Purchasing games online via download is increasing in popularity. But as with any service, the basic question is, “Why would I order my games from a download service rather than the way I’ve always bought them?”
Buying games online comes with a number of advantages over traditional brick and mortar game stores:
- “Instant” Gratification – While the service of your local game store is great, they probably aren’t going to take kindly to you dropping by in your boxers at 4 am. Exactly how loosely we define “instant” depends on your internet connection speed. Still, with DSL broadband internet access, you can order a game at dinner time and be playing before bedtime.
- Endless Inventory – Popular games often sell out, forcing you to wait to play the latest and greatest, or visit several stores to find a copy.
- Better Selection – While having to wait for a title to get reordered to play sucks, it doesn’t suck nearly so much as discovering the title you are interested in isn’t available at all. Older games, indie games or games that are just plain obscure are often not carried by game stores where shelf space is a precious commodity reserved for only the most popular titles. Download stores don’t have this problem.
- Digital Storage – If you’ve ever lost a disc to a beloved game or had one damaged, you know the pain buying a game multiple times can cause. Most of the best download services allow you to redownload purchased games at will, tying games to your account rather than a single hard drive.
Recommended Download Sites –Steam (Grade A+)
For those new to downloading games, here are two of the best sites to get downloadable games.
Owned by venerable PC game developers Valve, the Steam download service offers a fairly complete package.
Steam boasts a great selection of games both new and old, at reasonable prices and hosts sales on a regular enough basis. Many avid gamers will find themselves checking Steam daily as part of their online ritual.
Of particular interest to shooter fans will be Counter Strike and between the dedicated servers and social networking features of Steam, this might be the best way to play this classic multiplayer shooter.
All Steam games are automatically updated when the user is online, therefore, subscribers won’t need to worry about hunting down the new patch again. When you log into Steam, if any of your games have been updated, the service will download and install the patch automatically.
Since a subscriber’s games are tied to his/her account, not computer hardware, it’s possible to delete a game to free space and download it again later. Members can also transfer games when it’s time to upgrade to a new PC.
Steam also has a growing social component, with a friends list and achievements. You can see what your friends are playing and if you are in another game Steam will give you a brief pop-up to tell you a friend has logged into a Steam game, allowing you to fire off an instant message to get some multi-player going.
You can learn more about Steam here.
Game Downloads Via Good Old Games (GOG) (Grade A+)
If you are looking for classic games then Good Old Games, or GOG for short, is a great source for downloads.
Download speeds aren’t really an issue here, particularly for users with a broadband connection, as most old games are under 1GB in size, meaning that download times will be minimal.
The selection is really impressive with a wide array of classic games. Of particular interest will be games like Master of Orion 1 and 2, Master of Magic and Panzer General.
Many game enthusiasts may wonder how these older games run on a modern machine and this is where GOG really shines. Older games are packaged in DOSBox, which allows a modern Windows-based machine to emulate the DOS environment that these old games thrived in when they were first released.
This means that users can install the game, double click its start icon and it will be ready for play. For gamers who are interested in experiencing some gaming history first hand, like the first Might and Magic game from the 80s, GOG is among the easiest outlets to access these games.
GOG also has a fairly good selection of recently-released indie games, like Darkstar One.
All of GOG’s games are DRM free, so they can be installed an unlimited number of times.
Of course, since these are older games, they have fewer bells and whistles – there aren’t any friends lists, achievements or multi-player matching here.
GOG does have some old-school community features, like message boards, where users can interact with fans of Good Old Games and it’s a great place to learn about classic games that a game enthusiast has yet to discover.