can access products anytime they like, and theyre becoming more confident about downloading digital content. In addition, the new generation of game players is more inclined to digitally download. To that end, a digital download version is always available at Deliver2Mac weeks before retail boxed product.
And Biedrzycki says: There will always be some kind of boxed games, such as premium collectors editions, but theyll be a niche market and the vast majority of games will soon be available online. Even with digital delivery, people tend to order backup CDs, but what they really want is to start playing the game as soon as the download finishes.
Theres a rich universe of games available for you to download and play on your Mac join us on page two to learn more about some of them.